Daniel Muñoz: “In architectural design the creative force of the group is greater than that of an individual”
After many years delivering architectural projects and managing multidisciplinary and international teams, Daniel Muñoz Medranda, Managing Director of AGi architects’ spanish office, accumulates experience and an intellectual baggage from which he talks in this interview. We follow him through the studio’s work method and how deal with design from a collective creative process.
Now that we have recently launched this AGi architects blog, defining ourselves would be a good start. In your words, who are AGi architects?
We are a group of people that think, design and deliver architecture.
We are defined by our ability to face new challenges, always searching for our limits. We are never comfortable with a specific piece of work, but with the path that has driven us to it.
What makes the studio stand out?
We have an international and intercultural structure, and not just in a manner of speaking.
Our studio would not exist without new technologies, the new forms of communication and production. Without any of these, none of our works could have been possible.
There is another point that I think provides us with a unique insight. The studio is the result of the merger of two very different cultures, the Arab and the European cultures. This is in our DNA.
What is the studio’s work method?
We set our clients goals as the driving force of each project. These goals are always something abstract that are more related to their philosophy of life than to any technical or volumetric realization. For these objectives to become something to be built, the team will have to work long hours and give it all. Without them it would be an impossible task.
Therefore, each work is the result of an intellectual process, in which the main aim is that the end result represents itself.
What do AGi architects understand by architectural design?
Due to our education as architects, we have a certain way of solving and approaching problems… but we do not develop an architectural design as such; we design ideas and lifestyles, more or less conventional spaces. Ours is a multidisciplinary team where all of us contribute with ideas to achieve a common goal.
The way of understanding this project has changed over the years, in which manner?
Yes, in the past everything revolved around a genius, a creator from whom the others would learn. Nowadays, thanks to more horizontal working methods, everybody learns equally from each other, and “architectural design” is much less individualistic. In addition to this, with the globalization of architecture images, languages are being unified; that is the reason we pay more attention to the process, than to the formalization of the design.
With regards to something as unrestrained as the creative process, in this case referred to the architectural design, it seems difficult to set standards. Has the firm established any guidelines for the employees to follow?
We would like to be extremely permeable to what each one brings from outside, as this is how concepts grow richer. I believe that the motto is “breath, thing and act”, as in diving. We must follow general organization criteria for all of us to be able of interacting, but we consider that creative force of the team is greater than that of an individual.
Therefore, is it a team work effort from beginning to end?
There are working groups in here and, even though there is always a Project Leader, it doesn’t mean that his or her ideas are the only ones, but its the experience and leadership that allow him or her to make decisions when there are several open ways to follow. The process is not linear, we have great and complex projects in which decisions have to be made horizontally.
In a personal capacity, how do you develop creative process? Do you follow a standard methodology or it depends on the project?
Since AGi architects early days, I have seen projects start from a land art reference, from a sketch, from a student scale model, from a 3D model,… In my opinion the best aspect of the process is how it enriches itself, growing in very different manners according to the demands of each project.
For example our Rock House project, programmatically, is a very introspective dynamic system of interrelations, and it was created from complex diagrams of relationship. However, for its formalisation, the external structural skin was generated by 3D modelling and countless scale models.
What happens when a process stagnates?
Sometimes, processes are extremely lively, and others they seem to solidify and resist being modified. When a process does not move forward, it is a good idea to get the team together and try to identify de problem with new perspectives.
How important is in architectural design, the spatial and cultural context in which the construction of the project will be developed?
We’ve developed the 90% of our projects in Kuwait, so we understand how a culture defines the lifestyle and, therefore, the architecture.
The context, as we managed to capture in the Iglesia de la Ascensión project, is highly relevant not only on a constuctive level but also on a social level. It is not only about the material and volumetric contextualization, but also about the understanding of the community that will experience the spaces and how a neighbourhood works together.
In just a sentence, within the context of architectural design, being creative is…?
Facing every piece of work from a new perspective, generating innovative answers for ordinary questions.