Spanish practice selgascano finds joy in the material economy, a critical skill at a time that could use a lot more of it. Though José Selgas and Lucía Cano founded the firm back in 1998, the studio is only now getting widespread recognition in the United States.
Part of that is because the duo’s first U.S. project, a Los Angeles outpost of the British co-working company Second Home, opened late last year—but it’s also because the architecture world is finally catching up with the firm’s tectonic explorations. Few contemporary offices have played so deftly and on such a large scale with color, flexible materials, and plant life. Projects that ten years ago may have been considered outré for substituting lightweight plastics for glass or incorporating hundreds of indoor seedlings now look prescient as designers search for new ways to leave lighter footprints. AN managing editor Jack Balderrama Morley spoke with Selgas about how the studio developed its approach.
AN Interior: How would you describe your firm’s design philosophy?
José Selgas: We like to be open to every possibility in every project. We come with open eyes and with the possibility to go in any direction. We are architects, not artists. We always try to bring something to the table that is beyond our personal thoughts. All of our projects incorporate different inputs that come from different directions, but typically, they’re always related to nature, climate, society, history, scale, and—more than anything—economy.
Economics are always fundamental. More and more, we have to deal with economics. When we look at how to produce a certain part of a project, we have to ask where it is, who’s paying for it, how much it is, and how we’re going to cover our costs. We avoid making expensive moves or choosing expensive treatments. The simplest solution is always best, but that doesn’t mean we pick the stupidest one—it has to be the most appropriate option to achieve whatever idea we are trying to develop.
The lightest material is often the best solution for whatever problem we’re faced with because less energy is needed to produce it, move it, transform it, and install it. We typically use ETFE plastic as an alternative to glass, for example, because transforming and installing glass is more expensive.
The dimensions and scales of most buildings right now are off. Everything is too big. We try to make spaces as small as possible. Why create a space that is 32 feet tall if that space can also function at 10 feet? Fifty or 70 years ago, houses and commercial spaces were smaller. Even cars were smaller in Spain.