Why did you choose to pursue a career as an architect?
I choose to pursue a career in the same way that most senior high school students do: out of utter ignorance. Yet, beyond the restless nights and pretentious jargon, it has proven to be a beautiful and surprisingly rewarding career.
During my undergraduate studies, I had the opportunity to volunteer, design, and share with vulnerable communities in marginal Bogota. Doing so, I learned that the housing deficiency of my country was much more than a simplistic capital-to-square-meter equation. To me, the so-called “informal” neighbourhoods, with their heterogeneous and captivating spatiality, were categorically better at responding to the complex and dynamic reality of their inhabitants than the “formal” housing industry, with its site-oblivious and homogeneous repetition. And so, the seeds of this project came about, as ironically simple as they are: First, approach the design taking into account the true complexity of the problem. Second, learn from the people that face it every day (they probably know much more than you about it).
What impact does your background have on your work?
I am currently living in London, yet, being born and raised in Colombia, my country is ever-present in my mind and work. With ‘country’ I do not mean the nation, I mean my first sight of the fascinatingly intricate, colourful, and vibrant streets of El Curubo’s self-built informal settlement, accompanied by Don Enersto’s confusion about the overtly diverse facade styles of all of his immigrant neighbours’ houses. I mean the sensation of the sand in between my toes underneath the spacious palm-tree maloca where my father used to throw parranda vallenata celebrations with aguardiente shots, and where the walls aligned to reveal the backdrop of the sunset behind the Caribbean Sea and the snow-capped Sierra Nevada mountain. I mean the sound of my aunt Clarita’s raspy gipsy voice singing about her bohemian nights in Cartagena, while I ate hormigas culonas under the rustic wooden roof of her casona, beneath the starry sky of Chicamocha Canyon. I mean the long sentences filled with meaning that we all read on Gabo’s Cien Años de Soledad, and that are so uncommon and disliked in English-speaking countries. I mean the architecture, the land, the culture, the people, but, most of all, the details. And so, even when I try to author a simple design, I will always find myself attempting to harmonize a plethora of diverse arguments, strategies, and details that, unequivocally, shape my architecture.
How do you envision the future of your industry? What do you see as the most significant difficulties and opportunities?
Architecture has had a hard time catching up to the technological juncture of the time. The modernist architect’s wildest dreams of prefabricated utopias of steel and glass could be put to shame by the technology of washing machines and airplanes. Currently, architecture does not seem to reflect the full potential of the digital revolution, but this might change. I believe that a significant difficulty and opportunity for the future of architecture is to make the most of its technological juncture. Collaborative human-AI design, for instance, might prove crucial to overcome some of our inherent human limitations and contributing to society on a categorically different level. Yet, this probably is the naïve perspective of a young architect who is still in school.
How does it make you feel to win this award?
Profoundly humbled and thankful, particularly towards the Bolonian community. HAMBO was defined by their participatory design and it is dedicated to their welcoming and inspiring friendship. Hopefully, in their honour, the project can contribute to raising awareness of the importance of socially-driven design worldwide.