Tatiana Bilbao, Tatiana Bilbao ESTUDIO: The architect of care

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Tatiana Bilbao, Tatiana Bilbao ESTUDIO: The architect of care
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Tatiana Bilbao, Tatiana Bilbao ESTUDIO: The architect of care

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Tatiana Bilbao, Tatiana Bilbao ESTUDIO: The architect of care
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Buildings offer shelter. Good architecture does more: it is a form of care for the mind and spirit. So how do we ensure sustainable equitable care for everyone, all social and emotional needs included?

Tatiana Bilbao is a multi-award-winning architect from Mexico who, through her work, embraces the human condition. She views architecture as a sanctuary tailored to meet the physiological needs of individuals and groups, as well as their psychological and spiritual aspirations.

She founded her eponymous studio in 2004, wanting to explore how buildings can deliver care through a collaborative and participatory design process. Her portfolio includes today multiple scales and typologies, from homes to housing, museums to botanical gardens and urban planning.

Episode outline

00:09:08 “One of the most kind of deep thoughts that rule the office — or that guide the office — is that each of us, every human being that inhabits this planet, is different.”
00:09:48 “I believe that architecture is a collective act… is a social collective act. And therefore, I believe in horizontal and wide collaborations.”
00:12:23 Architecture as ‘care for our bodies’
00:17:24 “I think that, for me, always, I have had the understanding that architecture provides a basic form of care — care to our bodies […] So architecture is necessary to exist and to inhabit this planet; otherwise, we won’t survive.”
00:21:27 “I don’t think design should be thought to kind of materialise relationships. And I think that architecture or design or urban design should be much more those tools that create platforms for everyone to create their spaces, the spaces on earth — not literally […] But philosophically.”
00:25:20 “We really need to understand that we need to create equal opportunities and possibilities, but through the acknowledgement that each of us in this planet is very different.”
00:25:32 The Nature interface
00:27:50 “It’s never possible to think of one homogenising definition of anything. The concept of sustainability can be defined, but then the strategy and the application is very different. So what, somewhere, can look as a very sustainable project, in other places would not.”
00:41:04 “We are the planet […] We are part of this ecosystem. And architecture for me is a medium between that surrounding, that environment, and us — to allow us to exist in it.”
00:50:15 Becoming Tatiana
00:51:36 “I realised I not only have not advanced the possibility of women in society, but I have limited very much. I had been kind of a replicator of the patriarchal system by doing the architecture that I was doing without acknowledging that was reinforcing the patriarchal system — specifically around housing.”

Summary

When architects discuss sustainability, some refer to long-standing principles of good design. They speak of a sustainable future in which human demands — defined in the broadest sense possible — are met first and foremost. Tatiana Bilbao agrees with them.

She is less preoccupied with quantitative metrics such as energy use — though these factor into her thinking as well. A more critical trigger is the social and psychological impact on occupants: how architecture might affect the quality of their lives and the vicissitudes they face.

Tatiana Bilbao ESTUDIO explores the idea of care in a collaborative, participatory manner.
© Ana Hop, Tatiana Bilbao ESTUDIO

Tatiana started her career in the government. At the time, she was seeking to shape policy and raise the yardsticks of the built environment. She quickly realised that policymakers are not immune to the capitalist onslaught she blames for an over-reliance on homogenised solutions which, more often than not, miss the mark.

In the practice she now leads, the human condition is unpacked early on in the design process. Sometimes these efforts target requisites unmet directly, but they can also be levelled at how needs are defined, ideologically or philosophically.

Acuña Housing Prototype aims to provide a modular and affordable residential solution for Mexican families.
© Jaime Navarro, Tatiana Bilbao ESTUDIO

With the Acuña Housing Prototype (Coahuila, Mexico), for instance, Tatiana reassessed prevailing concepts about dwellings. The residential module she proposed can be adapted to fit urban and rural lifestyles or geographical, social and cultural provisions. The structure becomes a way to empower its users.

Many architects would worry that a participatory method might strip them of authorship. Not Tatiana. Architecture, she insists, cannot emerge from a single mind. Her work invites active engagement, promoting synergistic alliances with fellow architects, artists, craftsmen, economists, local authorities and the community.

Tatiana’s signature collages were showcased at the Louisiana Museum of Modern Art (Humlebæk, Denmark) in 2019.
© Tatiana Bilbao ESTUDIO

That desire to challenge conventions also shows up on the drawing board. Instead of architectural renderings, she composes collages that loosely frame buildings and their contexts, defy expectations and leave room for interpretation.

Sparking the imagination upfront even sets the tone for constructive exchanges with clients. Case in point: the Botanical Garden in Culiacán (Sinaloa, Mexico), for which the studio recommended concrete for the on-site pavilions over bamboo, the eco-friendly material favoured by the client. In a region where scorching days are a regular occurrence, it would deliver higher energy efficiency in hermetically sealed and air-conditioned spaces.

For the Botanical Garden in Culiacán, concrete was selected as a more ‘responsible’ choice to cool down interiors in the Mexican environment.
© Tatiana Bilbao ESTUDIO

Tatiana’s approach pays greater attention to the primary role of buildings as shelters than it does to many ‘undiscerning’ sustainability precepts.

The symbiotic relationship architecture shares with the natural world — and how it shapes the human experience — takes on many guises in her projects. The Research Centre of The Sea of Cortes in Mazatlán (Sinaloa, Mexico), for one, offers visitors a rare opportunity to immerse themselves in a porous grid of concrete walls and open-to-sky courtyards, overrun by the surrounding wild and luxuriant flora.

The Research Centre of The Sea of Cortes was designed to evoke a ruin taken over by the elements.
© Christian Belmont, Tatiana Bilbao ESTUDIO
The Research Centre puts visitors in close contact with nature to better appraise its ecosystems.
© Tatiana Bilbao ESTUDIO

Tatiana is a passionate proponent of good architecture which, she believes, not only nourishes the soul but provides comfort and care. Good architecture is the foundation that allows green design to flourish. For her, sustainability means little if buildings can’t address first and foremost, fairly and equitably, the underlying human condition.

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Episode Notes

Keep reading if you want to deep dive into this interview’s content and get more out of it. You can also find out more about this episode’s guest/s and sponsor/s, and the team that put it all together.

This episode is brought to you by:

The Holcim Foundation for Sustainable Construction

The Holcim Foundation helps drive systemic change towards a more sustainable built environment. It was founded in 2003 to define and promote the key principles of sustainability for the construction sector and is committed to accelerating the sector’s transformation so that people and the planet can thrive.

The Foundation has investigated various aspects of sustainable construction via a series of roundtables and conferences with international experts. It has also recognised excellent contributions to this field with the Holcim Awards which are considered the world’s most significant competition for sustainable design.

Committed to a holistic approach that recognises the equal importance and interdependence of four key goals, the Foundation combines the collective knowledge, ideas, and solutions of our global community of experts with a recognised platform of international competitions to democratise thought leadership for the entire sector.

W  |  holcimfoundation.org

Facebook  |  Twitter  |  LinkedIn  |  YouTube  |  Instagram

This episode is brought to you by:

The Holcim Foundation for Sustainable Construction

The Holcim Foundation helps drive systemic change towards a more sustainable built environment. It was founded in 2003 to define and promote the key principles of sustainability for the construction sector and is committed to accelerating the sector’s transformation so that people and the planet can thrive.

The Foundation has investigated various aspects of sustainable construction via a series of roundtables and conferences with international experts. It has also recognised excellent contributions to this field with the Holcim Awards which are considered the world’s most significant competition for sustainable design.

Committed to a holistic approach that recognises the equal importance and interdependence of four key goals, the Foundation combines the collective knowledge, ideas, and solutions of our global community of experts with a recognised platform of international competitions to democratise thought leadership for the entire sector.

W  |  holcimfoundation.org

Facebook  |  Twitter  |  LinkedIn  |  YouTube  |  Instagram

As mentioned in this episode

If you heard it in this episode, we likely have a link for it right here. Click on any topics, people, buildings, places, products and/or technologies listed below to learn more about each of them.

00:05:35 “…when Bilbao was falling to the Franco forces…”
Spanish Civil War” | Wikipedia
00:42:30 “…It’s a mural by Diego Rivera…”
Diego Rivera”  |  Britannica
00:45:26 “…I don’t know if you’re familiar with Geoffrey Bawa from Sri Lanka…”
Geoffrey Bawa Trust
00:45:30 “…or Emilio Ambasz from Argentina…”
EMILIO AMBASZ & Associates Inc.
00:05:02 “…He has many buildings in Bilbao…”
Bilbao” (Vizcaya, Basque Country, Spain)  |  Britannica
00:28:16 “…I can give you the example of the Botanical Garden…”
Botanical Garden”  |  Tatiana Bilbao ESTUDIO
00:28:22 “…that we have been doing for 18 years in Culiacán…”
Culiacán” (Sinaloa, Mexico)  |  Britannica
00:38:31 “…There’s another project of yours, the Research Center at Cortes…”
Research Center of The Sea of Cortes”  |  Tatiana Bilbao ESTUDIO
00:45:26 “…I don’t know if you’re familiar with Geoffrey Bawa from Sri Lanka…”
Sri Lanka”  |  Britannica
00:45:30 “…or Emilio Ambasz from Argentina…”
Argentina”  |  Britannica
00:46:38 “…if you look at one of his most famous projects like the Kandalama…”
The Kandalama Hotel: Geoffrey Bawa’s Architectural Masterpiece in Sri Lanka”  |  ArchEyes

There are no design features mentioned in this episode.

There are no products or technologies mentioned in this episode.

Host
Nirmal Kishnani

Producer
Maxime Flores

Managing editor
Kruti Choksi

Communications executive
Sana Gupta

Sound technician and editor
Kelvin Brown | Phlogiston

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