Daniel Zamarbide BUREAU
Daniel Zamarbide obtained his Master in Architecture at the Institut d’Architecture de l’Université de Genève (IAUG). During his studies he followed the workshops of Christian Marclay, Philippe Parreno and Catherine Quéloz at the École Supérieure des Beaux Arts in Geneva. He was one of the founding members of group8, an architectural collective that has acquired national and international recognition. Since 2003 he has been teaching as assistant at the EPFL and as professor (2000−14) at the HEAD, Geneva. In 2014, he integrated the team of ALICE Lab Dieter Dietz at the EPFL as a guest professor and co-director of the Year 1.
With Bureau A, Daniel Zamarbide started to collaborate with architect Leopold Banchini in 2012. For the past five years it has explored the possibilities of architecture in a great variety of formats in the fields of art, garden and landscape architecture, exhibition design, temporary architecture and object making. With their installation Shelter the duo recently won the Frame Award for the best bar of the year. The club, a commission for the 4th Lissabon Architecture Triennale, is currently shown in the exhibition Night Fever at the Vitra Design Museum.
Since 2017 Daniel Zamarbide pursues his own research interests under the name of BUREAU. This new entity, based in Geneva and Lisbon, produces architecture in the continuity of Bureau A. The studio understands architecture as a transdisciplinary practice, and incorporates activities in furniture design (with a design brand of the same name), as well as an editorial project, which launched the first publication in December 2017.
Can you describe your approach or methodology to design?
I am not a very big fan of massive productions. In the studio we produce what we consider necessary to our projects, hardly more. There are neither a lot of “inspirational” things around us, nor a lot of models. It is a quite concentrated work.
Ideas come quite fast as a matter of fact. I tend to handdraw quite a lot and once the idea is on paper I pass it on. Then we spend a bit of time drawing to “test” the idea in terms of dimensions, proportions, etc… I guess that this comes from my architectural background. Drawing is really essential for me. And I think that we manage to spatialize a lot from drawings, without the need to add other forms of testing, apart from prototyping at 1:1 scale. Basically we want to reduce as much as possible the distance between ideas and making. Therefore these processes between the “real” thing and the projection seem to be unnecessary in our practice.
The studio is a good place to gather, develop and share, but many other things have to be made outside of the studio. The relation to materials, to craft, to culture generally is mostly done outside the studio. Observation is key, curiosity to any form of contemporary culture is fundamental. I see it as a movement: what is observed outside the studio gets in and out of it, producing enough culture to be shared and discussed. This is the basis of a good creative relation, sharing what we can bring inside the studio. Simply discussing is sometimes the best way to make projects progress.
Did recent technological changes impact your work? If so how?
Clearly the recent (or not so recent) technology that has transformed everything in our lives is our relation to our smartphone, to this very small device that extends our capacities and modify quite massively our relation to others and to our surrounding. The very definition of reality is altered by this tiny object and we need to work with it. We have to protect ourselves form it at times, and embrace it fully at other times. I am constantly on the move and thus quite dependent on it.
I love the immediacy, especially the reactivity with drawings and my team. It is very special to be able to “discuss” creatively with the support of this medium. But it also puts off our capacities to interact richly with the world. It kills our concentration for example.
Our perception is somehow hacked by this medium. As designers, I feel it is crucial to take this into account, as much in the material world as in the virtual. For example, I believe that architecture schools should work on this, on educating future architects to work IN the virtual world, since it is one of the main destinations in our everyday lives. It is a space in which we constantly dwell. If we are to spend a lot of time and a good percentage of our perceptual day in the virtual world, why shouldn’t we participate to its design? To its architecture?
Another aspect that calls my attention in the smartphone is precisely its objectal nature. Some scholars have spoken about the childish nature of our relation to the phone, as a return to an infant age and the need of the tactile experience to objectualize feelings, sensations, people. The use of our hands is also really changing, since we automatically have something grafted to our hands. We are adapting our position, lowering our gaze, since we look first to our device before we look anywhere else.
In fact, the real world is slowly becoming a sort of game, a catalogue of things, people that we choose to cut out and paste into our phone. It is this back and forth between what is in front of us materially and what is temporarily brought into the virtual that fascinates me. I think that this complex relation is literally changing everything, from politics (the Zuckerberg senate “process”), social behavior, to our most intimate sensorial experiences.
Yet it is unlikely that technology produces a sudden revolution as often told by science fiction culture (or any kind of prospective literature). Technology instigates, provokes and produces change progressively, without replacing a technological culture in favor of another. There is a period of cohabitation that apparently smoothes its impact in society. We ride bikes and have (soon and hopefully) autonomous cars.
How does your work environment look like? How does your work environment influence your creative outcome/designs?
This is still an open question for me. I do not have an answer but I am more and more convinced that there is something wrong about the way we use our working environment. I like to think about it as a base camp. Somewhere where the team gathers regularly, but not necessary the place where all the production has to be made. So far I have worked in different working (and quite stimulating) environments. When working with my first office (group8 in Geneva) we had a very stimulating large space, where a lot of informal activities could happen. Then I went to an almost domestic space, re-starting and redefining my practice and opening it to what I am doing today, a more interdisciplinary approach to design in general. We worked in a very familiar environment, like in a large room of a house. When I moved to Lisbon, the studio took a new step, embracing one of the qualities of the traditional city architecture, this being the phenomenal spaces that prevail in many parts of the city. The space was sort of unfinished, since it was starting a new life in a neighborhood that is also suffering a quite substantial transformation. So this space has become a space for many things, work, party, lectures, etc… But I am really not satisfied of the way we invest it, as a group, and as a creative studio. We have to investigate more dynamic ways to work, where everyone of the team (we are a small team) can find its best way to work in it, the most efficient for all of us, adapting to everyone’s specific needs and also maintaining the most important thing for me: the capacity of the space to welcome gatherings and meetings among us, whether informal of formal. One specific thing of the office is that most of the people are now on the move, working from a diversity of places, travelling between Portugal, Switzerland and elsewhere.
What inspires you? Can you describe an event that recently inspired you?
Everything everywhere. I am naturally interested in architecture and its theory and history, which I try to observe as a practician. I am a sort of curator that tries to establish a dialogue between our work in the studio and architecture history. But I am mostly curious about all sorts of craft, all sorts of objects and spaces. Probably cinema has had a strong influence in my work, and visual art. But I would not reduce it to this.
The things that have interested me recently: quite fascinated by Oskar Schlemmer, but also remote control balloons, the architecture and decorative design of en.wikipedia.org/wiki/JosefFrank(architect text: Joseph Frank), and primitive stone and silex tools.
Are there important designers for you today? Why?
Not only designers … and of course this is a very very restrictive list. But here’s a short eclectic list of authors that have an impact on my work: Joseph Frank, George Nelson, Carlo Molino, Enzo Mari, Ettore Sottsass, Guy de Cointet, Dan Graham, Walter de Maria, Christian Marclay, Jeremy Deller, David Lynch, Michail Kalotozov, David Cronenberg, John Portman, John Lautner, Pierre Chareau, Gaston Bachelard, Richard Sennet, Peter Sloterdijk, Philippe Descola and very recently, the readings of Roberto Bolaño. Just to name very few. But maybe I should not do this, to frame a potential coherent group of people that interest me. I guess it is not very coherent at the same time… Tant mieux! Tant pis!
With what company would you like to work with?
Anyone willing to experiment any sort of material.