How to present Xavier Ferrés i Padró? If we introduce you as an architect, master in construction technology by the UPC, international expert in designing light facades since 1987, the truth is that we fall short … We can talk about his collaborations with Jean Nouvel, Herzog & De Meuron, Toyo Ito, Zaha Hadid, David Chipperfield, Richard Rogers, … or with Rafael Moneo, Carlos Lamela, Carlos Ferrater, Carme Pinós, Josep Lluis Mateo, Eduard Gascón and TAC arquitectes, or with young teams like Barozzi-Veiga and Colomer-Dumont … We can talk about his teaching activity in L’Escola Massana, Elisava, UPC, UPM, UEM, UPV / EHU, UNEA, about his articles and collaborations in all kinds of technical publications, more than 100 conferences in schools and congresses … But this would be easy and traditional presentation … that any of us with the help of “Mr. Google”, could find …

The interesting thing is to be able to present Xavi with a single word. The other day, talking in his studio, I had it clear … Xavi is passion!

Passion is the key. For him, it is a way of life, without which nothing that he explained to us in the past IDEAPIKAPIKA would make sense. This is the first great idea that he gave us, teaching, work, study, research, dissemination or simply living … Whatever we do, we have to do it with passion.

On the website of Ferrés architects and consultants, it is clearly explained that their work starts from a very simple idea, connecting the need for specialization with the creativity required by avant-garde architecture, which tries to provide architects and their collaborators with experience and solutions of high level to make real light facades of last generation. The common denominator always revolves around a work philosophy in which the consultants must contribute their knowledge, to improve the overall project, from the beginning and throughout the creation process, not once finished, to solve it technically .


In Grup Idea we help our clients to sell with imagination. We like to ask questions and share them. We are aware that, more and more, the important thing is not to have answers, but questions and to know who can answer them … And sometimes, the solution is as simple as changing the question …

With this starting point in common, Xavier helped us to think and reflect on a series of concepts about technique, consultancies and ways of projecting, which too many times we take for granted. On this occasion and in the hands of AFL, we interviewed him again to remember those ten ideas without an answer.

“10 IDEAS without an answer. The evolution of the facade as an excuse ”

by Xavier Ferrés i Padró.

Edition held at: Arpa Design Center Barcelona, ​​June 20, 2013

IDEAPIKAPIKA is an original traveling event organized by GRUP IDEA. Mix a networking meeting, preceded by presentations and relevant topics, with a tasty pikapika that culminates the act in question. Each IDEAPIKAPIKA is celebrated in an emblematic location.

MAJH: When you project, do you care more about the questions, the ideas, or the answers themselves?

XFiP: I get the feeling that we usually act with preconceived ideas and really think very rarely carefully. Our main problem is that we do not reflect deeply on the origin of the project process and we tend to act. I think that we should be creative not only with the answers to design conflicts, but we should be creative in the approaches. This way we will avoid immediate answers and the preconceived idea of ​​the final result of what we are proposing.

MAJH: Of the “less is more” of Mies, you like to expand the concept by saying that “everything that does not add up”.

XFiP: In the “moments of exuberance” already gone, we have been adding elements and accessories to the projects. On many occasions juxtaposed to be even contradictory. Because a chain of good ideas does not always result in a good final idea. By adding components, we can be subtracting efficiency and disturbing the essence of the elements and systems. Because building, the order of the factors does alter the product.

MAJH: We’ve heard you explain a curious relationship between living beings and envelopes. The “Maslow Pyramid” is a psychological theory that hierarchizes human needs that argues that as the most basic needs at the bottom of the pyramid are met, we develop the needs and desires of higher levels at the top of the pyramid. . How do you transfer this theory to the world of the façade?

XFiP: Abraham Maslow, studied the basic needs of man and the order with which they had to cover, in order from bottom to top, from the base to the top vertex of a pyramid, the five levels on which his proposal is divided are: Physiology > Security> Affiliation> Recognition> Self-realization. These concepts can easily be applied in the same terms on the facades of our buildings:

As basic physiological needs: Ventilation, light, air and water tightness, thermal and acoustic insulation, solar protection, functionality, stability.

Those related to safety could have their equivalent in: Durability, resistance to fire, physical aggression, resistance to natural phenomena (earthquake, tornadoes, etc.), active and passive safety.

Identity, correct ergonomics, efficiency, proper use, utility and conventional architecture solutions would have to do with the third level, affiliation.

The next level, that of “recognition”, is often given by the uniqueness of the building or by the author himself. The recognition by others, is achieved with originality and individuality. It is the architecture of the author, architecture that is sometimes rewarded, which means innovation, contribution or vanguard, exceeding the previous level of “affiliation”. We began to make architectures recognizable by its author, for its quality, perhaps because of its meaning.

The last step of the pyramid that of self-realization is very complex to achieve. Only those avant-garde architectures that have brought us innovation in concepts or technology would reach it. Sometimes they are recognized architectures or by a “stamp” or by a “prize” even to the author himself, to his career or to the concrete building. Self-realization is equivalent to the recognition of contributions through work already built, which demonstrates a combination of qualities such as talent, vision of the future and commitment to the quality of construction, society and the environment, all through the Art of Architecture. Really hard to reach.

In many occasions when projecting, especially the facades, we alter the order of priorities and the whole is destabilized, we try to build to obtain the recognition of others without a solid base, we seek to signify from the form without ensuring the benefits of more basic levels. To reverse the priorities is to bet on the problem instead of solving it. The parallelism between humans and their buildings, the needs to be covered and their relative importance is very clear. Everything is a matter of criteria.

MAJH: You comment that the projects are not big or small, complex or simple, that only the work philosophy varies. What would be the key phases of a project?

XFiP: For years we have approached them with the same methodology, from the most conceptual phases to the precision of the technical detail, that is, from the initial idea, the architectural concept, the concept of the envelopes, the definition of the systems, the concretion of materials and products and the development of constructive details. Thus we can finish the phase of the execution project with the construction of the prototypes, which are, at the same time, the first step of the material execution phase.

The progress of the process is never linear since the periods of reflection, verification and decision have continuous come and go. If we work in an orderly manner and if the process is coherent, we can correct and move forward, because we know how we have reached that point. Improving results is not a random process, because with a method, errors are usually the evidence of the limit of what is possible.

MAJH: It seems that we move slowly, what are the milestones of the technique in the last 25 years?

XFiP: At the present time the construction technology evolves faster than it seems, although frankly I have not been able to find 25 milestones of the technique in the last 25 years, that are true contributions to the systems. We are talking about some examples of profiles with thermal break, double and triple glazing, structural silicones, modular construction, double skin facades, reformulation of materials such as stretched metal or stainless steel meshes ….

Actually there is a greater evolution in the performance of the components than the systems. This is logical if we consider that durability in construction is a very important variable and the process from innovation to application has increasingly a complex development, with verification, validation, testing, standardization, homologation, marketing until the application on site .

MAJH: We learn from technique, from technicians, from reality … How is all this domesticated?

XFiP: For me there is only one solution … Drawing to understand, learn and explain. Drawing by hand, is a very different way of perceiving things, explaining the components and giving them function. Reflecting with paper and pencil we stop being simply observers and we will participate in the understanding of objects and spaces. The objects are more than 2D images and we get to understand their operation and contribution to the system, we will understand what each of the pieces are for and how they work. It is not necessary to be a good draftsman, it is important that the drawing understands and contributes to each scale the variables so that the whole is understood, a drawing will be well explained and makes clear that the technique and the form are the same thing.

MAJH: Is the curtain wall the great milestone of modern architecture?

XFiP: Compared with light facades, the conventional façade is structural and supportive, shelters, protects, contributes to the thermal inertia of the building, is stable and durable. The hollows with size, proportion, distribution that with the appropriate ornamentation order and hierarchize the elevations. The games of massifs and hollows, the shadows and the different well composed elements make the façade perfectly understood. On the other hand, the curtain wall because of the accessories and accessories that we talked about a while ago, has been trivialized and is simply an enclosure that passes in front of the structure, with a collection of objects that are rarely well ordered and it turns out that we have all believed, it seems that the technique is enough to build and make architecture … The facades often have their own logic and discourse and ignore what happens beyond the limit of the interior, we could say that the curtain wall killed the facade, or at least it took her to the ICU because of the excesses and overacting.

MAJH: What do you think of the architectural icons?

XFiP: The answer has to do with the previous question, the icons without materiality are images without a soul. Currently there are buildings that are pure packaging, they are pure boast, they are simple packages, they are complexity to signify, they are pure vanity. The soul has to do with the user, with the place, with the author, with society, with the city, with the environment, with the future … Something as elementary as good guidance, how to rationalize constructive solutions, how to work materials , the unions, the colors, the textures, the habitability or the comfort … they are themes that are forgotten in order to make more and more singular compositions trying to individualize and to be unfortunately “original”.

Not only geometries and combinations of supposedly technical and high-risk solutions are pure architecture. Given the case, our obligation is to rationalize them, detail them, make them constructible, understand them looking for the precise feeling between materials and architecture, in short to be efficient in all orders.

MAJH: There is a tendency that seems to dominate the avant-garde proposals, the current façade is often information support. What’s your opinion about it?

XFiP: The facades have been, are and will be information supports, this is not new. The buildings are illuminated, from within, from outside and that allows to establish a dialogue with the city. The buildings explain stories by applying different technologies and in many cases the information is superimposed on the façade using it as a support. If we think of cathedrals, they already explained stories with light and color day and night. We are modern and in the background we continue to do the same, but with less criteria and we are literally lining buildings to support all kinds of lamps and screens that rarely contribute to pacifying the environment. The Shibuya models in Tokyo, Times Square in New York, Picadilly in London, the profiles of Hong Kong or Shanghai … are some very interesting examples of what can be done and what in some cases can be avoided. Saturation, pollution, overinformation, distortion … a little bit of each but in moderation.

MAJH: Speaking of technology and limits Do you consider that history is therefore cyclical and repeated?

XFiP: Of course, with the same arguments as always, technology, large format, transparency, lightness, limit of the possible … Two examples separated 80 years such as the Garage Marbeuf de Paris, designed by Laprade and Bazin for Citroën in 1928 and the Apple Store of the 5th Avenue of New York of Bohlin Cywinski Jackson are projects of the maximum formats with a metal structure in one case and glass in the other, which showed a great interior vacuum in which cars were exposed in a case and in the other all the objects of desire related to electronics and communication. Axes of the vanguard of technology in each of the moments, history repeats itself. In 2008, Mr. Jobs, with the Apple Store does the same. In both cases, the interest is the same, being the spearhead and absolute vanguard of construction technology and of overcoming by playing with the same elements, the only difference is that the New York Apple cube has been redesigned and built After 4 years with greater formats, greater transparency, fewer components, more risk, technological development that will be applied in the immediate future to other constructions … In the background we talk about formula 1. They say that Jobs said that if you had doubts and you questioned if it was worth the effort, if that small advance compensated … you were out of the company …

MAJH: Now what do we do?

XFiP: To finish 10 ideas to maintain throughout the design and construction process, in addition to curiosity, we must observe with a critical spirit and not have any fear to experiment and get confused.

In the end a little Rationality, Order, Methodology, Reflection, Self-demand, Transdisciplinarity, Sensibility, Integration, R & D at the right moment and Passion.

Because without passion it is not worth getting up every morning.

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