ecosistema urbano focuses on the research and ecological design of new architecture projects, utilising their team of architects and engineers to create projects that are sustainable and innovative.
Belinda Tato and her team have received over 15 awards for their projects since 2000 in both national and international design competitions including the European Acknowledgement Award from the Holcim Foundation for Sustainable Construction (Geneva, 2005).
ecosistema urbano are currently busy working on a research project financed by the Spanish Ministry of Industry, about future paths of city design which they call the “eco-techno-logical city”.
1. Which of your projects has been the most rewarding and why?
BT: The Ecobulevar of Vallecas in Madrid. Our project aims to improve the public space of a new neighbourhood in Madrid, creating a climatic comfort achieved by simple physical principles and also to become a social catalyst.
2. At Ecosistema Urbano you are active bloggers – why?
BT: We think the way to work on sustainability is by improving education and knowledge. The blog is an open platform for the interchange of knowledge and experiences from professionals with different backgrounds from all over the world. Everyone learns from each other, anyone can contribute with his/her own experience. We believe sharing is sustainable and our blog contributes in that sense.
3. How do you think architecture will change in the next 50 years?
BT: The actual crisis is not just an economic one but also an energy, food and social ones. I think this will force professionals and the whole society to take a closer look to the way we live, the way we build or how we use our resources. Hopefully that will make a change and we architects will be less focused on ‘originality’ and instead we’ll pay more attention to efficiency.
4. What changes would you like to see in the Architectural profession?
BT: We’ve been living in a world of excess for a while. In the last few years architects were just focused on their creativity, originality and complex geometries. Architects should be more concerned about the environment, energy, wastes and of course users. We should not forget we have a social responsibility, we create the habitats: homes, libraries, cities for people to live, relate, interact and become happy. Those are the issues we consider relevant and we see that context as an appealing challenge.
5. Do you think that Architecture tends to be trendy today?
BT: Star system architecture is very notorious, visible and spectacular and many people love that.
6. What would students learn from reviewing the body of architectural projects you have completed? Do you have any advice for upcoming students?
BT: A good building design guarantees a better life for its users and a lower maintenance cost for its whole life, which also makes it more economically efficient. There is also a very close relationship between architecture and the quality of public space linked to it, this relationship impacts the quality of life for citizens, as well as social sustainability. I think the way we are taught architecture at schools is somehow obsolete. The society has changed and therefore the profession should react to that. There are many new opportunities and ways to explore for upcoming architects, which I think is fascinating.
7. What are you most proud of in your career or any aspect of life?
BT: We try to improve our environment and cities from our practice everyday.
8. Who do you think is the most overrated architect, and who do you think deserves more credit/recognition?
BT: I think we should not overrate those who work with huge budgets, which are out of the league of many others. I find fascinating architecture made with low budgets or in extreme economic and social conditions and many times its quality is very high.
9. What aspect of Architecture do you find most important? What is fundamental to your practice and your design process?
BT: We believe architecture is related to every human and somehow conditions people’s quality of life. Architecture has got a very strong social objective. Architects create the habitats for people to live in, study , move, work, relax and so on. In that sense architecture is important and somehow we are responsible for people’s well being.
We work with the concept of Low–tech. We use out-of-shelf products and technologies to guarantee its efficiency and cost. The innovation is related to the way we use them and the many new possibilities and combinations we explore for new contexts.
10. What inspired you to become involved in Architecture? What inspires you now?
BT: We became architects somehow by chance. Now I think architecture is fascinating for the wide range of possibilities it offers you and because your work is close related to the quality of the environment for people.
11. What other interests do you have?
BT: energy, technology, people, art, science, travelling, ….
12. What is your favourite time of the day, and why?
BT: First time in the morning. I still have the whole day ahead and plan to do many things. I also find it very appropriate to concentrate on issues at late evening since during the day it is sometimes not possible due to meetings and phone calls.
13. What would be your ultimate design project?
BT: An urban regeneration project on the Mediterranean coast to show that there is a right way (linked to innovation) to relate to the natural environment that sustains us.
We would like to work in the urban peripheries built before the crisis. This way we prove it is not necessary to destroy what has already been built, however we can transform it into something appealing for a new use.
14. What are you doing at the moment?
BT: We are doing a project for the Shanghai Universal Expo, we are finishing the construction of a kindergarten (energy efficient building) and a public space in a town outside Madrid and we are involved in the design of playgrounds for different cities. We are also developing a participation tool on the internet to enable citizens to play an active role in the creation of public space and decision making processes of their home towns.
15. Who would you most like to work with on a project?
BT: The city of New York: for the implementation of a public space and creative playground networks all through the city.
UN-HABITAT for the urban regeneration program
I’d like to thank Belinda for participating in the interview, it was a pleasure. If you’re interested in getting in touch or finding out more about ecosistema urbano, visit their website or their blog. You can also follow Belinda on twitter.
If you are interested in being interviewed and featured on Archi-Ninja, please contact me.