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Talking to Burr, author of the Guest Lounge at ArcoMadrid 24

Talking to Burr, author of the Guest Lounge at ArcoMadrid 24

MARCH 2024 | 5 minutes

"Furniture is fundamental when conceiving a space and, without it, any of our works would be an empty container".

We take a closer look at Burr, the architecture studio headed by Elena Fuertes, Ramón Martínez, Álvaro Molins and Jorge Sobejano, which develops its work from the most conceptual and experimental side of architecture. A philosophy centred on research and experimentation, both conceptually and in terms of materials, techniques and processes, which has led them to design the Guest Lounge of ArcoMadrid 24 together with the Forum of Renowned Spanish Brands.

About your beginnings, training and first years before founding Burr (formerly Taller de Casquería). When, why and how did you start, who were you initially and how has the team expanded, any 'special' moments that have marked your career?

We met when we were still finishing our degree and, together with 6 other colleagues, we formed Taller de Casquería. A space for experimentation, between architecture, art, design and beyond, with a very heterogeneous production and which led us to rent a space in Tetuán that functioned as a meeting point with many other profiles with whom we organised parties, performances and exhibitions.

Little by little, personal interests diverged, causing the people who initially formed the collective to move on to personal projects in different sectors, such as art, design, performance or architecture itself, as was the case of the four members who decided to form Burr.

As an architectural practice, we continue to maintain an open profile, we don't consider ourselves architects in the orthodox sense and we are very interested in the more conceptual and experimental side of architecture.

If you had to define your work in a few words, what would they be?

Our production and our interests are very heterogeneous, we believe that defining ourselves in a few words is difficult for us. We are interested in researching and experimenting with processes, materials, techniques, models, etc. Maybe this is part of the heritage of Taller de Casquería.

You refer to your work as experimental architecture, do you think there are two architectures, one static and the other dynamic, seeking new solutions through experimentation?

We define our practice as experimental because we are interested in testing. It stimulates us to look at our surroundings and try to do something we haven't seen before.

It has nothing to do with an egomaniacal point of view or trying to be different or unique, we are interested in slightly tensing certain limits to see how far a situation, a model, a typology, etc. can go. We don't believe that there are two architectures, but many lines of thought, and it is probably healthy that this is the case.

In your portfolio there are projects of very diverse uses, all of them designed from the respect for pre-existences and the commitment to the recovery of places that are a priori abandoned, as a common nexus. In addition to the flexibility and adaptability of the spaces to their occupants, and the consequent commitment to sustainability...

We work fundamentally on pre-existing structures or small gaps in the consolidated urban fabric. We are in favour of not demolishing, whenever possible. The coexistence of languages seems to us to be enriching and we believe it is a good way to conserve and enhance the value of the built heritage we have, beyond what is considered heritage worthy of protection. Conserving and adapting an existing structure is, in most cases, more efficient in terms of emissions than demolishing and rebuilding. The problem is that it is often more expensive, which is why we call for more institutional support for projects that choose to conserve, adapt and reprogramme existing structures, rather than opting for a tabula rasa.

Your housing, retail or restoration projects share characteristics and principles with others of a much more ephemeral and, a priori, experimental nature that you have carried out for stands, installations, etc. What differences and parallels do you establish between them, can an ephemeral space work in a permanent one and vice versa?

Our work process is the same when designing a piece of furniture or thinking about an urban strategy and, although the conditioning factors are different, the methodology does not change. In any case, it is important to bear in mind that ephemeral spaces must always include a dismantling and dismantling process.

Your intervention at ARCO reflects on the ephemeral and experimental nature of architecture, as a place that invites us to question our own stability. What was the project process like, from the competition and the more conceptual and design process, to the development and work with the brands?

The Guest Lounge project takes up the theme of this year's Arco,'The shore, the tide, the current: an oceanic Caribbean', and the concept of the shore as the changing and undefined limit between land and water. The low sea, that ephemeral situation that uncovers situations we were not aware of and that makes us confront a terrain that is a priori neither visible nor palpable, is the starting point of the proposal. A horizontal plane rotated by 2º, which draws an unstable, changing and non-horizontal territory, of discovery and play, which stimulates and keeps the brain active, and where the bodies must recalibrate their centre of gravity.

To understand the project in detail, once the water is metaphorically removed, a series of objects appear that we did not see before and that, like a boat that no longer floats, lose their context. Objects that are not where and how they should be, and begin to become abstracted and unrecognisable, which in the Guest Lounge materialise in furniture that can be read as volumes in equilibrium, which stick their heads out and lean out to find their place. Pieces such as the Ondarreta chairs, the Lladró and LEDS C4 luminaires, the soft seats by Actiu, Joquer and Diabla (Gandía Blasco), the large central seat by Fama, the fabrics by Crevin and the Silestone piece by Cosentino. All of these companies belong to the Leading Brands of Spain Forum, without whose support it would not have been possible to carry out the project. Not forgetting the companies Megaandamios and Refrigeración Alcalaína Real, which have collaborated in the technical development of the project and its construction.

At Actiu, where we understand furniture as a tool to build spaces, we experience how soft or outdoor products are becoming increasingly important and have a wide variety of uses. What is your experience in this respect?

Furniture is fundamental when it comes to conceiving a space and, without it, any of our works would be an empty container. It has been a wonderful experience for us to have been able to collaborate with Actiu, from whom we have learned a lot.

What do you take away from the project for ArcoMadrid 24?

We take away a great experience both on a professional and human level. We believe that our project was fundamentally a gesture, a very simple action that has been very complete to carry out. It is a project developed by many hands, without which it would have been impossible to carry out. We consider it to have been a success and we are very grateful to all those who have participated in the process.

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