We spoke with Keynote Speaker Gabriela Carrillo Principal, Taller |Mauricio Rocha + Gabriela Carrillo|. Our discussions ranged from topography, public and private projects, the role of the void, and space as a human right. Since graduating from the Faculty of Architecture of Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México (UNAM), she has collaborated with Mauricio Rocha and in 2011, they created Taller |Rocha + Carrillo|. Their most representative projects include: the School of Plastic Arts and the San Pablo Academic and Cultural Center in Oaxaca; Library for the Blind and Visually Impaired in Ciudadela; Criminal Courts for Oral Trials in Pátzcuaro, Michoacán; Deans Building School of Commercial Banking; and Cuatro Caminos Photo Museum in Mexico City. Carrillo has presented lectures and led workshops at universities in Mexico, the U.S., and South America and her work has been published nationally and internationally. In 2014, the Architectural League of New York presented them with its Emerging Voices Award. Carrillo was named “2017 Woman Architect of the Year” by The Women in Architecture Awards, presented by The Architectural Review and The Architects’ Journal.
Carrillo will be speaking at the 79th Annual Conference & Design Expo in Fort Worth on Friday, November 9.
Can you talk a bit about your process? How do you approach design and the challenges faced in each project? For example, when designing the building for the Judicial Courts in Pátzcuaro (Michoacán).
GC– We really think that each place is unique in a way. And we need to understand in a perfect way, where the wind blows, where the shadow is, how the light is, the temperature and the different views you can achieve … So that was a whole opportunity for us to rethink how first, an institutional building should be, and second how we can talk about security, and of course the limits of very high security. And, also, to show an institutional building in relationship with the landscape, the culture, and the place where it (the judicial court) is based … For example, in the case of Pátzcuaro (Michoacán), we worked with the stone because we got a very capable mason to develop these beautiful worlds of stone, and the cost of using stone wouldn’t be different than doing the building in concrete.
In previous interviews, you have mentioned a love for composing space with tension and void—the in-between spaces. Can you talk a bit more about this, the materials used to accomplish what is ascetically pleasing, and what you find most appealing about the void and in-between spaces? How does that empty space inform your design?
GC– Thank you for that question because that is what we want to communicate with our projects. I think that all the time we are searching for something which is silence. I think it’s part of something we want to acquire in every building, in every project we have. To capture surprise and surrender, and getting silence. And the void-ness is a great ally to create that … The void-ness for us is the silence we always want to achieve in our projects. In a way, it is easy for us because when we’re very small in Mexican culture, we’re taught that the Mayans invented the zero, and the zero in a way is the void. It is that concept which is very difficult to understand, but now, for us, it is the place where we can create. It is like the silence we achieve between one layer and another, it is the admiration signal or the interrogation signal. There’s always a connection…to the different elements that we understand as atmosphere and what that void-ness connects.
What do you think your work is about? What are the intentions of your architecture? You touched briefly on it with the in-between spaces and void-ness, is that your guiding mantra so to speak?
GC– Yes, I think so. There are a bunch of ideas I’ve been working on since I started, and in different stages with my partner. Over time we have developed ideas, which touch on different scenarios that are important. First of all, architecture should be something political, you know, it is a tool to be political, especially in a country (Mexico) like ours. We should be political with the work we do because it touches private and even public spaces. The second one is the dignity of space … It is very true that everything and everyone needs to have access to quality space … like access to water, everyone needs to have access to light, a welcoming common ground with security and safety…And, quality space does not mean you need to invest more money. It is more managing to transform the space with intelligence and to achieve quite dignity … That is what I pursue in my work, which is the atmosphere. The atmosphere doesn’t have to do only with what you see, it has to do with how you feel there … That silence, that opportunity to be surprised, and to be emotional about being somewhere, and to do what art does, which is take you somewhere else. Somewhere you could be yourself. And I do think that that dignity of space should be for everyone …We need to pursue that in order for us to discover opportunities for breaking rules and limits, in order to understand how to translate void-ness and world concepts like liberty and freedom into tangible things.