Touza Studio: “We need to work with sustainable models to improve our work” lifestyle
With 2,500 projects under their belt, father and son Julio Touza Rodríguez and Julio Touza put their architectural work at the service of people who are looking for a sense of proportionality between human and natural wellbeing. Their ethical commitment is to creating buildings as a specific response, defending aesthetic and social plurality and creating individual stories.
Made up of 60 professionals, with Julio Touza Rodríguez and his son Julio Touza Sacristán at the helm, Touza Arquitectos has become one of the country’s most prominent architectural studios.
With 2,500 projects completed since they were founded in 1975, the father and son team meticulously and judiciously supervise every project and detail. They respond to every question almost in unison, and in our thoughtful yet at times blunt discussion, architecture appears to be more of a conviction than a vocation. A way of being and living life.
This is confirmed by the fact that their “shared signature” is a question of family. And principles.
Q: How does Touza Arquitectos stand out from the rest?
A: What makes us different is how we are, what we do, how we do it, and our ethical commitment to architecture and our clients. We’re a team of skilled and experienced professionals who don’t share a common, distinct style – because architecture shouldn’t have one.
Q: What should architecture be a response to?
A: Every house and every building is the response to what a place and economy needs. There’s a difference between architecture for social housing, and architecture for luxury housing. Likewise, skyscraper architecture is not the same as architecture linked with the agricultural world.
Q: Could you give us a real and practical example to refute this theory?
A: For example, we’re working on a project with Philippe Starck linked to the world of oil, which is all about the open, natural environment. And this has nothing in common with Torre Riverside, a project we’re just finishing next to the Manzanares River in Madrid. Our building is the river on its feet, showing itself to the people of Madrid. It’s saying: “This river that you can’t see is showing itself vertically, elegantly, so you’ll remember that the Manzanares exists too”. We’re telling an architectural story with the building, but others will have their own origins, their own stories.
Q: How is the father and son relationship at work?
A: It’s easy, because we both have the same architectural commitment and vision. We review each project, nurture it, and get involved along with the whole team. It’s not unusual to see the lights on at the studio into the night because we’re both working.
Q: What have you been working on lately?
A: We’re working on a welcoming area for families with limited resources whose children have been admitted to hospital with serious illnesses. They’ll have a waiting area, a place of hope, whilst their children are getting the medical attention they need. It will be a space of tranquillity and hope. Each project has its own style, but we always maintain an ethical commitment to the city and its people.
Q: What is the intention behind your work?
A: For us, our work represents a midpoint between the architectural team – with know-how, integrity, quality, and balance – and the needs of our clients. Something we don’t have is an architectural signature, we’re not looking for the kind of recognisable image that others have. We’re not necessarily against it, but you need to have a lot of talent to achieve that identifiable signature in your projects.
Q: What are you looking for in your designs?
A: To address a need. Not all clients have the same needs, they don’t share the same audience, nor do they provide the same social response. Our studio has designed a lot of social housing, and the solutions we’ve offered aren’t the same as when we’re working on luxury refurbishments.
It’s hard to invent anything nowadays. We need to provide solutions, research new technologies, work on sustainable models, and improve our work every day.
Q: What should architecture be?
A: Architecture is a social and technical response that transcends time. However small the budget, we manage the interests of the developer, their users, and the city. We have to find a balance between histrionics and the anodyne.
Q: And how can that be achieved?
A: First you need to address the project you’re charged with, whether housing, offices, or a business. Secondly, you need to make a recognisable object that can subsequently be offered to the city as a work that goes beyond.
Q: Has architecture become a mass spectacle?
A: Architecture can be spectacular, but it must not become a spectacle. If we want to see a spectacle we can go to the circus, theatre, or football.
Q: Is it about a dialogue between the client and society?
A: We’ve gained a reputation for listening to our clients and offering them the best solutions. Rarely does a developer come and say “I want a box”, because we don’t make boxes, but we won’t impose what we want on you either. Thanks to our team, we offer solutions that we can all feel satisfied about, and we can all learn from.
Q: Architecturally speaking, what era are we in now?
A: The era of reckless construction is over in Spain, though it continues to have a place in Asia and the Middle East. We, the architects, are the ones who need to put the brakes on waste and do interesting things, reasonably, at a low cost. We need to be able to offer beautiful, efficient architecture with budgets that won’t do further harm to the population.
Q: Are there any traits or behaviours that are characteristic of Spanish architects?
A: Spanish architects are quite prone to balance and distance themselves from histrionics. Rafael Moneo and the RCR Arquitectes studio, the two Spanish Pritzker award-winners, are exponents of a type of architecture based on silence,
the abstract, and the measured.
Q: Is more architectural education needed for people to understand your work?
A: Our relationship with industry is more important, because that’s what brings us the most developments. We stay in touch with manufacturers and have a system in place whereby we have training talks with companies where they can tell us about their products.
A lot of the time companies go beyond the needs of architects and offer materials we can do new things with. Porcelanosa Group is one such example.
Q: What do you think about Porcelanosa Group?
A: Porcelanosa Group is an exemplary company: its large format ceramic pieces and extra-fine pieces such as XLight give us limitless possibilities. Its innovations in kitchens, bathroom fittings, taps, and prefabricated modules open up a huge scope of options that we architects must take advantage of.
Q: Have developers’ mentalities changed in terms of sustainability?
A: Now in real estate developers are demanding greater sustainability in their projects – because more environmentally-friendly developments sell better.
Before, developers would sell in order to get the highest profit, and clients would be driven by price when buying a property. Now though, we’re much more environmentally conscious, and our studio has a firm commitment to sustainable architecture.
Portrait: Alex del Río.
Pictures: Alfonso Quiroga and Touza Arquitectos.