Valencian-born Daniel Rueda and Anna Devís use photography to draw out unexpected magic from architecture. Their lenses imbue what is sober with dynamism, while the mundane explodes into endless shapes and colours. They have popularised the concept of Happytecture and spread it over social media. Thanks to this, ordinary citizens can discover new worlds in our everyday surroundings that are altogether more inspiring. Here, at The Decorative Surfaces, we wanted to get a glimpse into those worlds from Daniel himself:
What is the concept of Happytecture all about?
First of all, I should say that Anna and myself met as architecture students and we always thought that although architecture is directed towards the general population, it all comes across as too technical. The way design plans and photographs are explained is mostly orientated to communication between architects. In contrast, we believe it is important to be able to transmit how important design is, and to do so without such a serious and scholarly tone. This is why we produce our photos, to bring people and architecture closer through beauty and fun. In the end, it’s about making something highly complex much more accessible.
Do you think that the sober functional nature of architecture penalises this art form?
Perhaps, although we believe that sober, clean and modern styles do not have to be thought of as boring. We live in Valencia, where architecture has many details, with Romantic and Renaissance touches that are difficult to communicate. Nonetheless, when you go to other parts of Europe, where everything is much more square and rational, suddenly, it is much easier to play with geometry and the city itself. In other words, minimalism always helps us communicate our ideas.
How do you capitalise on the concept of Happytecture?
We have found different ways to monetise it through photography. We have images that are part of our personal project, which has different series that interconnect whilst they are in progress. These individual projects then start to fit together with different brands and clients who see us as potential collaborators. For example, we’ve worked for different tourism offices, such as the Qatar Foundation.
In turn, our work is also sold in art galleries thanks to a series of gallerists who promote them. Thanks to this, you get to introduce architecture into the homes of people who perhaps would never have been too interested in this art form before.
Finally, we also sell our images for book covers, press articles and even to private clients who are looking to promote their personal projects and want to use our work. We endeavour for our work to be simple, visual and easy-to-understand; in the end, we are trying to cut our expression down to the minimum so that everybody can understand the images we produce. Thanks to this, our images get to enjoy very different lives.
Are you inspired by any specific type of architecture?
Simple architecture in particular, what you see as too simple usually means that it is done really well and, in the end, that’s what tends to help our work a lot. In contrast, in highly busy neighbourhoods with all different types of elements—trees, street furniture, etc.—it can be more difficult for us to draw something out of them.
When you’re walking down the street, is finding a new possible fit for your project always on your mind?
Of course, this is something we now have built into our heads. Whenever we are walking around Valencia or travelling, we always try to pay attention and note down those special locations, either because they are pretty or tell a story, or because you want to highlight that particular spot. For example, we did a project for Helsinki with buildings that are special to the city and, thanks to photography, you suddenly have an excuse to talk about them.
Do you edit your photos?
All our work revolves around a single idea: what can we do so that our photography tells a story, one that is almost magical or incredible but at the same time, where everything is real and nothing is done with editing software? Obviously, you can remove certain things but what you may think is edited, is actually all completely real. The trick is that by using your imagination and a few simple resources, entire sections of a city that at first appear boring can be entirely transformed.
Are you spreading the concept of Happytecture over social media?
In truth, that’s something we are really proud of. On a social network like Instagram, there is a certain tendency towards ego and fashion, but what we do is architecture photography, trying to conjure works of art from mundane settings that we pass by every day. In a way, we are celebrating the vast potential of architecture that often goes unnoticed. In other words, you might live in a spectacular place and not have realised it or, quite the opposite, you might live in a place that is overlooked because you are not looking after it either. All of this is on show all across our social media presence.