The Madrid-based Mecanismo architecture studio is headed by Marta Urtasun and Pedro Rica, two widely experienced architects with an even greater future, who have collaborated with renowned professionals such as Pedro Subijana on his Akelarre hotel and restaurant project, and Martín Berasategui on his restaurant project in Lasarte-Oria.
You clearly have a special fondness for the Akelarre hotel and restaurant; how important were natural materials in the project design and development process? Would you like to work with these types of materials again?
The studio’s identity and approach are based around the use of natural materials and sustainable processes. We have an ongoing commitment to material development processes that are as simple as possible, where the material remains true to its original form. We try to avoid tampering with the natural appearance and remain faithful to the original state.
If you could work on a project of this scale again, what would you like it to be? And why?
We don’t usually look at project scale, type or budget; instead, we approach projects in the same way, taking into account the process itself: from initial concept to final build. All our projects have a natural link to what we have done previously and, logically, what we will do next.
Is there any project that you would like to highlight for its impact on your career or at a personal level?
We would spotlight lots, regardless of their scope. For example, Martín Berasategui’s restaurant in Lasarte-Oria gave us the chance to undertake an entire pre-fabrication, organisation and assembly process. The project involved building a new room for the restaurant and we decided on a curved wooden beam lattice ceiling design, with a 14-metre span and one-metre depth. The resulting space is characterised by a particular geometry that is highlighted by all the other architectural elements showcasing the curved ceiling. It was a complex building process where everything was carefully manufactured in the workshop down to the last millimetre, in order to facilitate a short three-month installation period.
What is your greatest inspiration when designing? How do you think this is reflected in your work?
The very nature and intrinsic, raw features of materials effect our decisions regarding the ambience, geometry and sensations we aim to conjure in each project. The basis is an analysis of the different constraints through which we attempt to provide a sensible response to what is being asked of us.
What do you like the most—and least—about your creative process?
The entire process from the initial idea to putting every detail in place. In turn, the relationship with our clients—their requirements and opinions—makes a huge contribution and is essential for developing any project.
At one point in the design and performance process, you always have doubts that need to dealt with and refocused.
Is there anything you believe makes your day-to-day life easier that you would recommend to other architects?
We systematise and automate processes on a daily basis. Everything we do is always linked to what has been done before and, therefore, what we will do in the future. It’s like the day-to-day in any area of life—we get into routines that enable us to lead out lives more efficiently and effectively.
Are you familiar with COMPAC materials? How do you think this type of material can be used to enhance a project?
The wide range of possibilities offered by COMPAC means it’s impossible to pinpoint a single answer. For us, the possibility of using large-format pieces and complex finishes are essential when we make product selections for projects.
What role do you think technology plays in your work? Do you think it makes your life easier? If so, how?
Nowadays, technology expedites all project processes. We have always said technology should be used wherever necessary and whenever it makes the most sense. We do not have to always use the very latest techniques since the best solution is often the simplest and cheapest option.
What is your greatest motivation to continue doing what you do? What do you find to be the most satisfying aspect of your work?
Taking on projects and situations that are new to us and, especially, enjoying the entire process, often more than the result itself! The final outcome is always the result of careful and serious consideration.