Iñaki Ábalos and Renata Sentkiewicz like to make clear that their work together did not begin in 2006 – when Ábalos & Herreros split –, but during Sentkiewicz’s previous phase at the studio. It is thus easy for them to acknowledge how much they owe to that time, and they place the emphasis on the continuities rather than on the ruptures. It is also clear though that some things have changed. The unbreakable commitment to technique inherited from their master Alejandro de la Sota, and that Iñaki Ábalos and Juan Herreros learned to make their own, lingers on. But other themes of that time, such as the fascination for the picturesque – addressed up to now as a rather intellectual matter –, have become true project tools, taking on a protagonism that has grown at pace with the new concerns, such as the project to translate sustainability into a language beyond banal functionalism, or the search for mixed use prototypes that are valid for the new stages of globalization. All this with a more organic and uninhibited language, and a cosmopolite aptitude that is at ease in very different places, be it Madrid, Taipei, Biobío or, of course, Harvard, where Ábalos chairs the architecture department since 2013. The interview begins, precisely, pulling from this thread…
EP: I would like to start at the end, and ask you about your experience at Harvard. How is Spanish architecture – affected by discouragement, with a tinge of masochism even – seen from the United States?
IA: Spanish architecture has an evident, and absolutely legitimate, prestige outside Spain. Not only because of what has been achieved throughout these years, but also because of how it has been done. People outside Spain are impressed by the capacity of Spanish architects to develop complex public commissions at an age at which professionals in other countries haven’t even graduated. All in all, Spanish architecture is at risk of becoming self-withdrawn, of being unable to develop, beyond the local realm, research lines that look into the future, departing from what has already been accomplished. It is only now that the weakness of the theoretical-practical discourses becomes more apparent, in the sense that we have all been unable to find a work method that is, for instance, exportable...[+]