We’d like to take the opportunity to introduce you to the winners of the 1st and Student prize of our “Nemrut Volcano Eyes” competition - Fernando Irizarry, Marcos Ortiz and Gabriel Rivera from Puerto Rico!

Fernando Irizarry, Marcos Ortiz and Gabriel Rivera from Puerto Rico

Marcos Ortiz, Gabriel Rivera, and I, Fernando Irizarry, are all members of the Competition Studio at the University of Puerto Rico, School of Architecture. This studio class, taught by Prof. Francisco Rodríguez and Prof. Rafael Vargas, is a last year bachelor’s degree design studio, directed to students interested in learning techniques and strategies for conceptual ideas. The Studio, composed by approximately 14 students, was divided into subgroups that would work on developing different competitions at the same time; this is how the three of us became a group. We had never worked together, and that’s where we found our challenge; working with partners that have different mentalities, visions, and perspectives than us, achieves a diversity of ideas that is necessary in the design process.

As individuals, all of us are doing different things. Fernando Irizarry works for the architecture firm Flores Kearns, PSC based in San Juan, Puerto Rico while he finishes his undergraduate degree in Architecture with a minor in Public Relations and advertising. Marcos Ortiz works in the interior design firm Art & Design Studio, based in San Juan, Puerto Rico while he too finishes his undergraduate degree in Architecture, just as Gabriel Rivera.

Brief information about the projects that you/your company have been involved with. For instance what scale have you focused on/preferred, any significant projects where company/ individuals have been involved?

The proposals that are conceived by the Competition Studio don’t have geographic limits, therefore giving us the opportunity to submit ideas all over the world. Our semester was a very peculiar one, since Puerto Rico was hit by disastrous Hurricane María - a category 5 hurricane - leaving us with a humanitarian crisis all through the island. Thanks to this we decided to focus most of our effort into working on idea competitions that had to do with such problems; things similar to our situation, in order to come up with ways to help our island too. We worked on large urban scale proposals, such as the reconstruction of public parks, but also smaller scale, individual proposals. In the smaller scale proposals we worked on easily - assembled structures for all the families that were left without a roof after the hurricane. The Competition Studio worked every day on solutions for the wellbeing of all Puerto Ricans, as well as other amazing international competitions like this one. 

What does architecture mean to you and what is the role of an architect in your society?

I give architecture a new meaning every day, but all of them have a common denominator: human wellbeing. In a system so globalized, where city boundaries are becoming more abstract every day, architecture acquires a much more complex meaning than what we can fully grasp. Architecture transforms itself into experiences and surprises, it is present in big urban spaces as well as small gathering spaces. Architecture is the mediator between the human being and a life full of rewarding moments. The architects role is ever-changing and diverse, but always transcends the act of designing, it manages to transform every instant in our lives into a moment of pleasure and comfort. 

Why do you participate in architecture vision competitions?

The architecture vision competitions allow the possibility to take the design process to a level where experimentation and speculation become problem solving strategies in a creative and unconventional way. This is the perfect venue for telling a story through architecture.

What advice would you give to individuals who struggle to decide whether it would be beneficial for them to participate in architecture vision competitions?

Without a doubt, by being a participant in architecture vision competitions, you are obligated to understand how the design process works in distant, foreign places. This becomes a challenge that changes how we see the world entirely. The process is enriching from start to finish, from the moment we read the possibilities and limitations. It’s incredible to draw the first line that tries to capture the idea you want to achieve and then be surprised by the variety of proposals that are delivered; these open the mind to understand that there is an infinite world of ideas, each of them valid and special in their own way. From the very beginning, one is a winner, winner of discipline, experience, digital techniques and an infinite knowledge retention.

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