We’d like to take the opportunity to introduce you to the Scholarship winners of our "Portable Reading Rooms / Edition #2" competition – Max Gerber and Eitan Adrián Guzmán Cuéllar from Germany!

Scholarship winners from Germany

At the moment, we are both 3rd-year architecture students at the Technical University in Braunschweig, Germany. Our individual paths, however, which merged almost three years ago, when we met in class during our first semester, couldn’t be more different.

Max: After graduating from school in 2014, I first pursued a civil engineering degree in my hometown of Hamburg, Germany, thinking that it would help me develop a more holistic skillset in the future. Working in a structural engineering firm as a student, only reaffirmed my dreams of becoming an architect so, after a year, I switched to working in an architecture firm while finishing my thesis. After graduating with a Bachelor’s in civil engineering from the HafenCity University in Hamburg I moved to Berlin, where I spent a year working at Grüntuch Ernst Architekten, gaining valuable experience as an architect. Due to the strict regulations of the German Chamber of Architects, however, a 5-year degree in architectural studies is required before entering and working as an independent architect. Luckily, my boss at the time was a professor of architectural design at TU Braunschweig. She encouraged me to consider returning to university in order to study architecture. Today, I am about to enter my seventh semester of the program with only my final project left before gaining my second bachelor’s degree.

Eitan: Before moving to Germany during the pandemic in 2020, I went to the German School Alexander von Humboldt in Mexico City from which I graduated that same year. It was there that I grew up in a community that was not only bilingual but bicultural with a broader perspective on social and political, as well as environmental issues, which are very present yet not properly addressed in countries like Mexico. This developed a desire in me to make an impact on such topics and search for the tools to do so, which greatly influenced my decision to study architecture in Germany. Being from a generation quite young and still pursuing my studies in architecture, I have not yet been part of big projects outside of the university. However, the projects developed in the architecture program of the Technical University of Braunschweig have varied from developing concepts of entire districts of existing cities to small private buildings for specific clients and uses. This has given me a glimpse at different fields of architecture that will be useful once I conclude my studies in the coming semester.

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 the company/ individuals have been involved?

For both of us, The Portable Reading Room is our first competition, and being that we are still studying, we haven’t been involved in many projects prior to this.

In 2019, Eitan won a drawing competition named Caminos de la Libertad which focused on the issue of freedom of speech in his home country of Mexico.

Max has spent a lot of his time during the past couple of years forming and writing about his architectural philosophy on his blog. During his time in Berlin, he exclusively worked on a high-end commercial real estate project called The Westlight located at Budapester Straße in Berlin, which has since been completed.

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

Eitan: Architecture is one of the greatest paths to human expression since social, political, historical, and artistic factors are found at its roots. It influences every area of human life and represents us culturally. It simultaneously connects human emotions with the space that surrounds us and enriches our existence. That is why architects have the power to shape society and culture, and with that power comes the responsibility to design and create, taking into account these complex aspects to improve the circumstances in which people live, to make a change for the better in a world that is in the need for that in order to prosper together as humans and heal the environment that we have sadly damaged.

Max: The answer to this question should be different, depending on where you live. For me, living in a first-world country, the role of the architect is to remind people of the power of being-here; of being in the moment and recognizing the incredibly rich emotions to be felt and never forgotten once we stop being swept up in an ever-faster and more stressful lifestyle. In a world where an infinite amount of images and videos are instantly accessible to us at all times, it’s no wonder that our other senses have become increasingly desensitized. Our hedonistic attitude towards visual stimuli has led us to forget the multi-sensory nature of true intimacy. Even more so than art, inhabited space is able to weave the ideals of intimacy, desire, and repose into the very fabric of life. Architecture, because of its omnipresence and because it challenges mind and body to an eternal dialog from the time we are born, doesn’t merely belong in the domain of matter but in the domain of what matters. In this sense, the architect acts as the negotiator between humans and their built environment, creating places that are able to absorb and be charged with our emotions and most personal associations. Great architecture defies emotional insignificance by healing our hearts and souls.

Why do you participate in architecture competitions?

This was our first competition entry with the goal to challenge ourselves, show our skills, and share our ideas. As students, we think competitions are the best opportunity to be part of and develop projects to contribute our young concepts to the real world. We firmly believe that practice makes perfect. In order to improve our capabilities we seek to participate in as many design competitions as possible to refine our respective styles and grow as architects. 

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

There is no downside. Working on projects, whether conceptual or real can only benefit you as you find your personal style or refine your technical skills. If you see every competition as a learning experience, it’s hard to find a better way to grow as an architect. We strongly recommend participating in architecture competitions as it is an opportunity to challenge yourself and find out what you are capable of.

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