We’d like to take the opportunity to introduce you to the 3rd prize winners of our “San Francisco Affordable Housing Challenge” competition - Monica Lamela Blazquez and Sofia Betancur Velasquez from Spain!
Monica Lamela Blazquez and Sofia Betancur Velasquez from Spain
We met in Mexico City, while working at Tatiana Bilbao Estudio. During our time there, we had the opportunity to work together on various projects, starting a collaboration that has been growing ever since.
Sofia graduated as an architect from Universidad Nacional de Colombia. After working in several architecture firms in Medellin and Buenos Aires, she moved to Mexico City, where she worked at Tatiana Bilbao Estudio for 6 years. In 2018 she founded her own firm, where she collaborates with other architects, artists and friends.
Monica studied architecture in Universidad Politecnica de Madrid (ETSAM) and TU Berlin. A nomadic soul, she has traveled the world exploring diverse ways of inhabiting space and engaging with the built environment. Along this path, she has collaborated with various architecture firms including Lacaton&Vassal, Raumlabor, Ensamble, Francis Kéré, and Tatiana Bilbao Estudio. She is currently based in Oakland, where she combines her research as a Fulbright Scholar at UC Berkeley with her work as an independent architect.
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?
During our experience in Tatiana Bilbao Estudio, we worked together in a variety of large scale projects, including Mazatlan Aquarium, Jardin Botanico de Culiacan, Lyon Confluence, Staterra and Hunters Point Masterplan, all of them with a strong social and cultural component, and where collaboration - between the team and clients, and with other architects and professionals - was a central piece.
In her own firm, Sofia has developed residential and commercial projects. She enjoys designing small and medium-scale projects, where she can get clients involved in the small details, seeking to create beautiful, functional and custom-made spaces for users.
Monica enjoys designing for and with people, understanding design as a collaborative process between multiple actors. In her practice, she has focused on designing and imagining spaces that can be affordable for all, designing various social housing projects. In her research, Monica studies how people, as well as economic and political processes, shape the built environment.
What does architecture mean to you and what is the role of an architect in your society?
Architecture is about manifestations of diverse ways of life. Through architectural design, we envision and create places where life experiences can flourish. It is about creating possibilities for coexistence and interaction, for shelter and appropriation.
In this sense, we believe architecture is a collaborative process in which many actors are involved, the architects being one of them. Our role as architects, therefore, is not to produce static objects, but rather living organisms that get reshaped with each use and through time, that interact not only with the bodies that inhabit them, but also with the environments and landscapes that host them, with their present contexts, past memories and future dreams.
Why do you participate in architecture vision competitions?
We both enjoy participating in architecture vision competitions and have be doing it together for the last couple of years. We believe these competitions are the perfect platform to be critical of normative frameworks, to dream about unforeseen possibilities, and to explore radical visions that can inform our profession.
What advice would you give to individuals who struggle to decide whether it would be beneficial for them to participate in architecture vision competitions?
The best advice we can think of is to find a theme that motivates you and use competitions as a medium to explore it. The competition entry should not be the end product, but a catalyser for a new research process.
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