Antonio Ortiz (Seville, 1974) speaks clearly and with certainty, trying to find a quick answer to each of our questions. He speaks with us on the phone, from his desk at the headquarters of his office in Seville. Apart from this, Cruz and Ortiz have got two more branches, in Amsterdam and in Madrid. One added complexity that seems not to worry these National Architecture Prizes.
Many things have happened since they finished their university degree in the seventies’ and decided to work together without a break until now. Their architecture is beautiful and useful and the list of their works is extensive. Their work, hand in hand, has allowed them, as they stated some time ago, to understand buildings quietly, appreciating knowledge and enjoying looking at them.
Cruz and Ortiz is a matter of two and one cannot understand Antonio Ortiz without Antonio Cruz. How did your relationship start?
It was all started by Antonio Cruz and Antonio Ortiz. We went to university together, and since the very beginning, when we were very young, we decided to open an office together.
We can imagine that you are both joined by the same passion for architecture and a similar attitude towards this profession. How would you define your compromise with architecture?
Compromise is probably an excessive definition. Without a doubt we have a common vocation towards architecture. It is the subject we feel most comfortable with and where we can collaborate and work more easily. Vocation is maybe a more adequate word.
How has that vocation changed over the years?
I think the vocation hasn’t changed. What has really changed is the way we work. We have had to adapt to our work circumstances. These circumstances are constantly changing.
Furthermore our team has also changed: it is not the same being a pair of young architects who work together that having different teams which depend on you, as this implies changes in the way we work. But our vocation is the same.
When you were two young architects working together, did you have more freedom when practising architecture or being two novice architects meant more restrictions?
The practice of architecture is usually full of restrictions. It is a very influenced art. An architect must not be considered an artist because what we do must be useful. We must solve problems and there come up different influences. But that is not bad: it is always convenient to have different ideas to be taken into account.
Over your career you have carried out many projects of all kinds, such as the Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam, The Basel Train Station, The Atlético de Madrid Football Stadium, or the Faculty of Educational Sciences in Seville. What is left to be done by you?
So many things! We feel good, looking forward to doing so many things and in many different places. Probably one of the best virtues in our profession is variety. Architects are almost the only generalists left in the construction world, and we sometimes move from a sports construction, to a museum or houses…Architecture offers many opportunities, so we would love create so many different buildings and we would also love to build in so many cities.
Your own homes, where you live with your families, were built by yourselves. When thinking about building your own home, what should an architect bear in mind?
That is difficult. As topics become more particular, the complexity increases. It is more difficult to build a house for just one family than building general houses for hundreds of families with two or three bedrooms.
Sáenz de Oiza had already said this. And the most difficult moment for an architect is when we have to plan and build our own homes, considering our own privacy. That implies asking so many questions: how I would like to live, how I see my family life now and how it will be like in the future… Those things make the project of our own house to be a complicated idea and architects then usually have more questions than when we work for other people.
After all these years, what is still attractive to you in your profession?
Architecture is a wonderful profession. We are very happy of having practiced it and still practice it.
As I said before, it is a profession that still allows us to be generalists. We can be interested in very different ideas, and as architects we must look at things in a wide way. When visiting a city, an architect can see, get to know more and understand more than what another person with a different job would do. We would have enough with that to be satisfied.
Apart from your main studio in Seville, you have got another one in Amsterdam. What is the difference between the Spanish architecture and the architecture in other European countries like Holland?
They are very different. To begin with, the role of an architect can vary from one country to another. In Europe constructions are very varied: the construction techniques are different and the role of the architect, what is expected from him, may be different too. A harder effort is needed to get to know the ground we walk on, but if the places where you work are stimulating, almost every city would be good. In this way, Amsterdam, for example, is a wonderful city and we love working there.
Over the last years we have lived a certain attraction towards the architect star, with big projects of excessive budgets and an uncertain utility. How do you think this trend will develop?
Probably the economic crisis will make us do less foolishness. Or at least they will be the minimum ones. This kind of architecture will continue to be, but if the political and citizens’ control arises, many of the mistakes you are talking about would be reduced.
Is it a good moment for European architecture?
Architecture is a very European activity. We understand it with some cultural borders, it is a very European way to understand things, I am not sure that the same type of architecture we do here in Europe could be done in The USA. However things usually end up being the same as what it is done in America, and the way we work in architecture in Europe will also look like the more specialised and corporate way they work in America.
Some time ago your work was defined as ‘synthesis architecture’. That definition can be understood when admiring your work at the Infanta Elena of Seville Library, with nice and comfortable spaces for the users. Do you agree with this definition?
Completely. Architecture is a very synthetic activity. Many different factors take part: economic, constructive, social, visual… the building must be the connecting point of all of them. None of these factors should be more important than the other ones. We really aim to that synthetic understanding.
And finally could you tell us a small scoop?
We are working in Seville, Madrid, Amsterdam and in one indefinite place in the English Channel.