Fernanda Canales

Interview with Mexico City architect. www.fernandacanales.com
You have spent a lot of your time attending schools in Spain.  What was behind your motivation to study there? 
I initially went to work with Enric Miralles but his sudden death made drastic changes in my career. Then I went following the writings and theory of Ignasi Sola-Morales. That was the reason I studied the Masters degree he headed and then ended up working for him.

Tell us about your PHD studies and what was the main focus behind it? 
Professors such as Iñaki Abalos and Juan Herreros made the PHD program a very broad and interesting tool. It was like opening a Pandora box and finding the varied possibilities of architecture and its relations to theory, place and action.

You’ve had the opportunity to work with Toyo Ito in Japan, what kind of things did you learn in his office that has made an impact on your architecture. 
What led me to Toyo Ito were the interest in his writings and explorations on flexibility, fluid space, the concept of immaterial architecture, and the relation between body and space.

Besides practicing architecture you spend a lot of time writing about it as well.  Why is this type of expression important to you? 
Architecture is thought, and writing is a way of understanding and questioning preconceived ideas. For me writing is the space to confront ideas, thoughts, history, intentions and projects.

Through out your career you have collaborated with other architects on different projects.  What are these relationships with other studios like? 
My practice is based on a very personal, hands-on experience. I believe sporadic collaborations, especially with artists, landscape designers and industrial designers enrich the discussions and the process. It helps to understand every project in a particular way, always questioning previous projects.
How has your studio grown since you’ve started in 1996? 
It has only been me, without the structure of an office, but rather spending a lot of time working in the site, with the people who are actually building, as well as in archives and developing research projects.

You have created a lot of cultural buildings. Are these your favorite type of projects? 
I believe that architecture should be focused in improving the way people leave, in their education and culture, so in that sense cultural buildings provide an amazing opportunity to rethink communities and the relation between a building and public space.

What type of architectural materials do you like to work with the most? 
I always work with materials that are true to the site, that reflect the local condition and the local hand labor.

One of the main themes behind the Elena Garro Cultural Center is the integration of the existing structure within the new one.  How is preservation important in the new architecture that is being built in Mexico City? 
I believe in the important of preserving history not only through buildings but also through the comprehension of the knowledge and tradition of the place. That is why I spend so much time researching and sharing the relevance of our architectural past.

The Maruma House is a great example of play between light and dark spaces.  What were some of the motivations behind these volumes and shapes? 
It was a very complex, narrow lot, with very massive surroundings, so the whole project deals with the idea of opening up spaces while maintaining a sense of intimacy, privacy and green views. That is why the house is articulated through a series of small patios, balconies and terraces.
Do you strictly focus on doing projects in Mexico or are you interested in branching out to other countries as well? 
I am interested in any place; I think that is what actually makes you understand better the particular conditions of every project.

What are some challenges that you must face as an architect in Mexico? 
The main challenge is how to produce, through architecture, a more equal society with better interaction with the city.

As Mexico City continues to grow, what are some issues that it must deal with? 
Low cost housing and its relation to infrastructure and public space is the main theme in which the future of all Mexican cities depends.

What is some advice you can give to aspiring architects who want to join the profession? 
Go and visit and measure with the body real architecture.

If you had one dream project what would it be and where? 
Mixed-use housing projects with a cultural program and linked to a public transport design in Mexico City.