Diogo Aguiar and Teresa Otto of LIKEArchitects create architecture with humor, subjectivity, and a focus on using sustainable building materials and maximizing energy-efficiency. In the past we've featured their gorgeous frozen trees made from plastic bags and their pop-up prefab bar made from re-usable containers and LED lights. We recently talked to Diogo and Teresa about their architectural philosophies, the challenges and rewards of sustainability, and performance architecture. Read on for a look at some of LIKEArchitects' most innovative and exciting projects!
Inhabitat: What kind of architecture do you create?
LIKEArchitects: We try to build projects in which humor, subjectivity, emotion and surprise ally with the desirable functionality of any architectural project.
Our production and research is based in ephemeral pop-up interventions, urban provocative structures and innovative social architectural systems. We are conscientious that our architectural objects exist in a context that is not only physical but also socio-cultural, political and economic.
Our production is based on low-cost actions: to do as much as possible with the few available resources. We are always trying to improve our processes and our results as well as reducing the financial costs involved. At the moment, we are focused on “ready-made performance architecture”: societal and sustainable customized architecture made out of re-interpreted modular non-constructive elements.
We are very careful in the material we use in our temporary designs – they must be re-usable and easily recyclable. In our light design, we try to always use LED technology as it has the maximum luminous efficacy and thus saving energy. Moreover, to be sustainable is also to be affordable. We want to reach better achievements with less financial resources.
Inhabitat: What are your first considerations when approaching a project?
LIKEArchitects: We consider performance as an architectural object. Due to the nature of our practice, we have to focus on budget, time and the available resources. In addition, our interventions are always answers to the functional and community issues that are inherent to every project.
We want our buildings to make people feel something, to make them curious. Whether they love it or hate it. Although small and temporary, our buildings or interventions have had a significant role in their sites during their lifetime, gathering people from the community involved, and we certainly want to continue to achieve the same success in the future.
Inhabitat: What are you working on now?
LIKEArchitects: We have just won a competition for the Christmas lightning of one of the most important squares in Lisbon: Praça D. Pedro IV – Rossio. It’s a temporary light installation called “Frozen Trees” that creates a new urban landscape which interacts with the existing fluxes of the square. It is also an appeal to the need for more creativity in these uncertain times.
Furthermore, we are producing a TV program for an exclusively cultural Portuguese channel on the importance of the use of color in spatial interventions, and the episodes are divided by colors and also focus on some monochromatic projects. It has been a phenomenal challenge! Both projects are in the final production stage and will be on display very soon.
Inhabitat: What inspired you to enter the field of architecture, and what inspires you outside of architecture?
LIKEArchitects: The need to produce (artistic) things and also the challenge to manipulate space were definitely important when we had to choose what to do for a living. Furthermore, architecture has wide-ranging fields of action (in truly a global perspective), and a universal language that allows us to work anywhere in the world!
We are a product of the well-known Portuguese school of Architecture but we are also interested in recent Scandinavian design. And besides architecture, we are really interested in the spontaneity of urban culture, namely urban art and street fashion. We believe in the DIY philosophy: nowadays, more than ever, you can make a difference and affirm yourself through a competition or even through small interventions that can change the panorama of a city.
“Temporary Bar” was the first project that led us to believe that we had something to say as architectural professionals. It was a student project that was absolutely successful in its short lifetime (drinks were sold out night after night!) and later also when it was recognized by the specialized media.
Also, our ‘House in Luanda: Patio and Pavilion’ competition entry that was awarded the second prize (out of a total of 599 entries) in the most concurred competition ever in Portugal, showed to us that we are able to work together with other teams in order to reach a better goal together. We do believe in the importance of collaborating with other structures as an opportunity to discuss and also to try new methodologies.
Inhabitat: What was the inspiration behind your Party Animal project?
LIKEArchitects: This project is an urban re-interpretation of the typical theatre red stage. It’s inspired by the famous nearby 16th century “Casa dos Bicos” which has a diamond-shaped stone façade. But obviously, our project is quite far from this 16th century building as it takes advantage of its temporary nature in the choice of materials and its constructive system.
Inhabitat: Did you run into any obstacles during construction, and how did you adapt to them?
LIKEArchitects: We had a different design in mind at the beginning, but we were cut out of budget and the project had to be reduced to only the stage. The first one we were designing didn’t work as a stand-alone object and we had to change strategy and design a new concept in only a week. Due to scarce resources, we came up with the idea for a stage with modular rented parts and re-adapted its front to make it more architecturally interesting.
Inhabitat: What’s the most important thing you want people to know about this project, or your work as a whole?
LIKEArchitects: This project, and our work as a whole, is designed for people and it only makes sense with their interaction. We want our projects to be useful, to be a spatial reference and, of course, to be aesthetically interesting. Party Animal had to have the ability to be the engine of a new temporary center of cultural events: it was made to host not only pop music, but also rock, world music, fado nights, DJs and fashion shows.
Despite the fantastic spatial qualities of the site and its centrality in the city, Praça de Sao Paulo has been merely a passage to the underground clubs and bars on the downtown area for a long time. In order to revitalize and reactivate this site, we designed an iconic urban catalyst that brought in people from all over the city.
We feel that innovative design and functional building are completely compatible and achievable. Furthermore, we will be always interested in learning new architectural systems and processes that combine both logics. At the moment, we are interested in understanding the constructive side of every object, everything that surrounds us, as strange as this can sound. Innovation has to surprise people with the unexpected, and these methodologies have the ability to also surprise us, as spatial thinkers, every day.
Alex Levin is a writer for JW Surety Bonds, an agency that offers construction bonds nationwide and is proud to sponsor a new series of interviews with the best innovative and green-minded architects.