Alejandro Cuadro and Romina Magnini were unanimously selected by the Bauhaus Campus 2021 jury as the competition winners. Their project showed a deep level of understanding of how such a building could impact a city, and their project was seen as a mature, realistic, yet ambitious solution to a challenging brief.
Wanting to learn more about the couple and their design process, we had the opportunity to talk with them and ask them some questions that shed some light on how they manage to produce their winning design.
When asked about their motivation to participate in the competition in the first place, Alejandro and Romina revealed that they are not just teammates, but also a couple in their private lives, and that this competition was actually their way of testing if they could also work together at a professional level.
The truth is architecture is one of those few careers where it isn’t rare to see married couples working together. History is full of successful examples, such as Ray and Charles Eams, Alison and Peter Smithson, Enric Miralles and his two wives, Carme Pinós and Benedetta Tagliabue or Liz Diller and Ricardo Scofidio. All of them romantic couples who reached incredible professional success and recognition, together.
The couple started looking for competitions to test themselves, and eventually found the call for the Bauhaus Campus 2021 which caught their eye.
When they first started working on the project, they asked themselves this question: How can we create the “new” Bauhaus and not just a revival of the “old” one? Their answer was to find inspiration in some exemplar buildings and architects of the past, but combine them into something new and unique that had their own signature imprinted on it. Keeping an industrial image seemed appropriate for a Bauhaus-related brief, so they found inspiration in some of the works from masters of high-tech architecture such as Rezo Piano, Richard Rogers or Norman Foster, but also in other figures such as Will Bruder or national architect Garcia Pardo and engineer Eladio Dieste, who’s building “El Pilar” led Alejandro and Romina to designing a radical structural solution for their building that the jury didn’t hesitate to applaud.
Alejandro and Romina knew they wanted their project to add value not only to the people inside the campus, but also to the city. They designed a single building capable of creating a long-lasting memorable image from the outside, but flexible enough on the inside, so that the interior spaces could adapt and evolve together with the people using them. So far they were making good progress, but both having a strong background in urban design it didn’t seem like the campus was doing quite enough for the community as it was. That’s when they started looking outside of the boundaries of the proposed site. The old Bauhaus building by Walter Gropius was on the other side of the train tracks, and sitting right next the proposed site was an abandoned lot with a relatively high brick building, which was the only reminder of the site’s old industrial history.
Extending their project beyond the proposed area could mean getting disqualified right away, but not doing so could also mean missing on a great opportunity to have a meaningful impact in Dessau at an urban and social scale. They evaluated the pros and cons and decided to take the risk. After all, if you only looked at their project within the proposed site boundaries everything made sense, and their ideas beyond those boundaries were only adding value, without compromising the project. As it turns out the jury agreed with them!
Alejandro and Romina had worked together before as part of larger groups, but never the two of them alone, so they didn’t quite know how to go about it. They worked on most of the project together, even modeled the 3D file, where most of the presentation came out from, in tandem, and only divided the work a little bit towards the end, when Romina took on the rendering and Alejandro the postproduction. The truth is there is no magic recipe for architects working in teams, let alone couples, but this seems to have worked for them.
Of course, winning the competition helps make everything look brighter, but they both agree that regardless of the result their personal experience was a success. As Alejandro said himself during out interview “Even when you think you are a good student you always wonder, will I be a good architect?”. By participating in this competition, they were not only reassured of their capabilities as future architects, but also found that they could work very well together.
Who knows the future path this couple will decide to follow, or if Alejandro and Romina could be next on the list of architect couples sharing both their personal and professional lives… but one thing is for sure, we’ll definitely be keeping an eye on their future work!
COLECTIVO 24 is a group of 14 students (yes, you’ve read that right, fourteen) from the Colombia´s National University of Medellin, who after being awarded an Honorable Mention at the Bauhaus Campus 2021 competition, decided to establish themselves as a studio and started taking on professional commissions.
Architects are often associated with strong personalities and big egos, which makes it hard to work in teams. This is not to say architecture isn’t a collective effort, it most certainly is, but in most cases studios are formed by a charismatic leader with a strong team behind him/her, or is some rare cases a small group of leading figures, who somehow found the way to work together and complement each other.
COLECTIVO 24 is here to challenge that conception, and after having the opportunity to chat with some of their members we believe they have a strong shot a succeeding.
Since the Bauhaus Campus 2021 brief only allowed teams of up to 8 students to participate, the first decision COLECTIVO 24 took was to divide themselves in two groups and work on two different projects. One of their proposals was awarded an Honorable Mention, while the other one wasn’t selected amongst the finalists, yet COLECTIVO 24 took the victory as a team, regardless of who was involved in either of the two proposals, showing a level of trust and commitment to their group that’s certainly admirable.
The beginings of COLECTIVO 24
Their story began 5 years ago, when they were all freshmen at the Colombia’s National University of Medellín. In a school that encourages teamwork from day one, Jair, Steven, Dayanna, Juan Pablo, Mariana, Santiago, Camilo, Juan Esteban, David, Valentina, Evelyn, Anderson, Daniel y Mateo quickly realized how much they had in common and became close friends, but also working partners. Together they moved from freshmen year to sophomores, juniors and finally seniors, sometimes working all together, others in smaller groups, but always moving on as a team.
During this evolution they got to know each other well, and as their student life approached its end, they shared their ideas and their visions for the future, which brought them even closer together. Over time they had developed their own working processes and methods, which allow them to communicate their ideas assertively and were everyone’s opinions are heard and considered. Their methods work because they were never imposed, they are built on trust and respect for each other, and in the believe that they all want to achieve a common goal, which is to create a coherent, critical and reflective architecture that goes beyond form and image. An architecture that’s social, inclusive, and serves the community that it’s built for.
Staying true to that vision while designing for a city as different to Medellín as Dessau was one of the main challenges they faced during this exercise. With most member of the team never having visited a city that could even resemble Dessau, how could they possible create a critical and reflective proposal to serve a community they had never met? The answer is simple, sticking to their methods. First they contacted some friends living in Switzerland (not quite Germany, but as close as they could get) to learn firsthand how it’s like to live in a medium-sized European city. Then they studied objective data such as the climate of the area, the population of the city, etc. and eventually moved on to studying the urban context.
That was the easy part. Next they faced a dilemma between what the brief was asking them to do and what they believed the new Bauhaus should be. A situation that in many case could lead to arguments and disagreements, but not in their case. Following their working methodology each member of the team shared their ideas and vision, generating a debate that lasted for a few days, until finally, they all agreed on which was the direction to follow (well, not all of them, as this was done separately in two different instances, one for each of the teams they had internally formed).
Up until this point each team had worked together, raising questions and finding answers as a team. However, one of the advantages of having a large team is having access to a very diverse set of skills, and at this point it was time to divide and conquer! After knowing each other for five years, COLECTIVO 24 understand what each member ads to the team and what each of them is best at. Not everyone is amazing at rendering or laying out presentations, how could they?! Instead, they understand the strengths of each member and trust them to work on what they do best, knowing that by combining their strengths they have a much better shot at solving any challenge than they would on their own.
Establishing their studio
COLECTIVO 24 worked in the academic environment, but would it work outside? That is what they set to find out when they joined the Bauhaus Campus 2021 international competition, and not only did they felt their work dynamics worked just as well, but the jury awarded one of their proposals, amongst 388 received, with an Honorable Mention!
The fourteen members of the team had already previously talked about what their relationship could be after graduation. They knew they wanted to stay close, to collaborate. They thought they could work together on research and academic matters while each of them worked at an office, but their success in the competition raised another possibility, a question they needed to answer: Could we establish our own professional practice? Once again, they started a debate and eventually decided they were. Some of the teammates already had some professional experience, as they had been working at studios while studying, the group seemed to work well outside the safe walls of their school, and what’s even more important, clients were knocking at their door!
Since making this life changing decision COLECTIVO 24 has participated in two other competitions, one of them for the WWF, and are engaged in two real life projects, the restoration of an apartment building in Bello, a suburb north of Medellín, and a 200 square meter home on a land in La Ceja, a nearby municipality.
We invite you to follow their progress on Instagram. We’ll certainly be keeping a close eye on their evolution and are eager to see the things that will come out of this unusual, but brave and charismatic group of young minds.