Pedro Ressano Garcia divides his professional activity between the practice, in his own studio, teaching at the university and research on the reconversion of riverside fronts in urban context. He was awarded with the Pancho Guedes Architecture Prize in 2010 and he’s currently the director of the department of architecture and urbanism at the Lusófona University.
From an early age in your career, you have dedicated part of your time to traveling, taking a very international and eclectic course. How do these trips influence your work in the studio?
When we travel things become more obvious because they are more expressive. I love living amazed with things. That's why I love to travel. I always have that fresh feeling.
I grew up in five countries. The invitations to present my ideas and projects abroad were appearing. I am always aware of buildings and cities, and when traveling I am particularly attentive, which stimulates my curiosity. I try to understand why the things I see emerge, and draw lessons from them to my own projects.
When I got the Gulbenkian scholarship, it changed my life. Because then I had the FCT scholarship, etc. I entered a circuit that allowed me some freedom of movement and a lot of autonomy and so I started off. I have created relationships with people who are in other countries, but somehow they are close to me. And these relationships hold on and suddenly they invite me to a number of things and the relationship continues to grow. It's a bit of a snowball.
One of the features of the studio is that we always have foreigners. Because I think it's much more interesting to look at a reality of this or that context with people who are not dealing with the same cultural codes. And so everything becomes more questionable. That is, when we are all in agreement with something, everything becomes lazy and no new perspectives arise.
It is obvious that traveling is tiring, but for me it is an opportunity to have creativity. Even during the flight, it's an opportunity to use those hours that they give me. I'm going to take advantage of that by drawing, or writing that text that I didn’t had time to yet.
The studio has a very artistic character because of the way you see each project and the versatility of the projects. Is it something that you're passionate about? Or is it provided by the clients?
Architecture is something that needs to be dosed. It is not obvious. And the work of the studio is a balance between our sensitivity and communication with the client.
I have been very lucky with the clients and this has helped a bit in this road. The studio is not commercial, and an intelligent and exquisite client is an endangered species.
In the studio we try to take advantage of each context, and the characteristics of each project. Our response is driven by passion, so we have an intense relationship with the projects. I think customers are sensitive to our attitude.
Nowadays I find myself going more to the inaugurations of friends that are artists than architects.
Not long ago, I went to give a conference in Krakow. My presentation was about 4 senses in Architecture and I presented 4 projects. The hearing, with the Voz do Mar project; the vision, with the project of the Ermitério; the smell, with the Hamam of the project Companhia das Culturas; and finally the touch, with the posts installed in the garden, also from the project Companhia das Culturas. And at the moment we are developing a project for a winery, that will be the fifth sense, which is the palate.
Each project that you develop is followed by a physical model. What is the role of the model in the development of the project in the studio?
When designing, the architect uses a hand full of instruments - draws, has ideas, makes models, uses computers and writes. Each instrument is like a finger of our hand. Our projects are imagined using five instruments. One of them is the model.
On more than one occasion, I try to communicate with a model to share my ideas. We want to understand the architecture, and there are things that the drawing gives you, other skimming, other 3D, and other models. If you throw the model out, you do not know the project.
You recently published the book "Selected Works" with studio projects. In the book you used a lot of images and it reflects precisely the constant use of models. What do you want to communicate to those who explore the book?
We want to share the way we imagine architecture. The invention of architecture is mysterious, and revealing its fabrication is not easy. Trying to explain how it was born, or finding out how it’s forged, has been difficult for the public.
Any learning experience you want to share that you have had throughout your career?
I’ve studied at the Faculty of Architecture of Porto, but it was in Lisbon that I started a self-taught education. I believe in freedom and intensity as it existed in Russian Constructivism, where there were the creation of free and experimental studios modeled on a utopian ideal of the Renaissance studio.
Constructivists have discovered that there are many paths and daring to explore unfamiliar environments. Interestingly, it was with Daniel Liebeskind that I became interested in constructivism, and it was with Pancho Guedes that I sharpened my curiosity. I have been very lucky with the people I met in learning.
What are the major changes in the students path, due to the proliferation of contemporary digital tools in academia?
They all want to learn CAD and similar. Digital programs are gradually being replaced by artificial intelligence applications and algorithms.
In my opinion, there will be more opportunities in the future for those who think and take advantage of their ideas, in their emotions, and respect their intuition. For the apprentice architect, where I include myself, the important thing is to increase the intelligence. The journeys, the readings, the knowledge of other authors remains a huge source of inspiration.
As a teacher and architect, do you have any advice for students who are now beginning to study architecture?
Yes, try to fulfill yourself, that is, to develop your own expression.