Fernando Romero
Founder and Director
FR-EE
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View from the Top

The Everlasting Essence of Architecture

Mon, 11/05/2018 - 11:20

Q: How are your designs redefining contemporary architecture to incorporate sustainable techniques?
A: Architecture is always carried out with collaborators, which enables it to be done more efficiently. I like to think about the architect as an orchestra conductor that moves all the parts in harmony to solve the technical details of a project with the lowest environmental impact and the most efficient use of resources. I think the last 30 years in architecture have been about acknowledging the environmental impact that humans have and today it is about exploring the use of technologies to diminish impact. For example, NAIM is the first LEED Platinum airport in the world. We worked with our global collaborators to design an efficient use of energy in a building whose architecture is as user-friendly as possible.  I do not think that architecture has really changed in its essence, as it ultimately is about building for the needs of the human being.
But intergenerational changes are forcing architecture to become more flexible. Humans are demanding easy adaptability to multiple uses, as technology is enabling more multitasking in one place. Typologies used to be separated; people slept in one place and cooked in another. But the use of space is increasingly overlapping, with many people work from their homes or even from airports. So, architecture must become better adapted to humans’ needs. To me, the best architecture is about translating each historic moment and the evolution of civilizations. Architecture is the only art that ever lasts and that nobody can erase or hide; it is immovable and permanent.
Q: Which kinds of projects are in FR-EE’s pipeline and why is the firm pursuing these?
A: We are pursuing a new generation of projects, of smaller scale, like small museums, houses and cultural centers. After a huge project like NAIM, we want to go back to projects that allow us to recover the energetic efficiency of the arc and dome applied to contemporary construction techniques. We are also venturing into industrial design of furniture and objects. For example, we are designing a sustainable catamaran. This allows us to expand the way in which FR-EE operates within different contexts.
Q: How likely is the development of MexLoop with Hyperloop One and in what time frame?
A: I think Hyperloop is a technology that is here to stay as there has been a lack of innovation in transportation over the last century. Hyperloop presents a highly energy-efficient technology, immune to the environment and able to connect cities in the lowest commute times. Our project was selected from 2,800 participants as one of the 10 most viable Hyperloop corridors in the world. We know that this is a long-term project that will not become a reality for a decade at least. But our proposal advocates the use of national materials, such as Mexican concrete for the pillars and Mexican plates for the tube. The first tests have started in the Middle East, in Dubai and Abu Dhabi. Finland and the Netherlands are also betting a lot on this technology.
Q: What is your forecast for the future of FR-EE’s projects such as NAIM and Border City under AMLO’s administration?
A: I think that a project of NAIM’s transcendence is the consequence of several previous studies and years of work. In this case, a significant investment has been already made. We are convinced that this is the right project to boost Mexico’s’ growth. NAIM is the door to one of the most visited countries in the world and it is meant to potentialize the Mexican economy. I think that infrastructure represents an investment for the future of millions of Mexicans. As such, it should have a long-term vision and planning. Infrastructure projects should be immune to political changes, as they are closely related to the economic growth of the country. I have always been very interested in the US-Mexico Border. In my Hyperborder book, we analyze migration movements around the world. Trump’s administration has significantly impacted the project’s agenda on the border. Previous to this administration, we designed Border City as a very viable project to meet the needs of making migration flows between both countries more efficient by combining shared-services in one city. This project was to be carried out by landowners that wanted a border city, with FR-EE developing the idea and urbanistic vision of the city along with urban experts from New York.

EMBLEMATIC PROJECTS

Architecture is a tool to enable the reconfiguration of public space by translating a given context into a destination. This understanding of the art drove the creation of FR-EE, a global architecture and industrial design firm that aims to have a positive economic, social and environmental impact. The firm has projects around the world, from China to Peru and Portugal to Chile. But FR-EE’s most emblematic projects are in its founder’s home country: Mexico.
The New International Airport of Mexico: One-of-a-kind project, NAIM was designed to revolutionize the experience of traveling. It is already known as the airport of the future and the most sustainable one in the world. FR-EE designed the project in collaboration with architecture firm Foster + Partners and the Netherlands Airport Consultants.
Soumaya Museum: Named in honor of billionaire Carlos Slim’s wife, Soumaya Domit, the Soumaya Museum hosts over 70,000 art pieces and has become one of the country’s treasure chests of art. The building’s design is characterized by an eclectic architectural style, with 16,000 hexagonal mirrored-steel elements creating a facade that rises 46m on Mexico City’s skyline. The museum was built in 2010 for the Carlos Slim Foundation.
Plaza Carso: This project looks to recycling a city, reviving an old industrial site in Mexico City that dates back to the 1940s. The master plan grouped together a series of mixed-use buildings with residential, cultural and commercial purposes, including two museums, a theater and a commercial mall with offices and stores. The complex was also designed to be city-friendly, allocating 50 percent of the total area to green spaces, including garden rooftops, and the recycling of rainwater.