Tue, 08 June 2021

Manuel Ventura at design et al’s Designer in Profile

In the context of Essenza's nomination as a finalist in the 2021 International Design & Architecture Awards, Design et al magazine interviewed Manuel Ventura, founder and lead architect of Ventura + Partners. The interview touched on his design background, some of V+ projects, and the future of design.

Tell us a little about your background in design (education, experience, etc).

After completing the architecture course at the Faculty of Architecture of the University of Porto, where I first discovered and was influenced by the architecture of Alvaro Siza and all the international and Portuguese modernist architects, I started my career working with the architects Manuel Fernandes de Sá and Francisco Barata Fernandes – my teachers and inescapable names of the Porto school.

In 1994 I created Ventura + Partners, which develops architectural projects, urban planning, technical design, and consultancy. In the last 25 years, we have been developing projects of different scales and in the most diverse architecture segments, such as commercial, corporate, residential, hospitality, industrial, healthcare, mobility, and urban space. Combining a solid experience with ongoing research and innovation, we are committed to pursuing integrated and sustainable solutions through strategic planning. Our mission is to improve people’s lives through architecture, allowing meaningful interactions between them and their surrounding space.

Arquiteto Ventura

How do you describe your personal design style?

The outcome is always unique, but the process typically favors the development of shapes and geometries that need to be experienced, using traditional building techniques or investigating innovative ways to build that ultimately lead to a balance with each place’s nature.

Each project is the result of a technical and artistic response given to a certain problem. The design comes from many accumulated experiences, from the consolidated knowledge acquired in old and recent memories made in all kinds of places, some close to home, others far away. It’s the alchemy of connecting all of that in one creative response to a problem.

Where does your design inspiration come from?

From the continuous exercise of trying to, through attentive observation and annalize, geometrize what I see. Especially the experienced and lived reality, not images of those realities.

In what direction do you feel that design is moving towards in a general sense?

I think that it’s been moving in excess towards important social and political matters that aren’t quite essential to art itself. It is cyclical in history, meaning that this trend will also fade away. We also see rampant miscegenation of all artistic production, on an unparalleled level, in a too superficial way because knowledge is mainly reaching us in virtual form and is not being physically experienced. Not all of it isn’t good, though, as there is an immense amount of knowledge available to everyone online, something that some time ago would have never been imaginable, and it is really inspiring.

Name Five key themes to consider when approaching design in 2020 and beyond.

Investigation, Interdisciplinarity, Teamwork, Sustainability, Beauty.

If you could offer one piece of advice when it comes to design schemes, what would it be?

To study very well the problem on hand. Understand the location and context. Develop the solution as a rational response to each segment of the program with a critical conscience of your knowledge background and the artistic sensibility that should be part of it.

How important are The International Design & Architecture Awards?

They give a chance to share and simultaneously evaluate the work produced by other peers in different life contexts. Those evaluations allow everybody involved in the project creation and development processes to improve their critical perception of the produced work, and help give a more conscientious, impartial, and independent assumption on it. It also creates additional motivation for the passionate dedication that this activity demands, helping us become more resistant to overcoming difficulties and keep fighting for the principles that do our job.

What projects are you working on?

Usually, I work on several projects at a time. As the years go by, you develop the capacity to manage mentally various realities simultaneously. I feel this is mainly beneficial to my creative process as it gives me the possibility to see the work closely or from a distance during the creative process. Obviously, teamwork in an organized studio is key to create those conditions.

I’ll name one out of many projects I am working on right now. An old farm with a large old house to be preserved, next to an old football stadium in a habitational district made of multi-unit and single-family buildings. This is the context of one of the most exciting projects I’m involved with today: To create a new urban shape with around 50.000m2 of habitation and supporting local commerce at an attractive cost in this region of Matosinhos, a city north of Porto, Portugal.

What was your favorite project on and why?

That is a question with a complicated answer because every project is a favorite somewhere along the creative process. I’m especially fond of projects that consist of a big challenge and that are well built. I don’t care for projects that aren’t built. This project that we submitted to the International Design & Architecture Awards – Essenza residential building – had a really interesting creative process. It had the thrills worthy of a big novel as it was about to be built in 2010, but it ended up stuck, changed hands, and was built ten years later with new changes. It is a well-built project with a complex development and challenging technical aspects. It has all the ingredients for what I think seems a great project and possibly one of the favorites.

What was your most challenging project to work and why?

The CUF Hospital, in Porto. It was my first big built project. The complexity of designing a healthcare building is in itself complicated and challenging. CUF had the additional obstacles of existing in a small terrain, and having tight deadlines for the hospital’s execution and construction.

What are your aims and goals for the next twelve months?

To continue developing the projects I’m involved with and make sure that they are well built.

Tell us a little more about yourself and your daily inspirations.

To observe, feel, and imagine, whatever the context.

Your most treasured possession?

My coworkers would say “My energy”. I accept it, but add: the will to involve everyone necessary to ensure the projects’ fine concretization. Today we need teams to open to the study of the various subjects that make each project, while also exploring new ways of approaching obstacles.

Your favourite holiday destination?

I travel quite a lot, but usually on business. There are so many fantastic destinations. It’s hard to choose a favorite: maybe a road trip through Portugal and Spain, along some less used roads, without a destination, stopping wherever and whenever I’d feel...

Your favourite hotel, restaurant and bar?

Hotels: Standard Hotel, in New York; Unique, in São Paulo, and The Ritz, in Lisbon.

Restaurants: Where I eat everyday when I'm in Porto. Rogério do Redondo ou Cozinha do Manel, restaurants that offer a variety of traditional dishes of the northern Portugal cuisine, always using great quality products. I could name hundreds of excellent restaurants that I love, in any place, as in fact, eating, with good company, is for me one of life’s biggest pleasures.

Bar: Bagatelle, in New York.

Your favourite book, film and song?

I don’t really have one favourite book, film or song, but many. I’ll name 10 among such a wide variety. Books: Memorial do Convento (Baltasar and Blimunda), by José Saramago; The Name of the Rose, by Umberto Eco; Friday, or, The Other Island, by Michel Tournier; The Red Badge of Courage, by Stephen Crane; Memoirs of Hadrian, by Marguerite Yourcenar; Love in the Time of Cholera, by Gabriel García Márquez; Alice Through the Looking Glass, by Lewis Carroll; The Trial, by Franz Kafka; The Book of Imaginary Beings, by Jorge Luís Borges.

Films: Wing of Desire, by Wim Wenders; Amarcord, by Fellini; Black Cat, White Cat, by Emir Kusturica; Nostalghia, by Tarkovsky; Pátio das Cantigas, by Francisco Ribeiro; Rear Window, by Alfred Hitchcock; Blade Runner, by Ridley Scott; Todo Sobre Mi Madre, by Almodóvar; Pulp Fiction, by Quentin Tarantino; Shrek, by DreamWorks.

Songs: Piano Sonata no. 14 – Beethoven; The Doo-Bop Song – Miles Davis; Take Five – Dave Brubeck; Cantaloop – Us3; Wave – Antonio Carlos Jobim; Estranha Forma de Vida – Amália; Enjoy The Silence – Depeche Mode; Space Oddity – David Bowie; Passionfruit – Drake; Colors – Black Pumas; Paradise – Sade; Valerie - Amy Winehouse.

Your favourite food and drink?

Caldo verde and broa de Avintes – traditional soup and bread from northern Portugal –, and red wine.

Read here the interview on the Design et al’s webpage.