For Andrés Jaque’s Office for Political Innovation, architecture is the social as well as physical infrastructure of society. Founded in 2003 by Jaque, the Madrid-based practice has employed a mix of architects, engineers, sociologists, interactive multimedia designers, and even anthropologists and marketing consultants in its various projects. These teams work on everything from buildings to installations that all combine sociological research with architectural practice in unusual ways. “Architects can do more for society,” Jaque says, “beyond the expected formal experimentation.”
The Office takes finding new clients—who for Jaque, are social “actors” not traditionally served by architecture—as the point of departure for many of their projects. The firm conducts extensive sociological research, looking to understand communities and individuals, before determining ultimately what role architecture can, and already does, play in their lives. The final product of this research varies from work to work. Ikea Disobedients, 2011, the first performance art piece to be acquired by the Museum of Modern Art in New York, was based on four months of research into the city’s diverse domestic spaces. Homes that doubled as work places, semi-public spaces, or even farms were translated into a performance played out on a stage of Ikea furniture components.  Jaque and his Office won a Silver Lion at this year’s Biennale for their Sales Oddity. Milano 2 and the Politics of Direct-to-home TV Urbanism, 2014, which explores the political power of media to translate architecture and consumerism onto a national stage in post-war and modern Italy.
The lessons learned from these installations find their way back into the Office’s architectural projects. Describing his Plasencia Clergy House in Spain, completed 2004, Jaque says their design process didn’t begin with traditional parameters, such as volume or façade, but rather a study of how the house’s residents would interact with the building. From lighting to furniture to a backyard garden, the project—like all of Jaque’s work—is rooted in the quotidian yet profound play between culture, politics, daily life and, architecture.