Andr's Jaque is a polymath. He spent two years investigating the banal contents of the basement of Mies van der Rohe's Barcelona Pavilion for an exhibition and book. In other exhibitions, he has debunked the domestic ideal peddled by IKEA, and critiqued the ethical underpinnings of the fairy tale 'Hansel and Gretel.' But whether moonlighting as an activist, artist, or urban anthropologist, Jaque makes one thing clear: 'I am an architect. I run an architecture firm.'
Jaque and his firm, Office for Political Innovation, are part of a generation of architects redefining the discipline as a practice linked to politics, embedded in a complex system of social networks, and blurring the boundaries across various fields. 'We live in a time where interdisciplinarity is the rule, not the exception,' the Madrid- and New York'based architect says. 'Architecture now is not about forcing everyone to accept what you are doing, but about creating a space for conversation.'
From a young age Jaque, now 42, associated large construction projects with geopolitics: his great-grandfather, a well-known engineer and ship designer, founded a naval engineering school in Madrid. After graduating from that city's Escuela T'cnica Superior de Arquitectura in 1998, Jaque spent a year in Dresden to study an early-20th-century planned community. There he lived in an artists' collective and witnessed his gritty neighborhood gentrifying. 'It was like a second university,' Jaque says.
After returning to Spain, Jaque considered joining a firm, but instead opted to strike out on his own. In 2002, he won his first significant competition, with an unorthodox brightly colored renovation of a clergy house in Plasencia, Spain. 'From that moment, I committed to doing things with my own practice,' he says.
Office for Political Innovation's philosophy is that architecture is the mediating force between public and private interests. The firm begins each project with an intense research process, counts sociologists and a journalist among its dozen staff members, and maintains an expansive international network of associates and partners in many different disciplines.
Inspired by spaces such as SESC Pompeia by Lina Bo Bardi and the Interaction Centre by Cedric Price, Jaque's projects are meant to foster inclusivity'whether social or environmental. 'We do buildings, but they are not the final result. They are not the most important goal,' he explains. 'We do buildings as a means to produce situations.'
A recent project in Madrid, for example, transformed mobile crop-irrigation equipment by outfitting the vehicles with sound, light, and projection systems for public performances and gatherings. His best-known work, House in Never Never Land, a residential project with a series of cascading volumes, on Ibiza, Spain, strove to accommodate the surrounding ecology by elevating the building. Jaque says his firm viewed the environment as a second client.
Jaque's approach has earned his work a spot in MoMA's design collection and as a finalist in its 2015 Young Architects Program. This year, the firm won a Silver Lion for its research project Sales Oddity at the Venice Architecture Biennale, curated by Rem Koolhaas. Jaque is building a pair of 100-foot-wide mobile photovoltaic canopies in Abu Dhabi, and is currently working on the transformation of a public square in Holon, Israel.
'Fifty years ago, everyone was thinking of their buildings'that was it,' Jaque says. 'Now we know that buildings are not isolated'that what we are doing is going to have a huge impact on many things.'
Andr's Jaque/Office for Political Innovation
DESIGN STAFF: 12
PRINCIPALS: Andr's Jaque
EDUCATION: Escuela Técnica Superior de Arquitectura de Madrid ETSAM/UPM, M.Arch., 1998
WORK HISTORY: Office for Political Innovation, 2002–present.
KEY COMPLETED PROJECTS: Diocesan Clergy House, Plasencia, Spain, 2004; House in Never Never Land, Ibiza, Spain, 2009; Phantom, Mies as Rendered Society, Barcelona, 2012; IKEA Disobedients, New York, 2013; Las Arenas de Hänsel y Gretel, Madrid, 2013; Sales Oddity, Venice, 2014; Two Shadow Devices, Masdar, Abu Dhabi, 2014.
KEY CURRENT PROJECTS: Weizmann Square, Holon, Israel, 2015; Eco bathroom equipment for Bauhaus Dessau, Dessau, Germany, 2015; Chocotalks pavilions, Madrid, 2015.