The Look Up Film Challenge has brought to life stories of architecture and impact from a wide array of perspectives. We would like to shed light on even more of these inspiring individuals making a positive impact on our cities, lives and communities. To highlight these architects and their unique visions, we have interviewed our six talented Look Up Film Challenge Judges with an expertise in architecture.
We had the pleasure of speaking with Miguel Del Rio, a principal at Del Rio Arquitectos, CSP, a design firm specializing in residential, mixed use and hospitality projects. Miguel has also held several leadership positions within the AIA at local, regional and national levels, including 2010 AIA Puerto Rico Chapter president, AIA Diversity Council co-chair, and member of the EVP/CEO Search Committee and Board Knowledge Committee. Miguel is a design professor at the University of Puerto Rico’s School of Architecture and previously taught at the Polytechnic University Architecture School.
Read about Miguel’s thoughts on the Look Up Film Challenge, architecture, and his work as an architect.
Q: What inspires you about the Look Up Film Challenge?
I’m the antithesis to Inception’s director Christopher Nolan, who is quoted as saying:
“The only job that was ever of interest to me other than filmmaking was architecture.”
So as an architect and a wannabe filmmaker I’m certainly inspired by the fact that the Look Up Film Challenge will allow audiences to appreciate our crafts in a new light.
Q: How do you see I Look Up influencing perceptions of architects and architecture?
Filmmaking = storytelling.
The films and the I Look Up Campaign provide a unique platform for our stories to be publicly shared. Stories about what we do and why we do it. Stories not necessarily told by us but about us, about our purpose.
I Look Up will relate that architecture and architects are relevant, valuable & cool. Not because we say so (and believe me, we are cool!), but rather because others feel compelled to share the fact that we are visionary, we anticipate, we design solutions, we are place makers, and we shape our communities & the world.
Q: What was the most impactful project that you have worked on recently, and how did the experience alter the way you think about architecture?
Architecture tends to be portrayed as the creation of highly stylized, iconic buildings isolated in the landscape, the result of a single architect’s stroke of genius which only a few can afford to engage with.
Having led students and colleagues through several design charrettes ranging from small urban architecture projects to large scale Master Plans such as one developed with AIA for Northern Haiti in the years following the 2010 earthquake, I propose that Context, Community and Collaboration are critical to good design and thus producing great architecture.
I recently contributed to the design of a new affordable housing prototype to be inserted in urban abandoned lots. The experience allowed our team to put the previous three C’s to action. Working closely with a colleague, a developer, a contractor, potential residents and taking advantage of site conditions we put forward a contemporary, resilient housing proposal uncommon of public housing, now recognized with several awards. I do not think it altered the way I think about architecture, but rather I would hope allowed me to alter the way others perceive our profession. Good design should be accessible to all!
Q: As an architect in both Puerto Rico and the USA, what are some of the differences in architectural approaches?
Good design is good design wherever you are. Puerto Rico, USA or the Moon! Good design should be universal. The approach is similar regardless of where I practice: collaborate. It is particularly important if you are working abroad and out of your comfort zone, engage the community and be sensitive to context. The latter plays a key role in material selection and building tectonics. You adjust for the particular environment and climate you are working on. Whether the intent is to keep a space cool or warm, provide shade or sunlight, the goal is the same: to provide comfort. We try to apply native building techniques and locally sourced materials to accomplish the goal. Of course this is slightly more difficult to achieve in our Island where natural resources (and budgets) are scarcer than in the Land of Plenty!
Lacking resources has its advantages though, as it propels us Islanders, to be creative in order to be slightly more resourceful. I just finished the design for a house in Ibiza, Spain and finding out through my local counterpart our approach is the same all the way across the Atlantic Ocean!
Q: As President of del Rio Arquitectos, CSP, what is your main mission for the firm?
While inducting Kiss into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, Tom Morello said: “While there is often a debate about who should and shouldn’t be in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, I think the criteria are actually quite simple: IMPACT, INFLUENCE and AWESOMENESS. Kiss have all three in spades.”
When asked: “What type of firm do you have?” I always reply: I lead a small firm with a BIG ATTITUDE. Our main mission? Strive to IMPACT, hope to INFLUENCE and dare to be AWESOME!
Rock & Roll!