In the year 2004, Guillem Carrera Rey graduated with a degree in architecture from the ETSAB-UPC – Escuela Técnica Superior de Arquitectura de Barcelona of the Universitat Politècnica de Catalunya. During his graduation years, Guillem participated in international workshops in Italy and Spain. For a year, he honed his skills and learned the tricks of the trade. In the year 2005, he established his studio Guillem Carrera Architecte in the port city of Tarragona, Spain.
In the last 17 years, Guillem Carrera Architecte has won multiple international awards for its creative design creations in various parts of the world. The studio handles projects in the fields of architecture, urban planning, landscape design, interior design, restoration and rehabilitation. Guillem had collaborated with the ‘Official College of Architects of Catalonia’ in various cultural activities related to unique buildings, such as the ‘Civil Government of Tarragona’ by the architect Alejandro de la Sota, the ‘Metropol Theater of Tarragona’ and the ‘Sanctuary of Our Lady of Montserrat de Montferri’ – both last works of the architect Josep Maria Jujol from 2005 to 2009.
Johnny D interacts with Guillem Carrera Rey at great length to elucidate the man behind some of the most amazing design creations.
What was your childhood ambition? Did you always wanted to be an architect?
When I was little, I was engrossed in enjoying my childhood. I did not think much about what I wanted to be. When I was around 12 or13, they did test me, and the conclusion was – I had to dedicate myself to a profession that had to be 75% technical and 25% creative. It helped me choose to study architecture.
What really goes in your mind, when the client states the first brief?
The first contact with a client is essential and knowing how to capture what the client needs at the functional and organizational level of each of the spaces. It is also important to know how to capture everything that you can offer the client that he could not even imagine. Architecture is not only about resolving needs, but also how the final result provides an artistic component and a series of conceptual layers, the sum of which give richness and intellectual complexity to a project.
What was the brief of ‘Blancafort’ project?
The representatives of the city council asked us for a building with a very specific program, in a place that had no defined use, and with a very clear premise from the beginning: the building had to be a low-maintenance building, both in its interior and exterior configuration.
What were the major challenges to execute the project?
The biggest challenge for this project was very clear: to obtain a public money subsidy that would allow the building to be carried out, since the City Council did not have the money to build the building. Therefore, it was not only a matter of resolving a program and fitting appropriately in a concrete place, but also the projected building had to have above average interest and attractiveness, for the public authorities to choose to award various public subsidies to this project ahead of other projects presented. The building obtained several public subsidies, the sum of which served to finance ninety percent of the project’s execution cost to make the project a great success.
How did your team overcome them creatively?
At this moment we are also doing the project of a school that already had a grant for the total cost of the project, which in the end was not carried out. We always thought that the school would be carried out and that the Blancafort project, which did not have any public subsidy previously awarded, would be very difficult to build. The surprise was that the project that was built was the one that we initially considered very difficult to come true and the one that was not built was the one that was easier to build.
When we started designing the Blancafort building, we were very young. We were very excited about the possibility of creating a public building for the first time, so the creativity and effort allowed us to open the doors of our architecture studio to another dimension. In fact, it has been one of our most awarded projects nationally and internationally.
How would you describe the ‘Elegance and Significance’ of ‘Blancafort’ project?
Day Center and Home for the elderly of Blancafort is a necessary social building for the elderly in the village of Blancafort and its neighboring municipalities. The initial observation of the site and its surroundings led to the consideration that the future building should not only solve a program and the needs of an isolated building, but also it should help to consolidate the nearest urban fabric and at the same time to create access to the village with its own personality and public character.
Please mention 5 major ‘Sustainability’ features you incorporated in the project.
Construction materials used outside do not require continuous maintenance. The possible perception of concrete as a cold material is balanced by the warm surfaces of wood, Corten steel, stone that covers the base of the wall (which is used in several places in the same village), the vegetation areas and the health park. The building was built according to the standard of passive solar architecture. Each of the spaces of the building has the possibility of cross ventilation. All the spaces have one opening to the outer façade and another to the inner courtyard.
With a view to minimizing energy demand, an envelope (building skin) with a thermal thickness of minimum five layers and a thickness of 40-45 cm was created. An integrated and global air-conditioning system was used in the building that uses solar energy, thereby reducing electricity consumption. The materials used in the construction were plane natural materials and local proximity, with the intention to reduce the environmental impact of the building and landscape as low as possible.
What is the total area of the project, estimated cost and design-to-finish time period of the project?
The total constructed area of the building is 647 sq m. The cost was 1,000,000.00 €. From design-to-finish, the project took 6 years in the making.The interior conditioning and entry into operation of the Day Center was in 2018.
What are the various projects your firm is busy with, in various cities and countries?
We are now working on several projects in Catalonia, a community that is part of Spain, in several of its regions: Barcelona, Tarragona, Girona and Lleida. Most of our ongoing projects are for residential use, as unique and personalized residential architecture is one of our specialties. We are also working on rehabilitation, public use and landscape projects.
‘Smart Cities’ have become ‘Inundated Cities’ in recent years. How do you see architecture in cities changing to overcome climate catastrophes?
This question goes beyond architecture. Humanity must understand that it lives on a planet that until not long ago had a natural balance that has been altered by man. If we do not change immediately, a whole series of behaviors, this alteration can reach unsustainable limits for humanity. This is why, it is not only a question of necessary change in the architecture or urban planning of cities, but also must include many more areas, to recover the lost natural balance.
Flawed Urban Planning and age-old drainage and sewage systems has taken a toll on cities of the world – Your valuable insights to overcome this major issue, so as to make cities flood-proof and livable?
There are cities in the world where torrential rains are common, so the urban design of cities has taken into account this specific climatic casuistry. The problem is found in those cities that are having it, coinciding with climate change, a gigantic structural problem: they are not prepared for this climate change, even though experts have been warning for years about the need for structural changes in this regard.
The knowledge to solve this unexpected situation of the ‘Flooded Cities’ is available. Therefore, it is a matter of applying it, both in buildings and in the different urban fabrics that are part of it. Although applying this knowledge involves reconfiguring cities, avoiding paved areas as much as possible and creating cities that combine contemporary technology (well-dimensioned water pipes, new sewage systems, widespread flood studies…) with simple and effective resources, such as investing in more green areas, more shade and more draining pavements.
Which significant aspects of the global platform ‘zerobeyond – the new frontier!’ did you liked the most, and why?
I like the transversal concept of the profession ‘zerobeyond – the new frontier!’ offers, allowing to know not only architecture, engineering and interior projects, but also offering the possibility of knowing more in depth the professionals behind these magnificent design creations. Keep it up!
How would you describe Guillem Carrera as a leader and a person?
As the leader of the architecture studio, I believe in the horizontal hierarchy, proximity and on encouraging the team of professionals to be motivated and satisfied in their workplace. I like that knowledge of each member of the studio is shared and projects look beyond the client or a specific professionals’ point of view. Architecture is one of my passions, but I am even more passionate about its ability to generate emotions.
Please state five recent award wins.
2022: Eduwik Architecture Excellence Awards – Winner: Category – Public Building (Built) – ‘Day center and Home for the elderly of Blancafort’ Project.
2022: Eduwik Architecture Excellence Awards 2022 – Runners Up: Category –Private Residence (Built) – ‘Ca Marcelo’ Project.
2021: Architecture Master Prize – Winner: Category – Architectural design / Restoration & Renovation – ‘Ca Marcelo’ Project.
2021: Architizer A+ Awards – Finalist: Category – Institutional (Government & Civic) – ‘Day center and Home for the elderly of Blancafort’ Project.
2020: Architecture Master Prize – Honorable Mention: Category – Architectural design / Residential Architecture – ‘Casa VN’ Project.
Image Courtesy: Guillem Carrera Architecte