The GEN Z Series travels from Birmingham City University in England to Universitat Politècnica de Catalunya in Barcelona, Spain to meet the Masters in Architecture July 2022 graduate Paula Andreu. Paula was born and raised in Barcelona. After her postgraduation, she joined Barcelona d’Infraestructures Municipals SA – Barcelona City Council as an Architect / Project Manager. As an architect, Paula Andreu is committed to planet Earth and is interested in sustainability. Having an Interior Designer mother was a boon to this young architect.
From her early childhood, her little brother and she used to play model-making building houses with Lego. Paula reveals, “I have to admit that my parents have helped me with my models during my architecture degree (smiles).” She is passionate about various art forms like photography, dancing, cinema and writing. She enthuses, “I am interested in how design can stimulate social interaction and improve the day-to-day life of citizen. As an architect, I am curious in understanding the relationship between architecture/urban design and the human being, and the influence they produce on each other.”
Johnny D interacts with Paula Andreu to explore her journey into the world of architecture and her thesis, which also reflects Paula’s compassion towards the homeless people in Glasgow. Paula Andreu is an architect with her heart in the right place.
What was your childhood ambition? Did you always wanted to become an architect?
I remember watching home-renovation TV shows on Saturday mornings. My father sometimes tells me that when I used to watch those TV shows, I used to say that I wanted to do that when I grow up. During my last period in High School, I was sure about studying Architecture. I also remember being scared of what would happen if suddenly I discovered that it was not what I thought it would be and I did not like it (smiles). I really did not have any other idea of what to study (smiles).
How has architecture influenced your life as a student?
I always wanted to be an architect since I was a child. During my degree course, I have developed my own way of understanding architecture. During the six years as an architecture student, I have understood that architecture goes beyond the aesthetic design of buildings, as architecture is pure survival. The need to be able to survive to the conditions of our planet is the fundamental basis of why we need architecture in our lives. And, beyond the shelter that architecture can provide to us, I also talk about the design of cities concerning our environment, nature and the connections between territories, among others.
Briefly describe the significance of your project.
My project is titled ‘To care’. This project is special for me for two reasons: The first reason is to design the project, while I was an exchange student at the University of Strathclyde (Glasgow). The second reason being the value I wanted to add to the original brief – a bathhouse for the citizen of Glasgow. For those who may not know, Glasgow has the highest homeless rate in Scotland by far, and one of the highest in the United Kingdom. Thus, if the project was about caring for the citizen of the city, I wanted to add to my program this specific part (homeless people) of society too (smiles).
The project aims to mix and coordinate the spaces, so every citizen of the city could find their space. Bathhouses have been an essential public service for the hygiene and socialization of the community for many decades, but they have been decreasing in recent years. On one hand, it is intended to return this sense of community and on the other it seeks to make visible a situation that is often considered normal in the day-to-day life of the city.
As an Intern, what is the most important lesson(s) you have learned from senior architects, while being a part of a project?
I have learned that we have to know how to balance our decisions between the opinion of the client and our knowledge. Sometimes it is difficult to get to this point, since we create and work for other people. At the same time, we are the professionals with technical knowledge and historical experience to know if a decision is going to be the right one or not. Historically, architects have been seen as arrogant. I think, this is something that we have to be able to change from within the profession.
Which National or International architect has inspired / influenced you? Please specify as to why?
The people who inspire me within the world of architecture and urbanism often go beyond design. I am often inspired by people who see architecture from reflection and different perspectives. People from Col·lectiu punt 6 are one of those inspirations. This is a collective of women architects, urban planners and sociologists who work to think about and design domestic, community and public spaces from a feminist perspective.
I met them during my degree course, when they came to our university to do a workshop. They were the first ones to make me think about architecture from another point of view. From that moment, my interest in creating my own opinion and criteria within space design made me start to be curious about architecture and urbanism from a social and climate justice perspectives.
Cities are getting inundated in a massive proportion due to flawed drainage and sewage systems apart from Climate Crisis. How should urban planners, architects and landscape architects tackle this crisis to make cities flood-proof?
One of the things we must accept is that cities, as we know them nowadays, are not at all climate resilient. I am not just talking about vehicle pollution or the lack of green spaces, which is something that we all already have in mind, but that it is unsustainable to maintain a planet in which large masses of people are concentrated in small territories of the planet.
Obviously, with the climate crisis there will be a rise in sea level, we will see periods of torrential rains in more parts of the world more frequently, while in others there will be water shortages and natural disasters will contaminate drinking water. I really do not have a clear answer. There are research groups and organizations worldwide dealing exclusively with this, but there are few examples where all these studies are put into practice and I think that, together with everything related to climate change, we are probably going to be late.
Briefly write about your University and Course.
I recently finished my Masters in Architecture at Universitat Politècnica de Catalunya, in Barcelona. I also completed my Bachelor’s degree from the same university. In addition, I had the opportunity to study for a few months at the University of Stratchlyde, in Glasgow (Scotland) as an exchange student. Both universities have had an influence on my development as an architect. At Universitat Politècnica de Catalunya architecture is studied from a very different point of views. Design, technology, structures, systems, urban design, history, society… all these topics are found within architecture. As a student of architecture, I think it is important to see a little bit of everything, so that you are able to decide which topic you want to focus on and understand the relationship with the different architecture experts.
Which significant aspects of the global platform ‘zerobeyond – the new frontier!’ did you liked the most, and why?
What I value the most about ‘zerobeyond – the new frontier!’ is that young people are given a voice through the GEN Z Series. I believe, we have a very important voice when we talk about the future – our future – and that we must take advantage of these platforms to speak up and also be heard.
How would you differentiate Spanish architecture from the Asian architecture?
When we speak of Spanish architecture, we should differentiate between majestic traditional architecture and traditional architecture. For me, the first one is usually related to religion and if we compare it with the equivalent in the Asian countries, it is evident that architectural differences are related to the difference between the religious traditions of each region in each era.
If we talk about the traditional architecture, I tend to associate to the architecture of everyday life. In Catalonia, the region where I am from, we have the ‘masia catalana’, a typical rural house which also have that self-sustaining character that nowadays wants to be recovered. Globalization has made international architecture much more homogeneous, both for good and for bad, and makes architecture much more similar despite still following small traditional characteristics.
Honours and awards related to architecture, if any.
I won third prize at the 2019 KNAUF Competition.
Image Courtesy: Paula Andreu