With rough, sensuous materials and simple geometries, a team charts new courses while employing the basic principles of Modernism.
In the house that Iñaqui Carnicero has built for himself in Madrid’s rolling northern suburbs, the architect declares allegiance to a classic Modernist discipline, following a Madrid tradition that leads back to one of his influential teachers, Alberto Campo Baeza, and to Alejandro de la Sota and other pioneers of a renewed Spanish Modernism in the 1950s. Carnicero’s design reinterprets Corbusian prototypes—the strip window, the crisp rectangular volume raised on pilotis, the double-height interior living space overlooked by balconies and a sculptural stair (made of aluminum and crafted by artist Eduardo Cajal). But he also addresses contemporary concerns, including principles such as thermal inertia and passive airflow.
“It’s very simple in section,” he explains. “A podium resolves the problem of the steep terrain. The living area opens to the landscape to the south, and the overhanging upper floor keeps out the sun in the summer but not in the winter.” The long structure actually comprises two dwellings, with a shared swimming pool on the southern terrace. The architect pooled his savings with a friend, and, with a budget that could have bought only a couple small studios in Madrid, built this elegant formalist statement in board-formed concrete.
Carnicero, 38, recently moved his studio into the house, where he works with three or four collaborators in an ample glazed space under the podium. A large, gentle man and Madrid native, he graduated from the Higher Technical School of Architecture at Madrid’s Polytechnic University in 1998, and has taught design there since 2000, working first under Campo Baeza. He won a scholarship to the Spanish Academy in Rome in 2008, where he studied the Roman sojourns of Louis Kahn and Robert Venturi. The influence of Rome on his own work can be found in his interest in rough, sensuous materials and simple, direct geometries. At the same time, he takes a stand against an overly assertive formalism, favoring, in his own words, “works in which the hand of the architect isn’t too much in evidence. Instead of the grand statement, architects today must look to more limited interventions, using what’s readily available.”
Nevertheless, his designs often feature an intriguing complexity, like a three-dimensional puzzle, developed through combinations of simple elements. For an addition to a high school on a tight site in the small southern city of Albacete, for example, each of the three floors has a strikingly different layout, creating a complex weave of open and closed spaces around a central courtyard. And for the competition-winning building for the district attorney’s office in Madrid’s City of Justice (designed with Ignacio Vila and Alejandro Vírseda before Carnicero established his independent practice), the facade of a round volume is pierced by a series of garden patios that are staggered in position and level to create dynamic diagonal cross-views through the interiors.
In other projects, concepts from Carnicero’s house design reappear, as in the proposal for a library and day center for senior citizens in the town of Torrelavega in northern Spain, where the architect raised the pentagonal library volume on columns to create a shaded public plaza below. The elongated, elevated form of the house echoes, at a completely different scale, one of his first commissions for the CEU San Pablo University in Madrid (with Vírseda and Miguel Ángel Cámara): a miniature city of classrooms, offices, laboratories, and public spaces where the linear organization has allowed for the building’s expansion in phases over time.Despite Carnicero’s declarations of formal modesty, his work is by no means without a strong architectonic character. Though he has returned to the basic principles of Modernism, he discovers rich new territories to explore using the familiar formulas of structural logic and functional form.
Iñaqui Carnicero Architecture
DESIGN STAFF: 6
PRINCIPALS: Iñaqui Carnicero
EDUCATION: Higher Technical School of Architecture, Polytechnic University of Madrid, M.Arch., 1998
WORK HISTORY: ICA Arquitectura, with Ignacio Vila and Alejandro Vírseda, 2002–06
KEY COMPLETED PROJECTS: Pavilion 16, Old Slaughter Houses, Madrid, 2011; Social Housing, Vallecas, Madrid, 2011; House 1+1=1, Madrid, 2009; Arab Tower Restoration, Guadalajara, 2004; Don Bosco High School, Albacete, 2003; Polytechnic School, CEU, San Pablo University, Madrid, 2002
KEY CURRENT PROJECTS: Office of the District Attorney, Madrid (suspended); 300 Units of Experimental Housing for VIVA, Madrid (suspended); Garment Museum, Madrid (suspended)
WEB SITE: WWW.INAQUICARNICERO.COM