Photo © José Hevia; Miguel De Guzmán (bottom)

FRPO (Rodríguez & Oriol Architecture)


A pair of Spanish architects pulls apart programs, then assembles designs with repetitive elements that create rich compositions.

By David Cohn

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When approaching a design problem, Madrid-based architects Fernando Rodríguez and Pablo Oriol of the firm FRPO try to find a method of attack rather than jumping right in with a solution. Their process often involves breaking the building program into its basic elements, which they then weave back together in surprising ways. Oriol explains, “We try to arrive at a systematic simplicity, establishing basic rules of play for the design process—but ones that are capable of assuming the full complexity of the program and result in spatial richness.”

A case in point is their 2008 competition-winning design for the Access and Services Building at the Madrid City of Justice (with Estudio Cano Lasso; suspended due to lack of funds), where they tackled a program with disparate elements such as a TV studio, a sequestered jurors' residence, and an auditorium. Their design broke these elements into elliptical discs superimposed over one another at different angles, with terraces, overhangs, and voids in between.

The firm's method can produce very compact designs, such as the OS House on the coast of Cantabria, Spain (2005; with Marco González), or ones that spread like an amoeba between the trees (MO House, Madrid, 2012). It develops projects through multiple models, often shuffling around repetitive elements.

Using patterns of repeated cells in projects is not unusual among other graduates of Madrid's school of architecture, including Luis Mansilla and Emilio Tuńón and the partners in Estudio Entresitio. A number of “organicist” buildings from the 1960s are based on the same principle, such as the striking White City vacation apartments in Alcúdia, Mallorca (1964), by legendary Madrid teacher Francisco J. Sáenz de Oiza. In FRPO's projects, however, cells are not repetitive in size or shape, and their combinations do not necessarily follow regular patterns. The process is both more intuitive and more empirical, responding to the specific conditions of each problem.

The two architects, both 35, became friends in their first year at architecture school in 1995. They pooled resources with other students to share a rented studio, where group members helped each other on school presentations, a common practice in Spain that is often the seed for future firms. Incorporated as Nolaster, the group continued to work together on various projects after graduation, and finally dissolved in 2007. By then Rodríguez and Oriol had won the City of Justice commission.

Such networking continues to be one of the firm's basic strategies for finding work in these difficult times. For a major competition like the City of Justice, they approached more experienced colleagues—the Cano brothers—for help. Now, like other Spanish firms, FRPO must look abroad for work. Oriol studied for a year at Chicago's IIT, and Rodríguez spent a year in Berlin. These experiences helped prepare them for competitions for Chicago's Union Station (honorable mention), the World Trade Organization extension in Geneva (second prize), and a pavilion for the Museum of Modern Art in Warsaw. Despite hard times, the architects are optimistic about the future. “Our position is better than a few years ago,” Oriol maintains. “Spanish society is better educated, and people are better prepared to appreciate what architects do. For our part, we have to build bridges of understanding with the society in which we live.”


FRPO (Rodríguez & Oriol Architecture)




PRINCIPAL: Fernando Rodríguez, Pablo Oriol

EDUCATION: Rodríguez: ETSA Madrid, M.Arch., 2003. Oriol: ETSA Madrid, M.Arch., 2005.

WORK HISTORY: Rodríguez: Nolaster, 2005–07. Oriol: Nolaster, 2005–07.

KEY COMPLETED PROJECTS: MO House, Madrid, 2012; El Tártaro Club, Madrid, 2011; JL Apartment, Madrid, 2011; VS Apartments, Valladolid, Spain, 2008; Plaza de las Letras, Madrid, 2007; OS House, Santander, Spain, 2005

KEY CURRENT PROJECTS: Access and Services Building, Madrid City of Justice (suspended); Woodstone House I, Cantabria, Spain, 2012; VT House, Madrid, 2012; Woodstone House II, Cantabria, 2013; WTVN Villas, Bali, 2013




December 2012
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