Ivan Blasi, Curator and Program Director of Mies van der Rohe Award | Podcast Recap

On Monday night, February the 8th, Vassilios Bartzokas, Founder of Archisearch and the Design Ambassador talked with Ivan Blasi, Architect and the Curator and Program Director of EU Prize for Contemporary Architecture – Mies van der Rohe Award, as part of the series ARCHISEARCH TALKS Podcasts.
Ivan Blasi was born in Barcelona, son of a doctor researcher and a photographer. He studied architecture and did an Erasmus exhange in Delft. After opening his own studio with two partners and being secretary general of Docomomo international, he focused on teaching at the Barcelona Architecture School and collaborating with Fundació Mies van der Rohe. There, he started to organize the research projects with architecture schools from all over the world and curate interventions in the Barcelona Pavilion with artists from different fields. Since 2014 he has been curator of programs and awards, developing the exhibitions, publications, debates and dissemination of the institution.

As curator of the Awards, he has seen some of the best projects in contemporary architecture. His opinion about the development of architecture over the last few years is that the discussion and accepting differences is important: “For example, the creation of the Erasmus program, allowed a discussion, from very young people at an early stage, led to some great examples of architecture. During the last years, we have seen incredible projects with tight budgets. Architectural culture, is being understood, as something that belongs to all of us

Referring to the pandemic, and whether the architectural process is going to change: “It has allowed a certain reflection. We have been locked in our houses for long periods of times, so we are much more aware of the constrains and needs for elements as space, volume, outdoor spaces. For example, the possibility of going outdoors that many of us do not have in our houses (as a balcony)

In the architecture field, what excites him the most is: “All the challenges. We can speak about the life of a single person, speaking about transforming their apartment. Or we can speak about the pandemic which is global. This mixture of scales is exciting. This amalgama of realities that, in the end, shapes the cities, our neighborhoods, the places we visit, is what I feel passionate about and find very exciting

Mies van der Rohe’s architectural philosophy was based, among other things, on concepts such as detailed design, technological innovation, and the use of luxurious, sophisticated materials. Τhese concepts are found in modern architectural production in extents and priority such as: “The issue of focusing at the person as the center of architecture, was really important, as well as experimenting. So, working with passion on innovative ideas, the impact that this has on people’s lives have an important role until today

During the Modernism period we have seen some utopian projects (Archigram, Friedman, Zenetos). Speaking about the ability to apply today these ideas: “These examples are connected to the moving city, which needs to adapt to all the changes. There are already other projects and experiments and places, as, for example in the Netherlands where they are aware that their relationship to the water cannot be fighting against, but working with”.

Αbout the aim of the Young Talent Architecture Award by Fundació Mies van der Rohe and the support to young architects by the Institute he said: “The award was a way to get near to a younger generation of architects. In 2016, we decided that we wanted to approach more young people that are closer to the stage of education. The award is given to four winners for their diploma project, we see different approaches from many different schools and we like to follow the shortlisted architects and we keep in contact with them to see how their ideas are evolving.”

About architectural education in Spain he noted: “Of course there are things that we can improve. I work mostly with exchange students from the US but from my personal experience, the opportunity of studying abroad in different universities is very important. In Barcelona there is a strong interest in having interns from universities and I think that is very positive because learning about the engineering and structural aspects of architecture is very important.”

What do you think about the work of Greek Architects from what you see from the submissions? “In the submitted projects from Greece, 40% of them is single family houses. From this we can deduct that architecture in Greece mostly comes from private investors or clients who give a certain freedom to architects. Another important thing is the possibility of being active and participating in conversations worldwide, I have met and discussed with some great greek architects. That is why platforms such as Archisearch are very important regarding the visibility and communication of greek architecture”

“We share the exhibition, the publication and the discussion worldwide and we try to share the jury discussion with the people from different places. That’s why the prize was moved to 2022 because the jury meeting has to be done on site and the jury has to visit the five finalist projects. I think that it would be really great to have the opportunity to do a visit with the jury in Greece because we have a great variety of projects coming from Greece.”

Listen to the whole podcast with Ivan Blasi here

You can find all the episodes of Archisearch Talks here