Full essay at: Passion for the Built Environment (Perspectives in Metropolitan Research no. 2), edited by Gesa Ziemer [Berlin: Jovis Verlag, 2016], 98-106
Much has been written on how, in the aftermath of the 2008 crisis, Spanish architects learnt to do more with less, delving into the framework of reality with a set of constraints that, surprisingly, have become assets. In the case of José María Sánchez García, the episteme of his architecture was from the outset predicated on the idea that architectural constraints are places of opportunity, whereby a minimal number of functions are specified in the plan in order to liberate spaces whose very emptiness is a promise of flexibility.
Built in 2004, the Centre for Young Creation in Villanueva de la Serena operates on a concentrate-and-release strategy that foreshadows and can be detected in many subsequent projects. The original floor plan for the building, which was formerly a dark and enclosed water reservoir, shows a massive structure divided into two compartments whose grid of columns is the load-bearing structure of a set of longitudinal vaults, culminating in a tower from which the water was distributed by gravity to the city. The initial project brief asked for a subdivision of the space into a network of different rooms, but the main strategy became instead to leave the reservoir empty and to concentrate the service rooms in the tower. The program was studied carefully, many independent rooms were eliminated, and it was determined that many functions “could take place” in an open space punctuated by columns. Therefore, by concentrating almost all washrooms, changing rooms and office premises in the tower, a programmatic arena is freed, a space where potentially almost anything can happen.
The Perimeter Building surrounding the Roman Temple of Diana in Merida, finalised in 2008, can be explained based on the same principles. Concentrating the mass of the new building along the party walls of the surrounding buildings freed the central space around the temple and restored the temple’s lost monumentality. The new perimeter construction unfolds in a U shape, adjusting its geometry to the space available given the existing urban fabric and freeing the central space where the Roman temple stands. However, similarly to what happens in Baroque spaces, where the idea of centrality is linked to movement, becoming the centre of a source of displacement that forces people to move across the site, in the Perimeter building centrality is reinvented. The project reclaims the lost centrality of the Roman period but also reassesses it. […]
PROJECTS /// HEAD – Genève. Train Zug Treno Tren. Inaugural Exhibition at Mudac [Lausanne: Mudac, 2022] /// Javier F. Contreras, Ignacio Hornillos. Villa Cuadrada [Madrid, 2022] /// HEAD – Genève & India Mahdavi. Herbarium of Interiors: A Milk Bar [Milan: Alcova, 2021] /// HEAD – Genève & HEPIA. Archipelago: Architectures for the Multiverse [Geneva, 2021] /// Javier F. Contreras, Youri Kravtchenko, fala atelier. Nosy Hoods [Geneva: Dimanche Showroom, 2021] /// Javier F. Contreras, Ignacio Hornillos. Prismarium [Logroño: Concentrico Architecture and Design Festival, 2020] /// HEAD – Genève & USM Foundation. Space Duality [Red Dot Winner 2020, Frame Awards 2020] /// Javier F. Contreras, Youri Kravtchenko. Scènes de Nuit. Nocturnal Exhibition at f’ar Lausanne [Lausanne: forum d’architectures, 2019] /// BOOKS /// Javier F. Contreras. Manifiesto de Interiores [Barcelona: Puente Editores, 2022] /// Javier F. Contreras, Youri Kravtchenko, and Manon Portera, eds. Scènes de Nuit. Night & Architecture [Geneva: HEAD – Publishing / Madrid: Ediciones Asimétricas, 2021] /// Javier F. Contreras. Manifesto of Interiors: Thinking in the Expanded Media [Geneva: HEAD – Publishing, 2021] /// Javier F. Contreras. The Miralles Projection: Thinking and Representation in the Architecture of Enric Miralles [New York: Applied Research + Design Publishing, 2020] /// Javier F. Contreras, Youri Kravtchenko, Arjen Oosterman, and Lilet Breddels, eds. Herbarium of Interiors. HEAD – Genève & India Mahdavi [Amsterdam: Archis-Volume, 2020] /// Javier F. Contreras. Fragmentos de Planta y Espacio. Sistema Diédrico en Enric Miralles [Madrid: Ediciones Asimétricas, 2018] /// ESSAYS /// Javier F. Contreras. “El Croquis Night: Excursus into Nocturnal Obliteration in Architectural Media” Interiority. Vol 4 No. 2 (2021): 181-190. /// Javier F. Contreras. “Tactile and Reflective Conditions in the Architecture of Marie-José Van Hee” In Marie-José Van Hee Architecten: More Home, More Garden, edited by Hilde Peleman, and Katrien Vandermarliere [Ghent: Copyright Slow Publishing, 2019], 217-229. /// Javier F. Contreras. “Différences de Perception: Le Chablais Lémanique” In Prises de vue. Un paradigme pour l’observation du paysage, edited by Michael Jakob [Geneva: Métis Presses, 2019], 129-146. /// Javier F. Contreras. “Tactile and Reflective Conditions: Marie-José Van Hee’s House Declercq” BITACORA Arquitectura no. 39 (2018): 134-139. /// Javier F. Contreras. “Dibujo y Repetición: Presencia Manual de Enric Miralles en la Planta del Ayuntamiento de Utrecht” RA Revista de Arquitectura no. 19 (2017): 97-104. /// Javier F. Contreras, and José María Sánchez García. “Concentration as Program, Emptiness as Flexibility: an Idea of Space” In Passion for the Built Environment (Perspectives in Metropolitan Research no. 2), edited by Gesa Ziemer [Berlin: Jovis Verlag, 2016], 98-106. /// Javier F. Contreras. “La Tectónica de lo Aéreo: Enric Miralles y la Vicisitud de lo Climático” ZARCH: Journal of Interdisciplinary Studies in Architecture and Urbanism no. 4 (2015): 22-35. /// Javier F. Contreras. “Plan Libre vs. Plan Miralles” In Massilia 2011. Annuaire d’études Corbuséennes, edited by Josep Quetglas [Paris-Marseille: Fondation Le Corbusier, Editions Imbernon, 2011], 82-91. /// Javier F. Contreras. “Océanos de Arena, Ciudades del Petróleo” Revista Arquitectura no. 361 (Autumn 2010): 88-91. /// Javier F. Contreras. “El Organicismo Expandido” CIRCO no. 153. Madrid: M.R.T. Coop, 2009. /// Javier F. Contreras, Gabriel N. Duarte, and Roberto Gª Caballero. “It’s Not Just Grass! Subverting Legal Planning and the Reinvention of the Dutch Process-Landscape Agenda 2000 & the C2751” In 306090 vol.8, Autonomous Urbanism, edited by Alex Duval, and Kjersti Monson [New York: Princeton Architectural Press, 2005], 21-30. /// INTERVIEWS /// “Depuis Rue Las Cases. A Conversation with India Mahdavi” Interview by Javier F. Contreras. In India Mahdavi, edited by Chronicle Chroma [Los Angeles: Chronicle Books, 2021] /// Javier F. Contreras, and Graeme Brooker. “The Future is Interior and Interiorised” Interview by Marco Costantini, and Claire Favre Maxwell. RADDAR no. 2 (2020), 192-213. /// Irma Boom. “Within Pages, Beyond Books” Interview by Javier F. Contreras, and Lilet Breddels. In Herbarium of Interiors, edited by J. F. Contreras, Y. Kravtchenko, A. Oosterman, L. Breddels [Amsterdam: Archis-Volume, 2020], 42-47. /// Javier F. Contreras. “Architecture d’intérieur. Espace et Communication” Interview by Nic Ulmi. In IN MY HEAD, edited by Julie E. Julliard [Geneva: HEAD – Genève, 2020], 240-243. /// Jean-Pierre Greff, and Javier F. Contreras. “Dialogue sur l’enseignement de l’architecture d’intérieur” Interview by Roberto Zancan. In L’architecture par l’intérieur, edited by Roberto Zancan [Geneva: MetisPresses, 2018], 185-205.
Javier Fernández Contreras (Dipl. ETSAM 2006, PhD 2013) is a Geneva-based architect, design theorist, and the Dean of the Department of Space Design at HEAD – Genève. His work explores the relationship between architecture, representation and media, with a specific focus on the role of interiors in the construction of contemporaneity. Contreras is the director of several BA, MA and research programs, including MAIA (Master of Arts in Interior Architecture) and Scènes de Nuit, a research platform investigating the entanglements between night and architecture. He is the author of the books Fragmentos de Planta y Espacio (2018), The Miralles Projection: Thinking and Representation in the Architecture of Enric Miralles (2020), Manifesto of Interiors: Thinking in the Expanded Media (2021), and co-editor of Scènes de Nuit: Night & Architecture (2021). His critical essays have been published in numerous books and specialised journals, including Marie-José Van Hee Architecten, Massilia Annuaire des Études Corbuséennes, Drawing Matter, India Mahdavi, RA Revista de Arquitectura, RADDAR, and Plan Libre. Contreras is a regular contributor to professional debates, international juries and conferences. His work has earned him prizes in various international competitions, including the Concentrico Design Festival 2020, f’ar Lausanne 2019, and several editions of Europan. His recent projects and distinctions with HEAD – Genève include Train Zug Treno Tren, the opening exhibition at MUDAC Lausanne in 2022; the invitation to the 2021 Seoul Architecture Biennale for the Circa Diem project (in collaboration with the EPFL); the Brands and Communication Red Dot Award 2020 and the Innovation Frame Award 2020 for the Space Duality project; as well as a Design Prize Switzerland 2019 nomination for the #Looslab project.
This website is an index of selected projects and writings.