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IN CONVERSATION WITH FRANCISCO ELÍAS

Francisco Elías is one of the most inspiring Mexican architects, multidisciplinary designers practicing today. Having found success at a relatively young age, Elías has never shied away from embracing his conspicuous enthusiasm for the potential of architecture and design which sets him apart from his peers. And it is precisely this go-to attitude that has allowed him to overcome some of the significant limits that face many young architects today. An impressive portfolio of built  projects shows that his approach to design is profoundly impacting the social environment of architecture.  Elías has summed up several projects in a diversity of cities within Mexico, the U.S. (Miami, San Antonio), and France (Paris) to name only a few.

I had the pleasure of meeting Francisco during my last trip to México City.  A very talented self-made man with an exquisite taste, and one of the most enlightening conversations I had about the Mexican design industry of today.  I cannot wait to share with you this interview as it is very enthralling…





Francisco Elías – My first experience in design was at the Faculty of Architecture of the National Autonomous University of México (U.N.A.M) – There I confronted a strict system in which I had to learn and to resolve many design decisions I didn’t know, and I had to think about them on my own.  With the passing of time I actually figured out that this was part of their protocol of teaching which really opened the way into how I see problems and how I resolve them today.

My first professional experience was to actually build the project I presented in my thesis amongst another 3 classmates.  With this project I got my graduation as an architect.  This project stands today as the Cultural and Academic Center for U.N.A.M. in Juriquilla, Queretaro. My first experience as an independent architect was an apartment in the Condesa Neighbourhood in México City.



Interiors and Architecture by Francisco Elías


Iván Meade – What led you to a career in design?

Francisco Elías – Since I can remember, I have always been fascinated by the ancient world. Egypt, Mesopotamia, Teotihuacán, Monte Albán, Persepolis were my historical references.  I remember I used to dream of visiting these places and imagining what it would be like to live at that splendorous time.  At some point I thought my work should be based in re-constructing the past, but as I started actually working I fall in love with the contemporary movement.

Unfortunately, within my professional practice I also started seeing the constant mistakes made in the architecture of today.  Mostly the lack of understanding of how to design spaces that are conceived, planned and designed and how the cultural aspects and identity of the inhabitants are being fully ignored.  I think I am an architect with the intent to bring that bac; to give back that notion with the goal of creating spaces that are pro-social development.  I see design as a tool to help the evolution and the growth of our civilization today, a tool to develop and improve new forms of living.  I don’t believe in design as a result of geniality, for me the figure of geniality is in how it’s constructed and built…



Interiors by Francisco Elías


Iván Meade – How would you describe your style? And how did you arrive at your current aesthetic?

Francisco Elías – I don’t think I have a style per say.  I don’t believe in styles.  I believe in the methodology that helps me to create ideas, and find one solution to a problem.  But if we want to use the word style, for me that would be the reaction to an a-specific situation.  In that case there is a definite style.  As you try to personalize that situation and how it will affect the space you need to understand the context within it’s historic, politic, economic, technologic, social and cultural references.

The answer to a style is the reaction that provokes a space to be built and tailored to its needs in a particular situation, while attending the peculiars and particulars of any problematic arising.  What kind of materials to use to achieve a new form, the budget, the furnishings and objects and finding a way to integrate them in the best form for the clients and their lifestyle.  This is when you can understand why a style has been created as every space requires its own exercise.  I believe that every project is unique and not to repeat, to become a “one-trick pony” every time.  This is the reason style doesn’t exist for me as a formality, but exists as a way to attain the diversity you can convey with uniqueness.



Interiors by Francisco Elias for Pedro Friedberg


Iván Meade – What are the elements of your signature style?

Francisco Elías – Without a doubt I am interested in achieving a new emphasis with the space, thereby creating contrasts with its elements and the forms.  How they are appreciated while evoking the senses, the answer is there.   I am referring to contrasts like brightness against darkness,  the contrast of the monumentality of big scale versus miniatures, from rough to smooth, from simplicity to the spectacular.  I love the contrasts and how to use them.  Of course this is dependant on the house/clients’ personality.   I create unique contrasts when designing and considering the materials and other elements, so that they may give their own personality and character to the space. I don’t feel a space has to follow a specific set of rules, but actually to adapt the character of the space while creating an inner dialogue.  I have identified a pentad of the elements and what is the order of importance in my projects.

  1. Light
  2. Colour
  3. Materials
  4. Scale
  5. Proportion

I call this the Fundamental Pentad of the Architectural Composition – Which gives one the ability to pause and to recognize the natural light provided by the sun, which will then change depending on how it will react against the surfaces of the materials used. After this, the relationship of the objects to each other, and amongst each other, all the while striving to create the most adequate proportions… everything with the idea to create harmony, maybe trying to achieve the forlorn beauty we seek.




Interiors and Architecture by Francisco Elías


Iván Meade – How do you conceive your interiors and architecture – What is important for you to have a successful interior design?

Francisco Elías – The basis of my work is to resolve how to utilize space in the best way.  In a sense I don’t see a divorce between interiors and architecture.  They go hand in hand, beacuse everything related to the space is in a sense architecture.  There might be other disciplines to resolve space like interior design and landscape design for instance, but at the end of the day they are under the same umbrella and have the same mission.  With this I want to convey that the conception of the analysis of the space is actually how do you resolve to use that particular space.

At the studio we have some references that inspire our work like Adolf Loos, Frank Lloyd Wright, Luis Barragán, Eyleen Gray, Jean Prouvé, Arne Jacobsen o Verner Panton just to name a few.  Each of these masters of design/architecture understood and followed similar principles to the ones we try to follow today, from understanding how to resolve the space needed for a cup and a plate to the whole residence, or an office space even an apartment building; then you can revisit other needs such as cutlery, the beds, chairs, or other elements that actually complement the architecture like the lamps, door knobs, window treatments, and flower vases.

I think that the best way to use a space is to attend to every need in a methodic way.  I have been fortunate to have clients that believe in the way we see and design things, so we can convey their needs and wishes creating an authentic space that reflects uniqueness just like them, while also having character and personality, which is what I think is a successful end result.  To finish my answer, a successful project is the result of the analysis taking into consideration and developing the best use of space.



Interiors and Architecture by Francisco Elías


Iván Meade – What part of your job would people find most surprising?

Francisco Elías – One of the things that I believe people find the most surprising about our work is our capacity to create and give every project the uniqueness that it deserves. That and the optimal function while considering the personality of the inhabitant.  I think that this is the aspect that gets more recognition about my work, the fact that my clients know that the solution for their space is as unique as they are, and that it is being reflected in each one of their needs as well as the spaces needs.



Interiors by Francisco Elías


Iván Meade – What will you never put in a room?

Francisco Elías – I will never use something that doesn’t have a proper justification.  I find the border line dangerous when designers or architects have this need of belonging to certain groups just to get the recognition they wish to have, and because of this they follow the same trends.  What they don’t see is that trends kill the power of creating something unique, rapidly becomes passé and actually quite boring with the notion that it has been already done by somebody else, killing the element of emotion and any timeless effect.  The opportunity to wake up the senses with something totally new is actually the end goal.

The methodology of finding the right solution to a problem, as well the justification of each of the elements that resolve the solution (hypothesis) is the only tool that allows you to truly build architecture while bringing and respecting all the cultural aspects of the project.  I don’t think I will use anything that is just there just to fit with the mold, as it is a lack of attention to the real opportunity to create uniqueness.



Interiors and Architecture by Francisco Elías


Iván Meade – What is the best advice you have ever received?

Francisco Elías – Work and work hard.  My father has told me this since I was a child.  The best advice is work on it.  I love to work, love my friends and colleagues that respect their work, love the people who work, love the development and growth that experience gives you when your work has the dedication it deserves, and the time needed and the passion to keep you going.



Architecture and Interiors by Francisco Elías


Iván Meade – Many of our readers are design students – What would be the best advice you can give to somebody who is starting a career in design?

Francisco Elías – Don’t be afraid, it is said that we live in a moment of crisis, crisis in lack of values, economical, political and social crisis; but the reality is that there is always an abundance to the people who work.  Dream, dream big, and identify your dreams, get excited just for the fact that you are dreaming of them, and you will see that little by little you will get closer to those dreams.  Do everything with passion and love, this is the only way to be contagious while showing the way, developing new mental, emotional and spiritual growth.



Interiors and Architecture by Francisco Elías


Iván Meade – Describe what you like most about your own home?

Francisco Elías – I love the fact that my house is designed and tailored to me and each of my needs.  It helps me to respect what I have and to showcase the things that I collect and that are a part of my life.  I love colour and art pieces that have become a piece of my collected memory.  I like the fact that only the people close to me know this; those who are a guests in my house are members of the family I choose.  I love the fact that this in my favourite neighbourhood in Mexico City – The Roma hood.  I love that every morning I see the sun light from my window, that I can see the tops of green trees and I can listen to the birds chirping.



Interiors and Architecture by Francisco Elías


Iván Meade – What is one item couldn’t you live without at home?

Francisco Elías – Designer chairs, mirrors on the walls, a good sound system, a great closet, a window to see the sun in the morning, great ventilation and high ceilings.




Interiors and Architecture by Francisco Elías


Iván Meade – Something I really admire about your projects and I think could also be an interactive part of your signature style is the use of volumes as part of the architectural envelope.  Why are these volumes important for you?

Francisco Elías – The concept of a cave in the origins of many cultures from antiquity is the principle that mother earth hugs you and protects you from the forces of nature.  Architecture is basically the reproduction of that feeling or the feeling of being protected, being inside the uterus.  In any case these volumes are a small homages to that feeling.  From here the importance is to think that the box, volume or cave is the start, reinforcing the reason why it needs to exist in the first place.


 


Interiors and Architecture by Francisco Elías


Ivan Meade – Name 5 things you can’t do without…

Francisco Elías – My family, my shoes, my clothes, my books and my friends.



Interiors and Architecture by Francisco Elías


Iván Meade – What would be your dream project?

Francisco Elías – I have 2 dream projects.  The first one is a big tower building with an innovative and unique structural system to support it.  A beautiful tower that has all the newest technologies in the world.  The second one is a small realm that touches the souls of the people giving them the experience that when you are there seduce them until they are in tears, creating a catharsis, a revelation, a moment that is based on the experience of being there and a memory that will be with you for a lifetime.  Then I would be able to create the biggest goal in my life which is to create architecture that is memorable.



Interiors by Francisco Elías


Iván Meade – What is next for Francisco Elías ?

Francisco Elías – In the professional side of things we have a couple of projects in the Mexican Seashore.  A home in the Riviera Maya that has the goal to observe the horizon line as if you where in the best balcony.  Another is a hotel built in a little oasis in Los Cabos and a couple of commercial spaces for a couple of Italian brands.  For me in the personal side of things, I want to be more responsible of what is going on around me, being more conscious of the needs of others while also working to help the development of my country.





Hotel & Restaurant Design by Francisco Elías


Iván Meade – Lastly, you have already created a stunning body of work with many mediums and styles. What would you like your legacy to be?

Francisco Elías – I would love to know that I was able to reveal my way of creating new and unique spaces with my own imprint. That I created great architectural compositions that subsequently reflected my way of thinking and the fulfilment and the wishes of my clients.   Being ethical while showcasing every aspect of the work we have done at my studio, helping in the development of our future to improve our society.  Doing all this in a way that is conscious, sophisticated, and ethical, while waking up a new range of emotions.


I invite you to visit Francisco Elías website:


@francisco.elias.carrillo