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Interview with Lucia Cano: ‘We are going to do the best pavilion ever’

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Lucia Cano of Madrid-based SelgasCano on being handed the job of designing the 2015 Serpentine Pavilion

How were you approached about designing next summer’s temporary pavilion at the Serpentine Gallery?
We received a call at the beginning of November from Julia Peyton-Jones and Hans Ulrich Obrist, who wanted to visit our studio in Madrid. But at that time we were in London. Finally we met at the Serpentine Gallery.

After that they decided to visit a building made by our office in Spain, and a week later they invited us to design the pavilion. Our reaction was a mix of: ‘we are not the architects for that commission’ and ‘we are going to do the best pavilion ever’.

Have you visited many of the other pavilions?
Yes, we’ve visited some of them, and of course the pavilion programme is very well known, not only in Spain but all around the world. It’s clear that the Serpentine Pavilion is very well known everywhere, and not only by architects.

Have you learned anything from the previous pavilions? Is there anything you want to do differently?
We want to do everything differently, of course. We are the type of architects that, whenever we realise that somebody is doing something similar to the things we are, we immediately move to other places we still imagine as unexplored.

We want to do everything differently

And, in that direction, we see this pavilion as a great opportunity to explore and investigate some processes that we have been interested in lately.

How well do you know London?
Well. We’ve travelled to London last year at least 50 times because we had some other commissions there related to the Second Home project [a creative workspace fit-out in Shoreditch, London, see AJ 09.12.14]. But, as foreigners, we have the possibility of working with much more freedom in London than a local practice might.

And how much thought have you given to the weather over here?
The people move and live differently in London than in other parts of the world because of its specific climate conditions. Above all, the weather in London is absolutely changeable, and even more so during the summer, and we expect the people will experience that continuous changing both inside and outside the building.

Does a scheme like this allow you to push your boundaries – and those of architecture – further than a usual commission?
We try to push our boundaries even on normal projects. This case will be the same as always. At some point we´ll need to relax the push, in order to make it feasible.

Can you give us any more details about your ‘one material approach’?
We can´t give you any detail in that direction about the project because it´s totally forbidden by the curators. But, yes, we are trying to build the whole pavilion with just one material, which looks like at the end might probably be impossible.

Are you afraid of failing?
The most recurrent dream we have is to arrive to a building of our own that was under construction and seeing a horrible “thing” that we haven´t controlled enough. Because that nightmare we need to be very close to the projects and construction process trying to be sure that everything is taken utmost care as possible. Doing that, doing the most as we can is the only way to sleep well at least. But on the other hand fail is a word that we see as something that has to be inserted in every interesting project.

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