Architecture Trials: Joshua Florquin

Joshua Florquin is an Architect, graduated in 2008 from Sint-Lucas Architectuur, having spent an year on Erasmus in Roma Tre University as well. He moved to Paris afterwards, where he worked for a few architecture offices like Architecture Studio, Local Architecture Network – a young office, very socially involved, which he still talks about very enthusiastically – and H2O, before founding his own office in 2014.

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In recent times he received some attention over his design of the barbershop Les Dada East, inspired by the ecological policies of the store. On a Sunday morning, we chatted over his methodology and architecture education in our modern but not very sustainable societies.

What are your major concerns when designing?

Personally, I try to design with a social and psychological approach. I think Architecture can’t only be a pragmatic discipline that answers to functional and economic problems, it should also be a discipline that absorbs social, economic, political and cultural changes of humans and their environment and then achieve solutions that are innovative and can stand the test of trend and time. When starting a project I start with the context: urban, architectural and with particular focus on the user. How a specific building can influence the interaction with its user in a positive and functional way. I would say this method is important in my work.

As someone who is now directly responsible for his own projects, and also as a former student, what do you think might be missing, or might be at fault, in contemporary architecture teaching?

I don’t like to criticize, mainly because I think it’s not my place. If I have to answer I’ll say that you have to find a balance, even in education.

Some schools that are very academic and technical, such as the Politecnico di Milano where I met other students during my stay in Italy, were, in my opinion, rather focused on construction techniques. When you’re an engineer or an architect that aspires to build immediately those abilities can definitely be useful.

Sint-Lucas in Gent for example, where I studied, is a school that focuses a lot on concepts. It was the main criteria to present a project. With well funded thoughts on why you were making certain design decisions. I was very glad with this pedagogic approach. In my opinion, and this is of course related to my education, I think it’s important that they give students freedom to come up with new ideas that might even seem strange to us now, but that can be innovative in the future.

It’s necessary to have a technical background, but in my opinion that is secondary. Techniques are evolving very quickly in construction. You learn while working on projects on a professional level. When you’re a student I think it’s more important to develop the brain in a way that capacitates you to develop new ideas who can change the way we live and use space. Nonetheless, technique is very important and that’s why I advocate a strong collaboration between architects and engineers.

I would say that, ultimately, when studying, you should ask yourself what is important to you: whether you aspire to construct immediately with academic technical knowledge, or whether you aspire to come up with new ideas and collaborate with other engineers to achieve those concepts. It’s about finding a balance between those options and knowing what you want to achieve in the future.

Since you started working by yourself you’ve made a fair amount of projects and also got a fair amount of recognition with your Les Dada East. Can you tell us a little bit about how you started?

In 2014 I started with apartments and interior design. It’s true that Les Dada East became quite iconic because it ended up having a lot of attention online and also on magazines in China, South America and now in Europe [on its way to be published now in Architecture Digest]. Maybe it’s the project that got the most attention because I did some PR for it, and for the others I didn’t. I guess it became an important project for me simply because it’s quite appealing and I’m quite happy with it.

Who are your major influences?

That’s actually a hard question because of course an architect likes to say he has no style, and I would like to say that too, but that’s not true because we all have a style and are influenced by other architects.

If I have to say some architects that influence me I’ll go way back and say a big one like Frank Lloyd Wright just because I like integrating nature in my designs. It’s not really true that he influenced me because in the end my architecture is very different from his, but I like his ideas. All architecture that integrates the user and its contexts appeals to me.

I don’t like architects like Calatrava, for example, because of how they do these formalistic approaches or how they repeat themselves. I don’t like styles you recognize every time, that don’t change. That kind of building is an object, it’s not a building that lives in its context.

Entrevista: João Santos