an architecture that was not asked for


a+u #637, 2023

The lecture fala gave in TU Vienna in November 2020 was called “an architecture that was not asked for”. This bold statement precisely describes the challenge that many design offices face today, when architects are often the only ones who actually care about spatial and architectural quality. While many architects conform to the rules of the game and just follow the flow to reproduce generic architecture (later blaming the clients, the builders, the absence of time, the society and the economic system for the fact that “no one needs architecture”), fala sets an example of how to squeeze state-of-the-art, meaningful architecture between very tight restrictions of limited budget, generic context and short deadlines. The way how the spaces are later photographed - right after the construction ends, and right before the occupancy starts - fixates that short and beautiful moment of existence of pure architecture. What makes it especially striking is that the commissions which result in that pure architecture seem rather unremarkable – both in scope and scale: small suburban houses, Airbnb apartments, interior renovations. Instead of waiting for the commission of their life, or a big competition, fala have managed to create their own style and their own “big project” that is weaved out of many small modest commissions and that is inserted in the quotidian private Porto homes like precious stones in the ore.

That brings us to another paradox in their work - the one of scale. In another lecture they gave in the Moscow Garage Center for Contemporary Culture, fala concluded by saying that all the small houses, apartments and interior renovations they have made are a part of a bigger, single project, that carries their own bravura, themes and values; that it is a project spread both in time and space. fala states that they are “gloriously repeating”; but in our opinion they are rather adding to this big project, and summed up, this overall “project” is probably bigger than a football stadium or an airport. 

fala claimed to be a naïve architectural practice; but when they explain their work, you realize how knowledgeable and rational are all of their spatial decisions. Their naïveté is supported by profound research and theory. "Naïve" ways of representation cover a deep and fundamental discourse about the meaning and role of architecture nowadays. Their representations become built architecture, immediately transmitted in iconic images online, and those images start to define the meaning of the architecture, sometimes departing from the initial project. Yet fala's design can never be limited to flat iconic images. Their architecture is driven by spatial innovation, user experience and construction techniques. Rethinking the meaning of the symbol in architecture they highlight the most important spatial and functional characteristics of the building and achieve maximum by minimal means. Never addressing directly environmental challenges in their rhetoric, they showcase responsible and smart distribution of available resources. Their architecture is inherently ecological because of construction rationality and common sense. Judging by the marble facades, custom-made handrails and exotic decorative patterns they use, their buildings may seem expensive; but in fact, they are actually quite affordable, reasonable and designed for all types and classes of people.