Gabriel Munoz Moreno is the 2015 “Architecture and Sea Level Rise” category of the International Competition in Architecture of the Jacques Rougerie Foundation – Institut de France winner with his project "Re-Generator". He's now a graduate candidate at the Harvard Graduate School of Design (GSD) working both in Boston and Madrid. His field of interests includes architectural and conceptual projects on various scales allowing developing designs beneficial not only for inhabitants but also for the pre-existing surroundings. In order for this development to be sustainable and to establish a balanced relation between the natural and social environment he “translates” systems theories into an architectural, urban and construction language to create new opportunities for the incoming population.
Gabriel answered a few questions to give a piece of advice to this year’s contestants and to inspire them to never give up on their dreams.
How did you learn about the Jacques Rougerie Foundation International Competition in Architecture?
I knew about the Foundation thanks to the type of projects that were promoted, from which I learnt and took as reference almost since I started my architectural studies in Madrid. The Foundation awards projects that integrate architecture into the preexisting environment, projects that provide a positive feedback to it and solve critical challenges through design.
Did you develop your project directly for the Competition or was it an idea that you had in mind for quite some time?
It is close to what I already developed for my architectural degree thesis in Madrid at the San Pablo CEU University. The idea of generating an architecture that works for the natural environment – from which we nurture our society – originated from observing our built environment. We usually impose our living necessities on the preexisting conditions, but I believe that built environment can adapt and search its place on Earth without destroying it. In this occasion, I focused on protecting the wetlands of Hangzhou, not only to use it as an infrastructure that protects our cities from sea level rise but also to preserve our natural heritage and to economize natural resources these ecosystems provide us.
Why have you chosen the “Architecture and Sea Level Rise” among our three categories?
I believe that Sea Level Rise is one of the biggest challenges that our society is facing. The built environment as we know it nowadays, does not provide a solution to this issue. Some solutions can be found in countries like the Netherlands, where monumental infrastructures (represented by the Delta and Zuiderzee works) protect their cities against natural forces. The application of these infrastructures supposes an additional effort to the fact of constructing our built environment – making it impractical in other locations that will be affected by Sea Level Rise due to their geographic or economic conditions. In general terms, I conceptualized an alternative way to protect our settlements in a more efficient way.
How long did it take to develop the project? What was the hardest part of the process for you? Tell us more about how the “Re-Generator” was generated.
It took me about a year to develop it. Luckily I had the opportunity to travel and work in environments that motivated me to evolve this project. The hardest part was the beginning and the ideation process, which had nothing to do with the initial design brief. The issue of a city “eating” such precious wetlands led me to developing a construction system that embraced the challenge of providing shelter to the increasing population while preserving and recovering its wetlands. Protecting the wetlands brought lots of advantages to the built environment, from helping it resist the Sea Level Rise to feeding the inhabitants of the “Re-Generator”.
Discover "Re-Generator"'s visuals and read about the project on the Jacques Rougerie International Database.
Did you expect to win or was it a surprise for you? What did you feel when you learnt that you won?
I did not expect to win. The number of participants and the quality of all the projects presented have always amazed me. Actually, when they called me to announce the results, my phone network was not working very well. During the conversation I understood that I needed to do a video for the project. I thought I made it to the final selection and I was very excited about it! But a month later I emailed them for a question related to the video and then I realized that I was asked to make the video because I was not just the finalist, but the 2015 Sea Level Rise laureate!
In what way did this victory “change your life”?
Winning this competition granted me resources to study where I always wanted to study and to work among incredible people. At the same time it provided me with the confidence to develop the holistic thinking necessary to develop projects like "Re-Generator" on a global scale.
Why do you think it is so important to create competitions like this today?
I think that making an international call for projects to solve some of the main challenges that our society will face has a unique value. It preconceives environmental issues of the future and finds solutions to them or, what is even better, ways to prevent them from happening.
At a personal level I believe this is as a great opportunity for architects, engineers and designers to promote their work at an international level and contribute to the developing of the fields they are passionate about.
Are you going to participate once again in years to come? What are your plans in academic or professional spheres?
Why not! I will continue working hard to design new projects.
I usually do not plan much, however I'm thinking about applying what I learnt into the professional field. I would also like to get experience to be able to teach the forecoming generations of architects. Architecture is like a language to me, so whatever allows me to express myself to improve our society sounds like a good plan!
What advice could you give to this year’s participants? Do you have some kind of a “success recipe” to share with them now that you won?
I would advise them to work hard to pursue their dreams, challenge their imagination and design what makes them happy.
I always have moments where I think that I am not doing a good job, and the solution is: keep trying, keep drawing, keep thinking. Work at your own pace, follow your own schedule and the vision that you want for a better world. It is kind of naive, but I believe that being true to yourself is the best way to make your imagination work and to create something new and original.