For architect Josemaría de Churtichaga, specialization is the enemy. His Madrid-based firm, Churtichaga + Quadra-Salcedo (ch+qs), is just as happy to design city councils, libraries, and cultural centers as it is boats, furniture, books, typography, and, as the English translation of the firm’s website so fantastically put its, “establishments in the Sahara for petroliferous companies” (sign us up for one of those!). De Churtichaga was in New York recently for the opening of “Magic Carpet,” an installation of 36 shipping containers suspended from the ceiling of Pier 57, and made time to answer our questions about his impressions of the cavernous space, the project, and what’s next on his to-do list (spoiler alert: “a secret underground architectonic project on the beautiful island of Mallorca”).
What were your first impressions of Pier 57?
My first impression was of a fantastic atmospheric experience. For me, architecture is more of an atmospheric problem than a formal problem. Architecture is about building atmospheres, about defining the way a space or environment affects us through our senses, which are our interface with the world. The quality of architecture then is rooted in the intensity by which it affects us. Pier 57 is full of this atmospheric quality. When we walk trough the pier, an extremely attractive industrial space excites our memories, the subtle light is challenging our eyes, the loneliness and echoes everywhere affect our ears, and everything has a flavor of the untouched authenticity of a lost activity. Those are spatial and emotional virtues to be preserved in Pier 57.
What did you create for the space?
We decided to build a changing, mutable space of containers, inside an extremely challenging and attractive space that could solve an enormous amounts of different events’ requirements, and at the same time preserving the view across the space from the city towards the Hudson.
You’ve used shipping containers in previous projects. How did they function here?
In some way this space is setting the tone of what will happen in the whole pier refurbishment. The container as a design tool has in my opinion many advantages. Its repetition and its diversity gives the spaces a less formal sensation, and at the same time is a “memory machine” that talks to us about dealing directly with the industrial world.