Joao Boto Caeiro from Portugal and Fulvio Capurso from Italy, due to their similar credos started an architectural practice in the year 2003 called b_root Studio. Since then they have been working together employing pure creative thinking in the different fields of art – from architecture and design to illustration and paintings. Even though they have their fingers in a veritable smorgasbord of pies they approach each genre with the same effort and interest.
In their ongoing endeavour to develop new perspectives about materials, construction and drawing techniques through different cultural perceptions, b_root Studio decided to work in different countries. Here working with rural communities the firm started promoting sustainable building and conducted research programmes in self-construction techniques. The transference of technology has always been achieved through workshops, conferences and classes.
The multitude of projects thus handled by them in a wide number of countries have had extended experimentation, like building with earth and bamboo, and employing vernacular techniques in a fusion with modern technology.
In one of their projects which happened to be a nursing and physiotherapy school, b_root studio together with J.J. SAntibañez (arquitectos artesanos), created a bamboo roof structure and coated it with coloured asphaltic diamonds inspired by the skin patterns seen on snakes local to the area.
So spectacular was the result that due to the special handling the building stood out and was visible to people living miles away. The bamboo used referred to the bones of the human body as this was a place where bones were the focus. The use of red clay added another quotient of wellness for the medical school. We at Home Review just had to present the duo a few questions. Here is how they assuaged our intrigue.
What was the genesis of b_root Studio, and what is the thinking that underscores your work?
Root Studio was born in 2003 in Oaxaca (Mexico), when both of us that is, Joao Boto Caeiro (Portugal) and Fulvio Capurso (Italy) decided to join forces, dreams and creativity. This was after several investigations and work experiences were carried out individually by us in different countries like Colombia, Uruguay, Brazil, Spain and Portugal.
Since then we have been designing and creating in various fields of art, from architecture and design to illustration, sculpture and painting. In the last years, in the architectural field, we have been working with rural communities and promoting sustainable construction by continuing the research of self-construction techniques and transferring that technology through workshops, conferences and classes.
How much of your work is based on sustainable architecture?
Almost all, as we use natural materials and bioclimatic concepts in our projects. In addition, we always try to empower the final user to self-maintain the building, in the most simple and cheap way.
For example, for communities, we try to involve the inhabitants to not only be a part of the decisions related to the final structure but to also be a part through the entire construction process. With this concept, they become qualified to maintain their own houses in a very sustainable way by applying both known and newly learned techniques.
The same method is applied in modern construction projects in the urban areas. For example in the Sports City Oaxaca, a big private sports centre, the recovery plans for water and the natural ventilation systems introduced reduce the ecological impact and the energy resource requirement by a great deal on a day to day basis.
What was the most complex project in which you assumed a leadership role? What challenges did you face?
I think our most complex project so far has been the Sports City Oaxaca; here we were, doing technical drawings and supervising the construction all at the same time. Due to the characteristics of this project (urban, monumental, mediatic), the clients and constructors were very skeptical about the use of vernacular techniques.
We had to face the lack of trust in the earth and bamboo building techniques and also had to find people who would be capable enough to build in a proper way.
We had to conduct several laboratory experiments to assure the constructors, engineers and clients that the final structure would be strong and sturdy. In the end the workers who finally worked for us were some students that were already apprenticing with us and some willing learners from the rural communities. With the advent of modern techniques it has now become important to re-teach them some of the old techniques.
The difficulties we faced were myriad, like dealing with technical problems on-site, keeping costs within the given budget, dealing with the employees’ sense of punctuality, and of course client specifications and subcontractors’ business interests.
What recent technology trends have become important to your firm?
An important rediscovery has been the traditional low tech way of building, like ‘adobe’ which is of Hispanic Mexican heritage, or rammed earth construction which originated in Portugal and Morocco.
We like to incorporate manual labour wherever possible and use artisanal and natural elements.
We also opt for vernacular techniques in all our projects.To conclude, it is not the material or the techniques that makes the architecture contemporaneous or projects innovated, it is the architects and team work.
Your dream project! Is it in the past or is it yet to be realised?
Always the next one…
Compiled By Mala Bajaj