Interview, 11.08.2015

BUREAU N meets BUREAU A in Lisbon

“We are architects, but we also like architecture”, says Daniel Zamarbide, one of the two founders of BUREAU A, a recent – and unusual – transplant to the Portuguese capital, especially while the number of emigrants from the country continues to rise.

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BUREAU A’s new space in Lisbon (left) and B.I.G. Biennale des espaces d’art indépendants de Genève (2015), Photo: Dylan Perrenoud (right)

We met with BUREAU A in their new space, a bright and huge old flat located on Rua dos Anjos in central Lisbon, to learn about what brought them to this capital on Europe’s periphery – and what keeps them busy these days.  Earlier this summer, Swiss architectural duo Leopold Banchini and Daniel Zamarbide moved their office BUREAU A from Geneva, the heart of Swiss Romandie, to Lisbon. The move wasn’t prompted by business or personal reasons, nor did they develop a passion when visiting the city, as one might suspect. Daniel hadn’t even been to Lisbon before…

It was more of a decision to step out of our comfort zone, in response to the number of highly qualified young Portuguese architects applying for a position with BUREAU A, and because of an interest in Portugal’s traditional craftsmanship, still highly regarded and increasingly preserved. Why not move your studio and come to your collaborators, instead of having them come to you?

What is your story?

We founded BUREAU A in 2012 as a multidisciplinary platform, aiming to blur the boundaries between architectural research and related projects. With a team of seven in Lisbon and one still in Geneva, we’re seeking to expand our activities to diverse programs, ranging from architecture and landscape design to scenography, installations, and self-developed initiatives. You may remember our mountain shelter, a wooden cabin concealed inside an artificial rock and transported to a remote site in the Swiss Alps, which paid tribute to the central character in the novel Derborence by Charles-Ferdinand Ramuz. Or our intervention in the streets of Hanoi, where mounted a seven-storey mobile performance space and street kitchen on a tricycle. More recently, we finished our Fountain2015 project – a pissoir for a public space in Zürich made out of Portuguese marble.

What is keeping you busy these days?

We are working on more than 10 international projects simultaneously, besides different teaching and lecturing positions, lots of traveling and – very relevant to our work – the constant consumption of architectural culture and history. Leopold is in Paris right now, for our involvement in PerformanceProcess, a project that marks the 30th anniversary of the Swiss Cultural Centre (CCS) in Paris, opening this September. We have been invited to create the spatial design for a 12-week performance programme where each week is dedicated to a different artistic concept. Another project keeping us busy is one that will bring us to Germany: the exhibition Orientations. Young Swiss Architects, a project by the Swiss Architecture Museum, presented by the M:AI Museum für Architektur und Ingenieurkunst in North Rhine-Westphalia.

Are you looking to explore any unusual architectural forms?

Oh – we’re obsessed by waterfalls, which will be relevant for a challenging commission by the arc en rêve – centre d’architecture in Bordeaux coming up soon…

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Spiruline (2014) – A garden folly by BUREAU A in a public park of Geneva – Quoting the water cascades of the Villa Aldobrandini. Photo: Dylan Perrenoud

As for Lisbon, where BUREAU N first arrived five years ago but BUREAU A is still finding their way around, Daniel tells us that being a foreigner new to the city has formed his working process: “Still working as a tourist – without being one.”

We will keep in touch with BUREAU A, in the hopes that we can collaborate very soon – a joint venture may be in the cards…