The Room Papers
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Interview with Jose F. López-Aguilar
Designer, engineer and professional in environmental sciences. It is defined as an enthusiastic, dynamic and proactive person. Adventurer to new challenges also works as a teacher at the Elisava School and IED Barcelona. With Salva Codinach, he has opened a consultancy in design, materials and environment for the public and private sector called OiKo. He has co-authored the book “Mater, nuevos materiales, nueva industria” (ed FAD, 2008), editor in the magazine Arquitectura y Diseño and editor of the book “Selección de materiales en el proceso de diseño” by Javier Peña (CGP, 2009) .
In addition, he was awarded in 2015 with the Premio d’Ecodisseny de la Generalitat, with Javier del Toro; selected in the ASI 2012 medal for the final Master projector and awarded in the Infiniti Design Contest of folding chairs Salone di Mobile Milano 2013.
– How was your beginnings as a designer? Meeting with friends, burning notebooks with half-spent pens and inventing who you are, who you would like to be when you grow up. At work I started at the FAD as a researcher for a project that had no name or almost nothing just illusion and that is nowadays Mater, the recognized center of materials. From there I started in the publishing world and I was the author of the books that were published and some other failed project that also started at that time. Thanks to that I joined the company as engineer and I met the crème de la crème of industrial design in Spain. It’s true that designing is more than drawing, but I think I have not really been a designer until OiKo, the studio that I share with Salva Codinach.
– How you describe your philosophy? It would seem very pretentious to say that I have a philosophy, but if there is anything I can say it is to enjoy. Love and humor in equal parts. Love for who are around you and humor with them. Love for the ecosystem, for your body, for the materials that we have and that cannot be used bad. Love and humor yes.
– You define yourselve like an a ecology and materials lover, why? And you are not? Seriously, is it possible not to be passionate about ecology and materials?
– How do you choose a material? Which characteristics are the most importants? For me, the selection of materials is based first on ecological issues. Obviously we assume that, of course, it must work and answer to technical restrictions or any other type. Assuming the obvious that “works”, the first parameter is ecology or sustainability if you prefer. The products cannot be based on “concessions” to toxicity or irreparable damage to the environment. I could never think of using an Amazonian wood or a virgin aluminum that we know contributes and the way to all the environmental problems that we live. Neither would accept a process or a material that, while being as ecologically as possible, could involve a social problem. From here the experiential performance must be the center of all the effort. 60% of products that fail are caused for the bad selection of materials in sensory code. That generates the best aesthetic experience is not an accessory issue, but it guarantees the best functionality and bases a good design. An aesthetic lived from the 5 senses, visual yes. Touch, olfactory, taste and acoustics. The selection of materials is for us the motor of all our designs and our way of understanding the design.
– Which is the project that you are most proud of? Why? The truth is that at this moment what I am most proud of having a ping-pong table in my studio. Although I suppose that if you refer to “official” projects, the Hook lamp is a pride reason as personally as of all the people who have been involved in it. Soon something incredible will come out in the press around the project and I still can not disclose it.
– What do we do not know about you? Uyyyy… So many things (laughs). To start the award that we win and I cannot bite my tongue anymore, but even in a few weeks you can not publish. And then, as a curiosity, I could say that I became an environmentalist when I was 5 or 6 years old when I heard about the hole in the ozone layer on TV. Later I knew that when I grew up I wanted to be “something from factories” when I passed by my grandfather on the way to town, for the scrapping of cars.
– You have opened a product design office with Salva Codinach, how did the idea come? How do you complement as a team? OiKo is something almost obsessive that stretches over time and has mutated at the same time that the years and people passed. It is a kind of germ that has been growing until it is put in its place. And your site is a design office, with materials as vector of ideas and connection between people and the world. As a team, Salva and I complement each other as chemical elements of the same molecule. Then as people I am explosive and save objective, but bad sparks never jump between us. It’s a pleasure to have a partner like that. We always mix clouds and soil, madness and temperance. Anyway, we’re a great team!
– If you had to recommend an inspiring book or documentary, what would it be?There are two books from the early 2000s that have been my beginnings in all this and that now are a tad retro but still inspiring: “Cradle to cradle” by William McDonough and Michael Braungart, the initiation rite in industrial ecology and what is now called circular economy; It has its things but 100% recommended. And then “Diseño emocional” by Donald Norman. Wonderful for a recent engineering graduate who thinks that technique is everything. There was a bit where I changed the crystals with which I looked at this design.
– Who would you like to develop a project with? Why? I can not say, I think I’m not very special names. If it was with a designer, Phillip Stark and that history of working in his castle given me a lot of curiosity. He seems a very intelligent guy and that transversal vision of the design that goes from the pen to the yacht, I love it. But I think I would really enjoy making an intervention with artists from other disciplines, with Bunbury for example.
– What aspects of your work are the most passionate about? The magical moment in which from a need or suggestion of a customer you begin to connect concepts to build an story in which you first get excited with your colleagues in the studio and then with the company and you continue to get excited, you spend hours and days thinking in it. I’m passionate about that. I am passionate about seeing people who enjoy the work that you have done and I am passionate about finding that material that is able of making all that real history, that is touched, that smells, that feels inside and outside. Buahh is too much!!!
– What is essencial for a design to be good? It is necessary to create new products? To be honest, I have not idea. About the ingredients of good design it is obvious that we do not know and it gives me the feeling that it is closely related to the dynamics of people and their own complexity. Talking about aesthetics, function, economy, ecology, social equity, all this must be essential, but there is something more. Much more than that. And then the big question. This one yes. Do you need more products? Well, I think yes and for something very simple, because of the little that has been invented, almost nothing works really well. How can we design (I the first) products that are not perfect? But if we are all of the humanity designing and we are still wrong! How difficult is all this. Although the idea that we do not need more things, it seems to me that it comes from this constant hyperrepetition of the same error. Maybe the answer is simpler. More than designing more products, better products must be designed.
– In which projects are you working on? Luckily we are in very varied projects. The last thing to enter has been a dry architecture system for naturalist physiotherapy clinics that with which we are completely enthusiastic. Then we are with some cooking machines without technology for a restaurant with many michelin stars, whose name I cannot say …. With Pachá Ibiza we are finishing preparing the lighting for the Flower Party, with Ecoembes making communication systems based on products that also motivate us especially, developing lighting collections for various brands and entering the bathroom sector with the help of a firm that we love since the time of the university. And then in parallel and on a personal level I have an editorial project that has me crazy, not to mention the doctoral thesis… If the taste is the variety, this is a pleasure!
– What are your goals? What is you maximum dream?I would like to live always with this enthusiasm that I have at the moment. And my dream is that the stories I tell are replicated more and more. Someone told me the other day “the prize for a job well done is more work”, that’s it. More than the recognition or get to perform a type of projects or clients of one level or another, the dream and the goal is to follow and continue every day excited. As if it were the best of days.
– You are also a teacher in the Elisava´s School, what your advice for your students? Flip with what they do. That they are able to learn from every gesture that comes before them. That everything is design if you are able to look at it with those little eyes. And hey, if the design does not fall in love with you, leave it alone. As Confucius said, fall in love with your work and you will not have to work another day.
Many thanks to Jose F Aguilar for allowing us to do this little interview and thank you for your time. It is a source of inspiration to promote eco-design.