Studio Visit: Fala Atelier
If you are a member of the online architectural community at all chances are you’re already somewhat familiar with the work of Fala atelier – or at least with their distinctive, ever-evolving sketches, collages, and drawings which have brought together a sizable online following and inspired many conversations about architectural representation and contemporary media. But Fala is much more than the images – although the images are a good place to start to know them.
Exploring the work of Fala atelier by browsing through their web page is akin to reading a collection of haiku. Collages of images gathered around a common theme, framed with a couple of lines forming a succinct observation, a gentle provocation:
some like their white beige or grayish.
some prefer their white white.”
plans and sections are the easy part of architecture.”
russian doll moments, kitchens are buildings inside buildings.”
It would probably take hours to hunt down each of the poetic bits Fala had hidden inside the colorful corridors of their web presentation. It’s not unlike an online game – or a show – where each of your decisions, each of your clicks, takes you to a different endpoint. By using this structure to show their work, Fala also shows off their savviness in using the new media to communicate how they see the world and create architecture. And that, as they often describe, is with playfulness – and with optimism “as a method”.
Fala, a young Portuguese office based in Porto, was created in 2013 by Filipe Magalhães, Ana Luisa Soares and Ahmed Belkhodja. All three of them had extensive previous experience in studying and working around the world, and all have spent some time in studious in Japan and Switzerland – in Tokyo, Filipe worked with SANAA, Ana Luisa with Toyo Ito and Ahmed with Bow-Wow, and they all worked with Harry Gugger in Basel. Opening their own practice in Portugal just as the country started recovering from the economic crisis was, by their own account, optimistic. As they embrace the circumstances in which their office is growing and developing, they describe their architecture as “naive and a bit clumsy, very post-modern, intuitive and rhetorical.”
Fala’s early work was largely made up of renovations, paid for by investors interested in turning their property into attractive Airbnb apartments for the booming tourist markets of Porto and Lisbon. This meant the creative process was developing under many spatial and financial constraints – many details had to be worked out on the building site, as the old structures have often presented the architects with unplanned challenges. But the challenge of living in the world which “has turned into a museum” and for people who need just “monuments and Airbnb apartments” inspired Fala to think about ways of living in post-Airbnb world. With their project “The School of Tourism”, aiming to “rethink the traveling experience, to examine the impact it has on the city”, Fala participated in the 2018 edition of Future Architecture.
Over the last six years, the practice of Fala moved way beyond renovations – today, the studio is also known for its constructions, pavilions, and curatorial work; they lecture and present their work at venues around the world. This year if off to a busy start: Fala’s new monograph, 2G no. 80, has just been published by Walter König. Furthermore, Rice Design Alliance named them as 2020 Spotlight Award Recipient. If you happen to be around, know that they will hold a Spotlight Lecture at The Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, USA on February 19, 2020.