At 31, Moisés Royo has travelled the world, studied in Finland and New York, won an international award and settled back down in Madrid to set up his own architecture studio. He has seen and done a lot more than many of us will see and do in a lifetime, so it’s pretty amazing that Moisés is one of the most grounded and unassuming people I have met. The owner of MUKA Arquitectura, Moisés is now opening up shop in Marbella and has a lot to say about local architecture and what he would like to add to the mix.
At such a young age you have travelled so much… do you ever get homesick?
When I was two my parents upped sticks and left Barcelona for Ciudad Real, so from a very young age I was used to moving around and I have always had the travel bug in me. I studied architecture in Finland and at New York’s Columbia University, before returning to Madrid to finish my PhD. I am inspired by architecture from all over the world, so travelling kind of comes part and parcel of the job. The more I travel, the more my perception of styles change and my attitude to building design.
So after living in Madrid and travelling the world, why choose Marbella as your next destination?
Honestly, I think there is a repetitiveness in the local architecture that I have a longing to change. For me architecture should be about transmitting the character of each client, it should reflect their soul, as well as the local environment, and when I look around I don’t see this, I see monotony, more in keeping with the architecture of larger cities.
‘Muka’ means ‘supposedly’ in Finnish. And at MUKA we ‘supposedly’ create structures, but actually it’s a multidiscipline; we create art, we create a lifestyle, we create a space to love and enjoy.
What is your initial reaction to Marbella and the Costa del Sol?
Without doubt it’s a unique area, somewhere I want to be and to work in. I have spent years working across the globe, with different nationalities and cultures; here on the Costa del Sol, all these cultures and nationalities come together. It has such an international character, it’s superb.
Do you think enough consideration goes into the local environment with most new build and renovation projects?
Unfortunately no. There is not enough. The sector tends either to be focused on building at the best price, or building with the most prestigious qualities, regardless of where you have had to bring that material from. These qualities never defend or protect the local environment or local businesses. MUKA has won a national award for project sustainability. It features in every single project we undertake. We believe that every place has its ‘Genius Loci’, its protective guardian or spirit. Our aim with each project is to ensure we also protect the special atmosphere of a location.
What motivates you?
Architecture isn’t like a job for me. It’s what I love, it’s a form of living and just being involved motivates me. I live for the inspiration and the love of creating spaces where people want to live or visit.
What do you get up to when you are not creating beautiful spaces?
I love reading, getting out into the countryside with friends and family and of course travelling, which is kind of part of my job anyway.
Do you have a favourite project that you have worked on?
I couldn’t possibly choose. Every project has an aspect about it that makes it unique and I love it for that uniqueness; its illumination or integration into the environment for example. It’s like having children, each one has a special or unique quality that the others don’t have; it’s impossible to love one more than the other.
What inspires your work?
My inspiration comes from architecture of the 1960s. A new era of social thinking and creativity was emerging throughout the decade. It happened so quickly that many ideas never fully matured; even now you can find seeds of creativity still undeveloped, just waiting for someone to develop them, with their touch of the 21st century.
A lot of architects tend to focus on the now and what’s in fashion. But I like to draw inspiration from the past and reinterpret it, applying the materials of today.
Do you have a favourite building?
Three architectural designs come foremost to mind with this question:
The Muuratsalo Experimental House, a summer cottage designed by architect, Alvar Aalto, in Muuratsalo, Finland in 1953.
Le Corbusier’s design for a new city, Chandigarh in India, which translates as the Fort of Chandi, and was the first planned city, post-independence in 1947.
Finally, Peter Zumthor’s, hotel/spa complex Therme Vals, situated in Vals, Switzerland. The complex was designed to take advantage of the naturally occurring springs and the source. This type of architecture I love… truly at one with the local resources.
How does the Costa del Sol inspire your creations, compared perhaps to a city project?
It’s a different context, in terms of density. Obviously the local environment is less dense than the city, in terms of construction. It’s a world I want to explore. Here you can create buildings, leaving gaps or spaces to create more light and the feeling of space.
And the light and shade of Marbella is superb. Remember a house is really a shade, a protection from the sun and the elements. It’s kind of a primitive concept, but you can work in perfect unison with the light and shade in this local region.
What advice would you give to someone considering a new build or renovation project?
Shake off your inhibitions and preconceptions of what a typical house should look like. Architecture is all about exploration, so you need to take yourself out of your comfort zone, allow yourself to be surprised.
Moisés Royo is CEO of MUKA Arquitectura, an award-winning architecture studio and guest speaker at many international architectural conferences. A specialist in illumination design, he will be guest speaking at this year’s International Association of Lighting Designers Congress in Montreal.