José María de Lapuerta
Director of the Master of Advanced Studies in Collective Housing (MCH)
Escuela Técnica Superior de Arquitectura de Madrid. Universidad Politécnica de Madrid, Spain.
José María de Lapuerta is a Madrid based Architect and PhD who graduated from the Escuela Tecnica Superior de Arquitectura de Madrid (ETSAM), in Spain, and is regular Professor of the same school, where he is also the director of the Master of Advanced Studies in Collective Housing (MCH). This program led by Professor Lapuerta was rated 3rd in our annual ranking of postgraduate programs of architecture around the world.
We hope you enjoy the interview that Prof. Lapuerta kindly completed specially for the BAM platform.
Interview with José María de Lapuerta for BAM.
1.- In your opinion, why is architecture education so important?
Architecture is really important only for architects. For the rest of society, this issue would be relevant only if we train architects with the ability to recover the power to improve the life of people in their houses and cities.
2.- How do you see Architecture Academy in the future? What would you like to be different?
In the near future, architecture education will follow the same path that some of us started out on some years ago: practical teaching with international students and faculty that encourages future alliances between very distant countries, combined with the higher technical level without regional or artisanal justification: an architect who has expanded their skills to coordinate professional teams with experts in transport, energy, and sociology, among others.
Although the MCH (Master in Collective Housing) has had a printed editorial line for many years, the Era of Gutenberg is close to an end. If I had to change something, I would like to see easier access to architecture documentation for students and researchers.
3.- What are the main characteristics that a good architecture professor should have? Could you highlight the most relevant?
The best architecture professors are professionals who work in the real world and also know how to transmit their passion for architecture to their students. Architecture is the only discipline that is both technical and artistic. We are not worried that other professionals invade our field as we will also move into other professions. Engineers, politicians, set designers, and ecologists. Looking for excellence in this expansion of our field of work, architects will be missing in the coming years.
4.- Please describe the beginning of your professional/academic career within The ETSA Madrid.
Many years have passed since 1983. I believe that the Universidad Politécnica de Madrid (UPM) in which I trained and where I am now a professor always encourages architects or architecture students to solve problems that sometimes have not yet been raised. And I have also experienced in my training and in my current university that the technical requirements allow Spanish architects to sign the projects as sole responsible. This polytechnic training means that if the level of demand allows you to be at the forefront of design and technique, we are doing well.
“Architecture is really important only for architects. For the rest of society, this issue would be relevant only if we train architects with the ability to recover the power to improve the life of people in their houses and cities”
5.- What’s your academic vision for the Master of Advanced Studies in Collective Housing?
In these 15 years I have looked for excellence in the international faculty and maximum motivation in the students, also from all continents. I have searched for the combination of continuity and change. Some professors have come back for a decade: Dietmar Eberle, Anne Lacaton, Andrea Deplazes… but every year we incorporate new professionals who have something important to say such as Jacob van Rijs, Anna Heringer, and Alison Brooks, among others. The scheme of the course has not changed in a substantial way since the beginning. However, new modules have appeared, such as City Sciences, or important changes in how to approach issues related to Energy, Landscape, or Economy. Academic changes are produced because society has changed in these years.
6.- What do you value the most in architecture students?
I think I have been saying in this interview: The student has to truly believe in the role of the architect, who has the same obligation to report to society as any other profession, as Jean Clair said. Also, that you can learn and you have to know that you have chosen a very complex discipline of great intellectual weight that never ends, like the Paris of Hemingway. But that characteristic or complexity can be our ally through a better and more comprehensive training.
7.- What would you like to highlight about the MAS in Collective Housing?
We have been transparent enough for 15 years. I would emphasize that the MCH has only searched for excellence by defining the program and hiring excellent teachers. I think it’s just different from other offers. The students work in emergency housing and in refugee camps, but at the same time they define collective housing for the next 50 years. In addition, they debate in fields such as economics or business with almost 100 international professors. It should also be highlighted that all the students are superior architects and the level of their projects and works at the end is extraordinary. The Young Council of the second part of the course makes it quite easy to work where and how they choose.
8.- What advice would you give to someone who has just finished her/his postgraduate studies and wants to become a competitive professional in architecture?
I already aswered it in the question N 6.
“The student has to truly believe in the role of the architect, who has the same obligation to report to society as any other profession”
9.- What do you enjoy most about being the Director of the MAS in Collective Housing?
The MCH has been my intellectual engine as an architect and as a teacher in recent years because if there were no economic or logistical justification, how would I propose practical teaching? How do we improve on what we did last year? Who can be learned from? What is changing in society that we should incorporate into our master? I have had that freedom in the last 15 years and I can’t have any excuses. It has also been relevant in my life to have met the best architects and teachers in the world, some of whom are now personal friends.
10.- Could you suggest another School of Architecture where you would like to teach? Tell us why.
I would like to teach in those listed by BAM ranking: Harvard, MIT, TUDelft. Believing a university to be the best is not a good idea, that’s not what university means and you have to be prepared to improve every day. But I have also taught at wonderful universities with a very high academic level. I remember the most recent ones like Pontificia Universidad Catolica in Peru, La Escola da Cidade in Sao Paolo, and of course the ETH of Zurich, which has the best group of professors on the international scene.
“Believing a university to be the best is not a good idea, that’s not what university means and you have to be prepared to improve every day”
The BAM Team appreciates the time Professor Lapuerta dedicated to complete our interview and we invite you to learn more about his work at the UPM Madrid by visiting the following links.