6/20/13 - 6/22/13
Denver (United States of America)
9/10/13 - 9/12/13
9/11/13 - 9/15/13
9/17/13 - 9/20/13
Germán Álvarez and José Manuel Fernández
Cuarto Interior is situated in Chueca, Madrid, a cosmopolitan yet very typical area of the city, located at its centre. Cuarto Interior’s members are José Manuel Fernández and Germán Álvarez, two young architects who, in 2003, joined forces to set up this interior design studio, which today has eight employees.
Germán is its creative director, and is in charge of the initial development and conceptualisation of projects. José Manuel takes care of the technical side of the company and its business development.
Since the practice was set up nine years ago, it has gone from designing architecture in its native Madrid to furnishing large hotels from top to bottom in Doha, the capital of Qatar, spas in Saudi Arabia and a hotel in Rio de Janeiro, the latter being one of its latest jobs.
We got in touch with their studio to meet them and find out more about these enterprising, Madrid-based interior designers with their hearts set on succeeding on an international scale. (We spoke to José Manuel, as Germán was busy completing work on a delivery.)
IFS: Taking another look at your portfolio of most recent projects, we can see there’s a large number of hotel projects in Middle Eastern countries. Why is this?
José Manuel Fernández: We’re attracted to the world of hotels since these allow us, in a single project, to tackle very varied spaces: its restaurant, spa, business centre (not dissimilar to an office project) and rooms (similar to a residential project). The reason why we’ve worked in many Arab countries in the past four years is that we’ve managed to find a trading partner there and put together a team in this region. We have our own office, with one Spanish employee, in Doha. From this office, we undertake projects in Dubai, Saudi Arabia and Qatar. We’re probably going to work on projects in Morocco soon, too.
IFS: What are the main hallmarks of your work as a studio?
JMF: We like to think that what clients value about our work is the effort we put into finding out about a project’s specific requirements. For us, each project is unique and we try to adapt as much as possible to its exact needs so we can fulfill our clients’ precise requirements. Also, the main thread running through all our projects is the importance we place on sustainability and respect for the environment.
IFS: How do you apply eco criteria to your work?
JMF: We started studying and applying these issues four years ago when we were commissioned to design a renewable energy park in a village in Castilla La Mancha, a region in the centre of Spain, where there’d once been a nuclear power plant. From then on, we’ve tried to ensure all our projects are sustainable and energy-efficient. We use recycled, eco materials and even advise clients and users on environmentalist matters. One example of this is our project The Human Print Hotel, showcased at London fair Ecobuild (which showcases sustainable construction methods), where we recreated the room of an environmentally friendly hotel using recycled materials. This incorporated a rug picturing a motif of a footprint in close-up that symbolised that we humans always leave traces of ourselves in nature.
IFS: Cuarto Interior is very focused on interior design? Have you ever thought of doing product design, too?
JMF: Yes, we’ve already made one foray into product design with our Charada chair (a reinterpretation of the small chairs found in 60s nightclubs) and our spectacular lamp with a 20m-diameter created in an ad hoc fashion for a mosque in Dubai. We now plan to collaborate with a Spanish furniture manufacturer, with which we’ve already been in contact with regard to our products, so we can start creating more product design.
I myself started out working as an industrial designer for the German, high-end kitchen company Bulthaup and for Habitat, which is why I’m very attracted to the world of product design. My dream eventually is to have my own design company.
IFS: Which of your projects are you most proud of?
JMF: We’re particularly fond of our first projects, especially those which became very successful businesses. One example is the restaurant Madrilla, on one of Madrid’s main streets, the Gran Vía, which has proved a rip-roaring success from the moment it opened. We believe its interior design played no small part in this.
IFS: Finally, what are you up to now and what are your next projects?
JMF: We’re currently working on a hotel in Rio, an office in Riyadh and a hotel in Doha in a high-rise, 15-storey building. In the near future, we intend to embark on more projects in Brazil and expand into the US.