El EQUIPO CREATIVO is a design studio based in Barcelona which specialises in the interior design of gastronomic, commercial and hospitality spaces. The studio was founded by architects Oliver Franz Schmidt, Natali Canas del Pozo and Lucas Echeveste Lacy.
Their partnership began in 2010, when they designed the interiors for the iconic Tickets restaurant and adjoining 41º cocktail bar, owned by the famous Adrià brothers, Ferrán and Albert. Since then, the architects have built up an impressive portfolio of design projects in the culinary world which have been acknowledged with numerous international design awards, such as Restaurant & Bar Design Awards, The Great Indoors Awards, FX International Award, Best of the Year Award, and AIT Interior Contract Award, among others. The studio’s interior design projects have appeared in specialised magazines and websites in over twenty countries.
Their philosophy is that spaces, as well as food, tell stories, allow you to feel and create experiences. Concepts are at the heart of the design process, and the studio does in-depth research to come up with new, unique and surprising design solutions.
Delving more deeply into the studio’s origins, the architects’ understanding of design, and their projects, here is an interview with the architects themselves.
Interiors from Spain: Your studio’s origins go hand in hand with two projects you designed for one of the major innovators of 21st century gastronomy, Ferran Adrià, and his brother Albert. How did this project arise and what was involved? What did you take from it?
El EQUIPO CREATIVO: Working with them was a really wonderful challenge. We learnt a lot from it and it undeniably opened doors for us. Many aspects of the way they worked complimented our philosophy and approach to design. The importance placed on research, reformulation and reinvention allowed us to collaborate effectively and produce some great designs. El Equipo Creativo’s first project was with them, and perhaps their philosophy had a certain influence on the way we started out.
Interiors from Spain: How would you define your design? Which stories, values and feelings do you want to share and pass on in your work?
El EQUIPO CREATIVO: Our designs are normally very distinct from each other because we try not to follow trends, so we look for strong spatial concepts that closely reflect our clients’ ideas regarding gastronomy or hospitality. It’s important for us that the spaces we design are enjoyed to the full and contribute to the creation of unique experiences. Naturally, we always use our client’s ideas as a starting point, whether it be for a hotel, a restaurant or a bar, but normally we try to surprise them by creating particular settings, atmospheres and spaces that are original and above all memorable.
The culinary concept itself might be the pretext which takes them on a journey to an exotic country or to a special place, and we do this via materials, colours and patterns. The design of the Blue Wave cocktail bar for example, located at the water’s edge in a unique and romantic place in the Port of Barcelona, uses the idea of a wave to envelop the space and create a harmonious feel of the sea by using myriad reflections and subtleties. In contrast, the design of Ferran and Albert Adrià’s Peruvian-Japanese restaurant Pakta mirrors these two different cultures and fuses the explosion of colour typical of Peruvian textiles with the austere lines of Japanese eateries.
Interiors from Spain: Your interior design projects are very focused on the restaurant and hospitality industry. Why did you choose to this specialise in this area?
El EQUIPO CREATIVO: To be honest, it was never really a conscious choice. The three of us are architects and we see interior design as another facet of architecture. We also love restaurants and bars... I suppose it came about instinctively.
Interiors from Spain: How do you view your relationship with your clients?
El EQUIPO CREATIVO: This is a key part of what makes a project successful. We are a team which really listens to each client and tries to understand their business perspective to offer unique and personalised ideas. Those initial project conversations are essential. In short, our job is to translate their culinary and commercial concepts into ‘spaces’ or ‘designs’.
Interiors from Spain: What sets you apart from other interior design studios?
El EQUIPO CREATIVO: I think that our clients tend to reach out to us because they are looking for something ‘special’, something that makes them stand out from others in the market.
When we work with this type of client, we design a ‘tailored solution’ to complement the concept behind their restaurant or hotel, their clientele, the location and the environment they are in. These elements really help us to develop an idea to guide us through the project; if we have a strong concept and achieve what we set out to do, we know the project will be a success. We believe that in order to design a space with soul which offers an original experience and awakens all of our senses, it must have a strong initial concept.
Interiors from Spain: When manufacturing the products you design for your projects, do you work with artisans? What is your relationship with them like? How do they enhance your creations?
El EQUIPO CREATIVO: Many of the pieces we use in our projects are designed in our studio and produced by local artisan workshops that we have worked with for years. This allows us to create unique pieces for each project, such as the floor tiles in the Tunateca Balfegó restaurant that resemble tuna skin, or the looms in the Pakta restaurant.
Interiors from Spain: Designs produced by Spanish companies also feature in your projects. What do you think about the furniture, lighting and tiles that are made in Spain?
El EQUIPO CREATIVO: We are definitely inspired by the creativity and quality of Spanish companies in this sector and always try to use Spanish products in our projects wherever possible. Sourcing products in this way also minimises our transport costs and makes our designs more sustainable.
Interiors from Spain: The studio has received many international awards, including the ‘Best Europe Bar’ in 2016 for the Blue Wave bar in Barcelona and the ‘Best Hotel Design’ in 2018 for the Axel Hotel in Madrid. What is the secret of your success? What does this acknowledgement mean for the studio?
El EQUIPO CREATIVO: It is always an honour to receive international design awards as they are a testament to the quality and originality of our work and I think they have helped our clients to place greater confidence in us. Of course, these awards are a recognition of our shared accomplishments, and made possible by everyone who collaborated on the projects. Furthermore, we believe they underline how much attention Spanish design is receiving on the international stage, and this helps us to export our work to other countries around the world.
We are also extremely proud that some of our projects have been recognised for their excellent gastronomy, a sector that is enjoying great success at the moment in Spain. For example, this year, two of the restaurants we designed in Barcelona featured in the top twenty of The World’s 50 Best Restaurants list, Disfrutar in 9th place and Tickets in 20th.
Interiors from Spain: Did you take part in the seminar that ICEX organised in Düsseldorf in July this year? What was your experience with ICEX like? Did the event in Germany bring about any projects there?
El EQUIPO CREATIVO: It was a pleasure to take part in the event which was truly successful thanks to the help given and the way it was organised. It is too soon to speak about results but we are looking forward to working in Germany, especially given that one of EL EQUIPO CREATIVO’s partners is German. We highly commend the work ICEX is doing to promote Spanish design around the world.
Interiors from Spain: What projects are you currently working on? Are you working on any outside of Spain? In which countries?
El EQUIPO CREATIVO: To be honest, EL EQUIPO CREATIVO has worked on lots of international projects in 2018 and 2019. We started by opening the Andina restaurant in London’s Notting Hill area for the successful British-Peruvian chef Martin Morales, which in fact has been chosen as a finalist in this year’s Restaurant and Bar Design Awards. Morocco is also a country that is particularly interested in our work. We have already opened a restaurant in the capital city Rabat, and we are designing a ‘food court’, one of our most popular culinary concept requests in recent years.
2019 also started on a special note with the opening of a large music venue in Holland which we have just photographed and will be able to show you very soon. As well as working in Europe, we have also taken a leap into Asia, where we are in the process of designing a large gastronomic space in South Korea.