Read on for the rundown of the discussion…..
A Bond Rooted in History
“I think that the main reason for why Spanish architecture and design is a success in this region is cultural. It is probably the country that has the most ties with the Arabs” says Juan, referring to 800-year rule of the Arabs on the Spanish coast and the staggering Islamic influence that they left in Spain.
He continues, “It’s a very direct way of thinking, a way of living and a way of designing. However, we have lost aspects of Islamic architecture in the West. It’s a great integration of arts, architecture, structure and religion. On the other side, there still exists common elements like the joyful approach to design. That’s a thing we can witness today here. Many of the companies that are part of the Spanish Pavilion this time, have a regard for innovation and a sincerity towards providing what society needs. The approach differs largely from that of Northern Europe, where Scandinavian design takes precedence. It is an approach that is gaining momentum and I hope to see more of it in the future.”
‘THE’ Spanish Spin
Diving into the nuances of the two cultures, Marta drew on the point that the Spaniards have a more outgoing and open demeanor, “Spanish people, we are warm. We try to introduce light in our houses and connect indoor and outdoor spaces by not having a clear line between the two. ACTIU furniture, for example, has amazing pieces of furniture that can be used both indoor and outdoor. Even Spanish designers promote the blurring of these lines – this is something we are bringing here, something that is inherent within Spanish people. The passion, I think, is one of the greatest assets for Spanish design. I mean, just think about gastronomy. It is how we work, like in EXPO 2020, we were bringing so many people, so many events. The same in the music, in the flamenco, in the artists, we have so many artists showing up in the world.”
Marta’s mention of outdoor spaces reminded Mohammed of a similar feature in Arab heritage, “The architectural aspect of a courtyard, which is sort of looking for the inside in home, was also something Spain adopted from the Arabs, although now they have morphed into these amazing internal patios. So in a way, it’s cyclic – it’s all coming back.”
Building upon the narrative of his co-panelist, Juan says,“The Spanish genius that tends to think and reinvent has been a game changer not only from the point of view of the gastronomy, but also has had a huge impact into product design. I’m talking about the late 90s and 00s, and how that has influenced restaurant design, and all those outdoor spaces that have to do with furniture, space and gastronomy and how that becomes a seamless design experience. This is probably key. If we want to think about the big picture of what passion might be, not just an individual effort, but as something that has a larger impact, you have to look to Spain.”
A Through-and-through Cyclic Exchange
Mohammed replies to Juan’s opinion, “It is what happened in Spain after the 70s, when it used to be a closed country. But when it opened, it just exploded. And I think something similar is happening or happened over the last 15 years here, to what happened in Spain. This explosion is what made it possible. It is the passion of the culture, but also the ability to learn from others. There’s no shame in saying, listen, I know how to do this, but I do not know how this is done and adopt it. There was a similar movement in Cairo and Beirut, where all of a sudden from an Ottoman Empire with very classical and Islamic designs, there was a transition to modernism. They adopted it, and they altered it.”
Juan adds, “This is also why we have Islamic architecture in Spain, because it had been a transfer. There has always been a readaptation, a rereading of what was happening next door. We are now in an exciting moment in Dubai, specifically because this is a place where many cultures cross and it’s a melting pot of cultural exchange.”
The Middle East, A Melting Pot of Cultural Exchange
Marta adds, “We have a diverse community, just people from all around the world. So each one of us, we are bringing in a little bit of differentiation, and that is seen in every theme – particularly, in architecture and interior design. We have plenty of eclectic places where you have this mix of this combination. In Spain, back in the day, this mix was performing very well. Even today, people visit Spain only for the architecture and the quality of that mix.”
Upon being asked what aspect could be inculcated in the Spanish culture from the Middle East, as a closing note, Marta expresses her wish to see Spanish folk taking pride in their work like the citizens of the Middle East do. “In Spain, everybody is humble to a fault even when the quality of projects in Spain and the architecture is good. It’s only when we are outside of Spain that we are proud of our products and skills. I think that we should be proud. I’m proud of what we do and how we do this. We are really good!”, she says, earning a round of applause.