|Architecture, Houses, Interviews|
“The most important design elements are the ones that survive – the ones that have been distilled to their essence that can’t be easily eliminated, those that apply logic and practicality to such a degree that they surpass pragmatism to become art.”
I can barely contain my enthusiasm for the work of Teresa Rosano – the co-owner and principal architect of Ibarra Rosano Design Architects. The modern desert architecture of Ibarra Rosano has received over fifty design awards and was honored with Residential Architect’s “Rising Star” US Leadership Award. Teresa believes the goal of design is to create a structure that lasts, not just by the quality of its construction, but also by the timeless beauty of its design. She has been teaching at the University of Ariizona, loves to dance and is about to test for her 3rd degree black belt in Kenpo Karate.
What was the moment when you knew you would be an architect?
My father is convinced it was the first time he showed me a set of blueprints in elementary school (he was a pipefitter and pneumatic control contractor). I decided consciously by early high school. It probably came from my parents’ influence—my mother is an art teacher and ceramist, and my father is a mosaic artist and metal sculptor and worked in the construction industry. As a young child I watched my father build our house out of adobe bricks made from the earth from the site. I too learned to make adobe playhouses for my toys.
Is there something that connects all your projects?
We search for what seems like the inevitable solution, a piece of a larger puzzle that in the end could fit no other way. For us architecture is more about space than object. The magic is in the manipulation of the human experience, not the form. Of course it’s objects that define spatial qualities but the form is a means to an end. We look at space the way sculptor sees a block of stone. But it’s not about art or self-expression but about expressing the problem.
Looking back at your first project what design knowledge do you wish you had back then?
Having had better knowledge of construction cost would have reduced our stress considerably. But that’s something that you learn with experience, and even then, it’s in constant flux. But early in our careers we personally built a few of our own projects and that gave us great perspective on what is possible and what is difficult.
What have been the rewards of practicing architecture?
When a client calls to say, “Thank you.” “I’m sitting in the space you made and it works even better than I thought it would.” That’s very gratifying. The other is that something about our work has made people like you, from places around the world, contact us and want to know more about it and us. We’ve been very fortunate to have been invited to lecture at amazing places we might not have otherwise gone. For example, last year we lectured in Quito, Ecuador at a conference with Brian Mackay-Lyons, Marlon Blackwell, and Steve Badanes of Jersey Devil, to name a few.
How do you think the role of the architect will change over the next years?
Many decisions have already been made before the architect starts designing on a particular lot. As Dan Malouff suggests: ”LEED architecture without good urban design is like cutting down the rainforest using hybrid-powered bulldozers.”
But I think architects are becoming much more involved in the making and re-making of our cities. I hope this trend continues. The future really depends on design thinking to bring together diverse expert knowledge.
What do you love to do when you are not designing?
Martial arts – I’m about to test for my 3rd degree black belt in Kenpo Karate; Soccer – Luis and I play together on a coed team; Dancing – anywhere (nightclub, Zumba, living room…)
Who are your favorite artists?
Not including immediate family…classic: Kandinsky; contemporary: I love Mayme Kratz’s (Phoenix, AZ) work with resin and natural materials.
Your favorite books?
Lately I’ve taken to reading historical fiction in which architecture is one of the main characters - The Pillars of the Earth by Ken Follett, The Glass Room by Simon Mawer, Loving Frank by Nancy Horan. Also, Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance by Robert Pirsig, Mastery by George Leonard. And my nieces and nephew are my secret excuse for re-reading my favorite children’s books: The Big Orange Splot, Andrew Henry’s Meadow, and anything by Leo Lionni.
What does success mean to you?
Doing what you enjoy and making a living at it; leaving something behind that others can experience and enjoy, and helping enable others to do the same.
What’s your advice to the architecture students?
Now that I’ve been teaching at the University of Arizona, for students: that they realize that can and should take more advantage of their professors’ willingness to share their experience and knowledge outside of class. One of the best decisions Luis and I made was to buy a house early out of school and start remodeling it – it served as a great “finishing school”, and gave us more confidence in our detailing and in speaking with contractors.
My signature question – what are the most important design elements?
Designs that resolve diverse problems at many levels. Designs that express the why of what they are.
These are the ones that survive – the ones that have been distilled to their essence that can’t be easily eliminated, those that apply logic and practicality, to such a degree that they surpass pragmatism to become art.
photos: Bill Timmerman