Interview-Greg Peñate

Designing by conviction


QUESTION: Why did architecture become your objective?

ANSWER: I was aware very early on in my life that putting things together was an easy, enjoyable task for me. From dismantling my first bicycle at the age of six to building ramps and greasing my skateboard wheels in my early teens. I’ve never had family ties to the subject but the idea of building was somehow ingrained in me. I remember vividly making small camps on the beach in Las Canteras (Gran Canaria) from my mother and aunt’s towels and beach stools. It felt right to create these enclosures to sit in. I would help the 'hamacas' guy to set up in the morning and clear in the evening, which provided endless possibilities of assembling labyrinth like structures resembling a giant a 'meccano' set to play in. As I grew up these ideas constantly evolved, I’d rearrange my bedroom various times a month and built tree houses in the woods of Den Haag, Holland. As a teenager I spent a lot of time skateboarding the cities where I lived and would spend endless hours looking for ledges to grind and natural ramps form by the architecture of the time. My desire to find the best spots to skate took me through all the little back streets and squares in a way made me understand materials, spaces and forms from which I still draw inspiration. Today I love the to walk around London, the metropolis I now live in, simply looking up.

Q: What are the ideas that inspire you in architecture?

A: I've never been a great reader so I've always been about observing and trying to make my own understanding of what should be.  

Today's Zeitgeist I suppose.

Q: What are projects that inspire you.

A: A lot of piers have exited me in architecture. Mies Van de Rohe, Le Corbusier, Frank LLoyd Wright. The list is long. Other work includes: Castevecchio by Carlos Scarpa; Kimbell Art Museum &  Philip Exeter Academy Library by Louis Kahn; Leca Swimming Pool and interiors by Alvaro Siza; Museum of Roman Art, Bankinter and Kursall Auditorium & by Rafeal Moneo; César Manrique in general and his role in Lanzarote's, Canary Islands development in architecture and the early Gothic Cathedral of the country I live in. The list is long and it covers a diverse spectrum of ideas and inspiration

Q: Materials you like to work with?

A: I am a firm believer in vernacular architecture, allowing a building to be grounded in its context. Materials sourced from buildings surrounding that flow through its form, and enable its function is the only way in my mind. That doesn't mean you can't play with other materials, but they must be strategically tailored into your design accordingly.

Q: A place where you wish you could live?

A: There are so many places I have visited so it's a hard one to answer. At present I'm happy in this land that I call home but I would definitely love to move closer to South West coast where the landscape is lush and the inspiration endless. (Sorry RR) Also I have an affinity to Northern Spain. The food is better over on mother land!

Q: Where would you like to see yourself creatively in 5 years.

A: I would hope to have my own little thing started up. A little studio to paint and develop small projects would be great.