Lucas Fox interviews Christian Sintes

LUV is one of the most progressive architecture studios in Spain, having completed a range of outstanding projects.


Based in Barcelona, LUV is comprised of more than 20 specialists including architects, interior designers, landscapers, lighting designers, 3D graphic artists, investment analysts and project managers. They offer individual expertise and a one-stop service covering a range of projects. They have worked in some of the most exclusive locations throughout Europe, Africa, the Caribbean and the Middle East, across the residential, hospitality, retail, commercial and public sectors. CEO Christian Sintes has been internationally awarded as one of the best “Architects under 40” at 3 “Europan” European Awards.

LF: What is the ethos of the company?


CS:
 From the very beginning, LUV’s philosophy has been based on a quest for excellence. We provide absolute customer satisfaction. LUV believes that every person is unique and therefore creates unique environments to enhance each individual’s preferences and desires. Our philosophy of work is very atypical as it involves a holistic approach. We cannot concentrate on just one part of the project if we want our designs to truly enhance people’s lives. The know-how and devotion for fine materials, the subtle nuances, the timelessness of our designs and the premeditated balance of technology and craftsmanship are our keys to success.

LF: How do you think LUV projects differ from other architectural and interior design companies?


CS:
 We create spaces that mirror their owners and their lifestyle. The client is at the centre of the project. The project is about shaping who the client is.
We are focused on impeccable levels of service, attention to detail and the quality demanded by High Net Worth clients, irrespective of project size and location.
We bring to the market a clear concept of different exclusiveness and luxury, where detail, preciseness and beauty are the added values.
We conceive, design and manage very special projects, understood as unique gems, spaces where people want to live.
We provide an extremely personalised and holistic service, which can encompass a full design scope (architecture, ambiance-styling and interior design, engineering, landscaping and management services).
Our experience extends worldwide to some of the most exclusive locations across Europe, Africa, the Caribbean and the Middle East, working across residential and hotel projects, which involve reaching singularity.

LF: When a client approaches you to work on a project from scratch, what are the key steps involved?


CS:
 The first stage of any project involves a meeting with our clients to understand how they see themselves living or using the new spaces, which dreams they wish would come true, and also to guide them towards the best way to meet their expectations. Our usual advice is ‘let us surprise you’, aiming always at exceeding expectations. We will gather key information about the project and will work with the client to allocate responsibility for finding information and may engage with other professionals and the council to gain a full understanding of the requirements for the design.

We will then progress to concept design development where the project and ‘leit motif’ (general concept) will come to life as we consider the project’s scope, budget and any special requirements. During concept design we will offer a range of solutions, and concepts will be developed through a series of drawings, floor plans and 3D CGIs (Computer Generated Images). For the best understanding of the project we will always develop the project in 2D and 3D so the client will always be able to fully understand the proposed spaces and concepts and interactively walk through the project.

Once the client is fully satisfied with the concept project we will then advance the design to the level of detail that allows a construction contractor to assess the full scope of the project prior to tender. This detail design stage will include all the necessary documents to obtain the construction licence and to tender.

We will guide the client in selecting the best construction team and control the 3 main key elements that will drive to success: Time, Quality and Budget.

The ‘close out’ and ‘handover’ will be the last step of the works. We will ensure the spaces are delivered clean, perfectly revised and quality checked, and perform the easiest handover process so that the client has a full understanding on how the spaces and systems work and which is the best maintenance plan. We will also help liaising with any other issues such as the logistics for moving in.

LF: What are the main challenges involved in executing a project from start to finish?


CS:
 Our main challenge is to interpret and translate our clients’ lifestyles into a close and personal project while we establish the ‘magical nuances’ and ‘leit motif’ that make their project different from all others.

It is also challenging to keep up with the latest trends in architecture and interior design, observing from a certain distance, so as to obtain a truly unique and timeless result. Every single project is treated as the most special one in the world, so they are all very challenging!

LF: What is the project you have been most proud of and why?


CS:
 It’s a very difficult question, as our projects are all like little gems where we put all our effort and heart into. If I had to choose a recent project, I would say the London Tapestry Apartment. The project’s goal was to transform an old warehouse into a singular and exclusive space that could double as a home and a showroom for a jewellery maker in London. The project intended to respect and maintain the integrity and the industrial past that defined the character of this former warehouse, originally built for the East India Company, more than 200 years ago. The London Tapestry Apartment has been published internationally and was very recently named by Elle Decor UK during London Design Week as the ‘New London Look’.

LF: How does the design of a home vary in the different locations you work in? What needs to be taken into account?


CS:
 Nowadays design is very globalised. We have access and are aware of the construction systems, climatic data, design trends in architecture, interior design and landscape, from any location in the world, so we can fully achieve a development located either in China, London or Barcelona independently. Location and project size are not a constraint for us. As an example, we have very recently concluded the design of a complex located in the Caribbean island of Saint Kitts, and a private villa in Cameroon.

LF: What would you say are the pitfalls that some people make without using expertise when designing a home?


CS:
 Many people think that appointing an architect or an interior designer is going to be useless, expensive and/or over complicated. Actually having a designer or architect on board will help liaising with the locals, finding the best professionals to undertake the works, analysing potential risks, managing any required construction permits and guaranteeing that their expectations are met with fierce control over the expected quality, time and budget.

LF: How would you describe your designs? Do you think they have a ‘signature style’?


CS:
 Our main goal is always to mirror who the client is rather than imposing our own style, and therefore we try to focus mainly on the clients taste and help him to envisage the best of the outcomes, luckily for us our clients have a great taste! They tend to love contemporary yet timeless and clean designs, and appreciate the attention to detail and use of genuine and singular materials. While there is still a consistent LUV style embodied in the detailing of all our projects, clients’ input enables the projects to become their own.

LF: Who has been a real inspiration behind the work you do and who currently do you admire in the field of architecture?


CS:
 There are an incredible amount of great designers worldwide who we admire, buy we try not to follow trends nor focus too much on what other designers do to keep our own designs as fresh and different from the rest as possible. However, we like all the work Patricia Urquiola is doing in the field of the furniture design and interiors, her works tend to be disruptive and create big steps forward in the design industry. We highly appreciate the attention to detail and classic-modern approach of Joseph Dirand’s interiors. We follow all the architectural works of David Chipperfield and Herzog & De Meuron, who help to define a new future creating incredible singular buildings and equipments. We follow younger teams such as Studio KO, Norm Archictects, Vincent van Duysen and Annabelle Kutucu in the field of residential designs, they are very fresh and in some way rough and genuine.

LF: Can you elaborate on how your studio works and how the team comes together on a project?


CS:
 In the last 15 years we’ve tested in many ways how best to organise teams to grant the maximum attention to each different client and to find the right balance between investment control, creativity and time management.

We assign a talented and experienced project director to each project depending on the project typology, either if its a complete building renovation, an hotel development, an interior design for a private villa or a new coming restaurant, the project director is always an expert in the field; the project director will then organise a team to surround him and develop each part of the project, to include always experts in each specialty. I.e lighting designers, services engineers, 3D artists, fabric experts etc and therefore we can grant the best outcome through the combination of the skills of different experts.

As the CEO of the company, I personally ensure that each project is developed with the highest quality and make sure that we’re taking into consideration all our clients needs and requests.

LF: As you work in some many different locations in the world, how do you manage to keep across what is going on and have an influence on the detail of every project?


CS:
 Collaboration with local teams is they key to succeed in the international market. It becomes rather easy for us to work globally, we just need to have the input of a local technician to advise on the building regulation and who can take over the licensing and construction works, these are crucial facts that depend on every city and every country.

LF: What do you believe will be the stand-out architectural trends during the rest of 2018 and beyond?


CS:
 It’s very difficult to foresee what will the trends be, but certainly the combination between authentic and rather a raw approach to design combined with sophisticated materials is spreading really fast around different types of projects. I think people have become tired of heavy designs and rather prefer things that are ‘real’.

LF: How big a role will technology and automation have in homes in the future? Can you give some examples?


CS:
 Technology is advancing at such a speed that sometimes its difficult to understand how complex or useful the technological disruption will affect to our daily lives. We are currently introducing ‘domotica’ (smart) systems almost as a standard in all our projects.  The key point is that rather than just sending electricity around the house, you add data to the cabling. Sending data currently allows to control the ambiance of the house through lighting, temperature and privacy systems, you can also control security, supply escapes and many other features. Technology for us is like electricity, its something you cannot see, but it helps you live better.

However, I don’t think people will love to live surrounded by complex IOT (internet of things) systems. Our clients prefer having simple but effective systems in place, and to remain user friendly, secure and private. Technology developers should recognise what customers really value.

LF: What kind of materials and finishes do you think we are going to be seeing more of?


CS:
 We are now in a stage were people are seeking for differentiation and singularity, everyone wants to have something ‘different’ that makes their project unique; therefore the market is immersed in an incredible amount of subtleties and nuances, textures, tones and finishes that open the palette of opportunities for the designers.

The classic palette for any architect-interior designer will still be wood, concrete, glass, steel, stone, marble and ceramics, but within these, there are and will continue to be thousands of new combinations and finishes.
LF: When you design different rooms do you have to think that they may sometimes have a more flexible purpose?


CS: 
Of course! We need to take into account time and evolution in the ‘design ingredients’. We need to envisage how spaces will be used in the short term, and envisage other potential uses in the future.

LF: How much do you think the space we live influences our lifestyle and vice-versa?


CS: 
One of my favourite sentences is that ‘if where we life is a reflection of who we are, we can truly enhance peoples lives’. Architecture and space have a huge impact on how we live, on how we feel – shaping who we are through the design of the space that surrounds us is one of our key obsessions. The control of natural and artificial light, the use of scale to differentiate main and secondary spaces, to enhance the relation between interior and exterior spaces, to control the tactile feelings, the sound, the atmosphere, the different levels of privacy, being able to use the spaces in a ‘user friendly’ way, to select the right furnitures etc are incredibly strong tools to change who we are and how we feel.

LF: Do you see ‘starchitecture’ having a key role in cities in the future?


CS:
 Every single object that surrounds us has been designed by someone. Cities, cars, clothes, homes… And as in any industry, the design business is taking an important role on how people live. It becomes obvious that the designers (not only architects) are pushing the society forward, it’s part of human nature to evolve and recognise any little opportunity to make things smarter, faster, better. I believe architects will have an impact on future cities, but not necessarily the most fancy or trendy architects. Architecture is like any other design industry, where trends and marketing have an important role on our perception of professionals, and therefore being a ‘starchitect’ does not specifically imply changes will be done.

LF: You are currently working on several projects in the balearic islands, specially between Menorca and Ibiza. What are the main characteristics of your project in the mediterranean?


CS:
 We are frequently asked what are the main characteristics and beliefs for our Mediterranean projects. We like to base our Mediterranean projects on:

  1. The use of white
  2. The use of local materials
  3. A sustainable approach
  4. The design of the shadows
  5. The integration of landscape

1. White is probably the most used colour in Mediterranean architecture, this is not a random fact, as white is the colour that helps protect us from sun radiation. It’s clean, it’s fresh, it’s pure and it contrasts with its surrounding green and blue landscape.

2. Menorca for example is characterised by the construction of seamless dry stone walls and the use of local stone ‘Mares’. Both bring in character and connect with the history of local construction.

3. Designing in a changing environment between an aggressive hot summer and a humid and cold winter requires designing with a passive sustainable approach. This is done through the use of overhangs, setbacks, protected windows, using landscape, integrating natural light, inner courtyards and the right selection of insulation materials, and therefore avoiding the excess use of energy-consuming systems such as air conditioning.

4. Shadows play a key role in Mediterranean architecture, protecting from sun and creating beautiful contrasts. We believe shadows can be controlled and designed in a way that they don´t only play a functional role but set the character of each project.

5. We believe landscape and architecture should be designed in a way that one cannot exist without the other, Architecture should be integrated not imposed, landscape should serve to bring calm, to frame views, to provoke, to add texture, for sun protection and to enhance our 5 senses.

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