Thought by Hand

Thought by Hand: The Architecture of Flores & Prats
Texts by Ricardo Flores, Eva Prats, Miquel Adrià, Manuel Arguijo, Toni Casares, Adrià Goula, Juan José Lahuerta, Manuel de Solà-Morales, Soraya Smithson
Arquine, March 2021 (Third Edition; first published in 2014)

Paperback | 8-1/4 x 11-3/4 inches | 448 pages | 610 illustrations | English | ISBN: 9786077784753 | $35.00


Argentinian architect Ricardo Flores (born 1965) and Spanish architect Eva Prats (born 1965) began their artistic partnership with the foundation of their studio in Barcelona in 1998. Since its conception, Flores & Prats has operated according to a design ethos that fuses craft with academia, approaching research and scholarship as a living practice that must result in the responsibility to make and to build. The studio has taken on a variety of projects with diverse functions in social housing, public spaces and university workshops. This volume compiles photography and analysis of Flores & Prats’ best-known projects, such as the Museum of the Mills, Campus Microsoft Italia, and the New Theater Sala Beckett. Also included are examinations of the studio’s experiments with portability, their use of film as a vehicle for architectural documentation and their recent menus of edible architecture created for special exhibitions in Barcelona and Copenhagen. Readers are guided through every stage of a single project’s evolution from early sketches to detailed models to final construction. In addition to reproductions of such process material, Thought by Hand includes writing by a variety of artists influenced by Flores & Prats, including the Sala Beckett theater’s director Toni Casares and renowned urban planner Manuel de Solà-Morales.

Ricardo Flores studied architecture at the Faculty of Architecture in Buenos Aires FADU-UBA, graduating in 1992 ... from 1993 to 1998, collaborated as Design Architect at Arch. Enric Miralles’ office ... in 1998 established in Barcelona the office of architecture Flores & Prats Archs, with Eva Prats, who studied architecture at the ETSAB, Barcelona School of Architecture, graduating in 1992 ... collaborated as Design Architect at Arch. Enric Miralles’ office, from 1991 to 1994 ... in 1998 established in Barcelona the office of architecture Flores & Prats Archs, with Ricardo Flores.


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For many years I've kept a list of hard-to-find, out-of-print architecture books I'd love to get my hands on. In it are obvious selections like John Hejduk: Mask of Medusa and the first edition of Learning from Las Vegas (since found for cheap!) as well as more obscure titles like Giancarlo De Carlo's Urbino: The History of a City and Plans for its Development and an Architectural Association book devoted to the Osaka Follies. One book that falls into the latter group is Through the Canvas: Architecture Inside Dutch Paintings, which documents a workshop held about fifteen years ago at universities in Sydney and Perth, Australia, led by Catalan architects Ricardo Flores and Eva Prats. I'm not sure what provoked me to add the book to the list in the first place — it was probably a mix of the idea of having students design houses literally formed from old paintings, the quality of Flores & Prats's work, and the 2008 book's scarcity — but seeing it inside Thought by Hand, the image-rich monograph on the firm now in its third edition, makes me want Through the Canvas even more.

The ten pages devoted to Through the Canvas fall near the middle of Thought by Hand, standing out from the rest of the book's content through its choice of media: images of the cover and four spreads from inside the book. Like Flores & Prats: Sala Beckett: International Drama Centre, the recently published book devoted to their transformation of an old workers' cooperative into a home for the Sala Beckett theater, much of Thought by Hand is saturated with hand drawings, models, and photographs of existing buildings, buildings under construction, and finished projects. Flipping through the book is like being immersed in a continuum, where breaks between projects are hard to grasp and the duo's particular design sense and means of working permeate every project, regardless of type or scale. Amid this beautiful melange of architectural process is Through the Canvas: a book within a book.

It's no secret that visiting architects often use design studios to explore themes related to projects they are working on in their practice. For Flores and Prats, they were invited to teach in Australia in 2004 "just as we were working on Providencia House and researching the issues of refurbishment and ruin," they write in the monograph. That house, the rehabilitation and extension of an existing worker-class house in Badalona, Barcelona, is documented across roughly 25 pages in the book, appropriately enveloping the ten pages devoted to Through the Canvas. The architects admit they used Providencia House "as a reference point" for the Australian workshops; they also proposed drawing by hand, with  sheets overlaid on the original Dutch canvases, sheets large enough to allow "simultaneous work by several hands at once, with enough space for many different observations." Clearly, Flores and Prats carried their own working process over to the students they worked with.

Both Sala Beckett and the third edition of Thought by Hand arrive when adaptive reuse and renovation are increasingly seen as integral means of addressing climate, especially when considering the embodied carbon and energy in existing buildings, plus the enormous amounts of energy needed for new construction, both in manufacturing and transportation. The question of reusing an existing building should always be considered, be it architecturally significant or not. Not all of the projects by Flores & Prats are renovations, but the duo excels at creatively intervening in historical buildings, doing it in a way that retains layers of the past but results in something unexpected and fresh. Those results are intimately connected with their process, which is removed from abstract digital environments and therefore rooted in how people experience spaces; the numerous photos of them in old buildings and at construction sites is revealing in this regard. Also revealing, again, is the Through the Canvas studio, which asked students to put themselves inside old paintings and extrapolate new houses from them. For Flores and Prats, their "canvases" are wherever their real-world projects are located.