Beatriz Ramo
architect and director STAR strategies + architecture

by Christa van Vlodrop

1. Background

I was born in Zaragoza, in the North of Spain. I moved to Valencia to study architecture at the university and in 2002 I moved to the Netherlands ‘temporarily’; that’s what I thought then, but I never went back. I lived for some months in Eindhoven and Amsterdam and several years in Rotterdam where I opened my office of architecture. When I was a child I never thought about becoming an architect. Yes, I played with construction blocks too and made drawings of houses, but just as every other kid did.

2. Why are you fascinated with
architecture / urban development?

The fascination appeared in the third year of the architecture school when I learnt about Adolf Loos. I remember I bought a book of his works right after that lesson. Some weeks later I started looking at Le Corbusier and that summer I visited as many of his buildings as I could. Still I find them captivating. As a student I found architecture fascinating because of its ability to create spaces. Afterwards, I realized that being an architect is much more about developing a specific way of thinking and looking at things. It is about orchestrating space, strategy, money, time, wishes, limitations, possibilities…I lately found myself often organizing the house or cooking in a very ‘architectonic’ way…

3. Best city

Subjectively: Rotterdam, where I have lived for eight years. Its enormous number of urban and architectural errors keeps my mind busy and continuously challenged. Apart from this, I feel fortunate to be part of a city which is unfinished. Objectively: New York.

4. Most beautiful building

Hagia Sophia in Istanbul. Impossible to describe in words. Kunsthal in Rotterdam, one of the few buildings which the more I see it, the more I like it.

5. Most beautiful park or square

Place Georges Pompidou, although it is not a beautiful square - it does not even have benches - it works so incredibly well with the building… There is almost no design to it. And my favorite from Google Earth: Central Park in Manhattan.

6. Best public facility / urban infill

Jardines del Turia in Valencia. A 10 km-long park on the former site of the Turia River. The river flooded the city dramatically in 1957. Afterwards the Turia was rerouted to the south and its former site, after considering the construction of a big highway, was finally transformed into a huge park. It is an example of a successful project regardless of a specific design. The idea of a longitudinal park was the real achievement. Imagine a park running through the entire city at 8 meters below city level. I got used to it, but it was quite special to see only the tree tops popping up.

7. Best 20th and 21st century innovations

20th: Telephone, airplane first and low-cost airlines after and Internet.
21st: I don’t know yet.

8. Next groundbreaking innovation

Nothing really groundbreaking in architecture or urban planning. Most of the improvements in these fields could be achieved already. If they don’t take place yet it is because of a lack of interest or convenience. I do hope the next groundbreaking innovations happen in medical research.

9. About the future of cities

Cities are not going to change as radically as we keep on hearing. The biggest changes have happened already. The fatalistic scenarios so present in the current discourses are not underpinned with a constructive base. I find it much more interesting and useful to talk about the present situation of cities. That’s how we can play a constructive role and act usefully. But obviously this requires much more commitment and understanding, because it is real and can be judged. The rest are just predictions and speculations. Just remember how the ‘future’ (the year 2000) was envisaged in the 70s.

10. Personal contribution to urban development

Through several studies and essays such as The Re-creation of the European City I analyzed the cities as an indivisible core of hardware and software, and looked also at neglected players that inevitably are part of the current software of the city: low-cost airlines, iconic buildings, events, etcetera… With critical essays such as O’Mighty Green I hope to contribute a bit to taking sustainability seriously beyond conventionalism, platitudes and greenery all over. It has been distributed widely and surely it has started a debate. I also keep an active collaboration with MONU Magazine on Urbanism where relevant issues for the city are presented in each issue of the magazine.

11. Guerrilla in the city?

Referring to the current examples of ‘urban activism’: A very pompous and fashionable name for something that is becoming quite the opposite: institutionalized, unspontaneous, commissioned and unimaginative. It is used frivolously and it is close to becoming another form of demagogy. The worst? The self-proclaimed one, normally very opportunistic does not go beyond branding.