The Bartlett School of Architecture

Prof Izaskun Chinchilla Moreno

Prof Izaskun Chinchilla Moreno

Professor of Architectural Practice

The Bartlett School of Architecture

Faculty of the Built Environment

Joined UCL
27th Sep 2010

Research summary

The research of Izaskun Chinchilla is structured into four different, yet complementary parts:

Sustainability as an architectural paradigm.

For many, sustainability is forcing a ‘change of paradigm’ within the field of architecture. This implies part of Thomas Kuhn’s book ‘The Structure of Scientific Revolutions’ could be applied to architectural production. Izaskun Chinchilla doctoral thesis ‘Sustainability and Architecture: Revolution, Crisis or Orthodoxy?’ tries to help any architect to find himself in the complex process of transforming sustainability into a consolidated paradigm within theory and practice. For that purpose, the thesis uses Kuhn’s work to uncover clues of revolution –(where the sustainability has really changed architects practice)-, crisis –(where it is only pushing previous practice to failure)-, and orthodoxy  -(where sustainability is a kind of Bible all architects follow)-.

Design methodology for architects facing deep innovation.

This research area’s fundamental output is a collection of theorems fabricated by Chinchilla with a strong pedagogic and communicative vocation. The purpose of this research work is to transfer some of the knowledge derived from the design activity led both in practice and in teaching. The theorems intention is to provide general assessments useful for other designers. Chinchilla has studied and adopted the format of the mathematical theorems, especially those coming from trigonometry, in which short statements and graphic figures are mixed up. This close combination of diagrams and brief sentences allows an efficient communication with architects who sometimes feel text reading is not their natural language and facilitates further application by cross disciplinary and multicultural designers.

Aesthetical preferences vs sustainable agenda

Chinchilla defends there is a relationship between the aesthetic preferences of an architect and his/her inclination to let sustainable principles lead the design process. The visual surprise is that literally “green” images are not always the most effective ones for popularising green principles. Architects’ acceptance of the worsening of materials, of the living together of different visual cultures, of an organic perception of hygiene, of the multiple expression of different material systems, of the affection of territorial and micro scales in our living environment will be clues determining the preference for a pro-sustainable visual culture more effectively.   On the contrary, the aesthetic preference for more abstract, perfect, Apollonian and drawing-based images can be an obstacle in the assumption of sustainable agenda.

Urban design not based on growth but on intensification.

The approach to urban problems now must be adapted to address multiple global conditions. Innovation can no longer be linked exclusively with growth, but to improving an equal quality of life for people in every part of the world. We face enormous challenges today. Urban development of the future should be one that does not deplete all existing resources and does not dismiss vernacular knowledge such as solar orientation, cross ventilation or human rituals.

Chinchilla defends that meeting the challenges for the city of the future requires a different approach from the modern way. Instead of making cities grow it is necessary to increase the quality of the existing ones.

Teaching summary

Teaching Summary

The research developed in Diploma Unit 22, which Izaskun Chinchilla has been running since 2010 with Carlos Jimenez Cenamor, along with Diploma Studio GEP at the ETSAM which she run with Andrés Perea, Andrés Jaque or Jose Luis Vallejo, among others, between 2000 and 2010 aim the students to create playful, creative and cosy architectures. Innovation is focus in producing effective improvements in everyday life, empowering users and communities and enriching and protecting our contemporary environment.

The unit 22 ethos encourages the students to be both critical and sensitive with design culture and propose important changes from average academic procedures. Some of these changes follow:

-    We measure the quality of architecture by its ability to represent the interest and programs of others.

-    We have abandoned anthropocentrism rejecting human activities as more important than natural events.

-    We have accepted and included the legitimacy of different aesthetical repertoires. Tenderness, Closeness, Affection has not been part of the architects’ official aesthetics but is part of the “structure of feelings” that our projects promote.

-    We have included the ecological limits and dependence of everything we design.

-    We want the student to learn to build clues from observing, participating and experimenting. Knowledge coming from sharing the future performance of our architecture has been postulated as much more reliable than that deducted from theoretical propositions.

-    Bathrooms, stairs, kitchens and other rooms considered to be service spaces are now fundamental for ours. In the same way all architecture deserves our interest not matter how small, peripheral or academically irrelevant seem at first glance.

-    We consider any waste or small part of already used materials as candidates to create new components for our architecture.

-    We don´t avoid break, mistake or error. On the contrary, we look for creating breakable conditions that not only can be relevant academically, but can ensure reversibility or that stimulate adaptation and change.

-    We don’t promote a merely romantic attitude. Use of digital and interactive technology will be encouraged. The aims and goals for its use would not only include technical show of but a real empowering the all users’ communities.

-    We aim the students to take care of themselves -body and soul- as experimental approach to their designs.


Izaskun Chinchilla’s teaching and research activity has been carried out at UCL, Escuela Técnica Superior de Arquitectura in Madrid -(ETSAM)-, Ecole Spécial D’Architecture in Paris, Universidad San Pablo CEU in Madrid, Instituto de Empresa in Madrid, HEAD Hâute École d’Art et de Design in Geneva, Alicante University, Instituto de Arquitectura Avanzada de Cataluña in Barcelona, among others.    

Chinchilla studied at ETSAM from where she graduated in 2001. She was awarded as Best Student Record of the 2001 Graduation and her final project obtained a final mark of Magna Cum Laude. She has pursued studies leading to a PhD in Architecture at ETSAM. She is at the moment completing her doctoral thesis ‘Sustainability and Architecture: Revolution, Crisis or Orthodoxy?’, supervised by Iñaki Abalos Vázquez, (ETSAM and Graduate School of Design at Harvard) and Emilio Luque Pulgar (sociologist at UNED. Universidad Nacional de Educación a Distancia). Different outcomes of this thesis have already resulted in visiting positions at Columbia University (USA), Bruno Latour Sociology Laboratory in Ecole de Mines in Paris (France) and Princeton University (USA). Parts of the thesis have been funded by Universidad Politécnica (Spain) and Colegio de Arquitectos de Madrid (Spain).
Chinchilla is driving her own practice from 2001. The work has been extensively published and exhibited. This includes Venice Biennale in 2002, Bienal de Arquitectura Latinoamericana de Chile 2002, São Paulo Biennial 2003, traveling exhibition ‘Seeds’ visiting six Latin American countries 2004/2005, Venice Biennale 2006, traveling exhibition ‘Young Spanish Architects (JAE)’ visiting 20 international destinations 2008/2011, New Trends of Architecture Europe and Asia opened in Tokyo 2008, Biennal D’Art Leandre Cristófol in Centre d’Art La Panera in Lerida 2010, Gran Via Laboratory Telefonica Foundation in Madrid 2010, the traveling exhibition ‘A city called Spain’ visiting 7 international destinations 2011/2012, Innovación Abierta in Museo del Canal Interoceánico de Panama 2012.     
Apart from several installations, stands and small to medium rage refurbishments she is building a Media Library in Castillo de Garcimuñoz (Spain) and working in housing projects, museography projects and urban planning commissions.

Her work has been award with awarded with several prices. This includes First Prize in Europan 7 Competition in Santiago de Compostela 2003, Second Prize in Vallecas 20 Social Housing in Madrid 2003, runner-up in ‘Life. Mediterranean Veradahways’ in Madrid 2004, Third Prize in ‘Contemporary Art Centre Competition. ARCO Collection. Matadero of Madrid’ 2006, Honorable Mention in ‘Envisioning the Post-Industrial Landscape’ for Boston Society of Architects (American Institute of Architects) 2006, Second Prize in Pavilion of Spain at the Shanghai Expo 2010 2008, Runner Up in the Competition for the Revitalization of High and Low Neighborhoods of San Lúcar de Barrameda in Cadiz 2008 and Honourable Mention in ArcVision Prize 2013 among others. The jury of ArcVision Prize stated: ‘The jury really admires the courage of Izaskun Chinchilla who tries to open unconventional paths through researches and architectural education while being deeply concerned by a particular combination between social engagement, aesthetics and techniques to reinvent a new vision for ecological environment in her projects.’