LONDON - Hedwig van Impe’s architectural project La Dividida on the south coast of Spain was inspired by the avant-garde cuisine of his friend the celebrated chef, Ferran Adrià. Here he explains the origin and ideas behind this unique project.
What does ‘La Dividida’ mean?
The name was chosen to reflect the idea of “division” – the divided building. The concept is not limited to one overall identity such as home, workplace, exhibition platform, amd so on. It is a place for thinking and creating, but especially a place for art.
How did you come to meet Ferran Adrià?
I first met Ferran Adrià through a close friend, Rafael Tous, who was one of the early supporters of El Bulli. We were staying with Rafael and his way of preparing us to eat at the restaurant was to not allow us any food for the preceding 24 hours. When we finally sat down at El Bulli, we were incredibly hungry and were lucky enough to get a table in the kitchen, meaning we could watch Ferran and his team – a magical experience.
A few years later, Remei Giralt, the author of the book Together Apart, and I, chanced across Ferran when we were having a very early morning coffee in Barcelona. Remei introduced me as having “designed an architectural complex inspired by your kitchen” and Ferran was naturally surprised asking if the design was based on his kitchen. When Remei answered it was not on the physical kitchen but on Ferran’s gastronomic universe, he was intruigued and two months later he visited La Dividida and I realized that he completely connected with what he discovered there. It was fantastic how our common thoughts found each other immediately. After this remarkable meeting of minds we started a close and unique relationship.
How did Ferran Adrià’s work inspire your design for La Dividida?
Adrià’s gastronomic creations were at the centre of this project. His work provoked a strong reaction in me and I felt I needed to understand the fundamental elements of the El Bulli experience. Out of this came La Dividida. In designing the blueprint, I came up with four key pillars that became the basic theories on which the architectural complex was built:
DIVIDE AND CONQUER
This element establishes the principles of fragmentation. Adrià divides all of the ingredients of traditional recipes. In his Spanish omelet, for instance, he isolates and manipulates the eggs, potatoes and onions only to unify them again. I followed this method for the architecture, which is why I deconstructed the building into individual elements. It permitted me to redefine and enhance the functions of each space created, just as the flavours of individual ingredients are strengthened through separation.
THE ILLUSION OF REALITY
Adrià introduces a sophisticated game of perception in order to generate surprise. He manipulates our expectations for a particular dish and then delivers something completely different. When designing La Dividida I wanted to challenge the stereotypical layout of an interior environment. In the individual parts of the building I introduced elements that can function in different ways in order to relinquish any sense of expectation. If we can free our minds from the apparent safety of something recognisable, it will open them up to new, unexpected realities.
THE RICHNESS OF LIGHTNESS
This theory alludes to weightlessness as a mental state. Adrià creates dishes that capture the essence of the ingredients and then manipulates them until they reach a certain weightlessness, when finally they become almost immaterial. By doing so he reinforces the essence of the flavours, but also the features of each individual ingredient. To achieve lightness in architecture I utilised delicate materials. For the exterior cladding I used ceramics that resemble undulated cardboard, which created the feeling of supreme lightness. For me, lightness in architecture lies in the mood it generates within us and in the way it clears our minds.
THE ABSENCE OF HIERARCHY
Adrià balances humble products with precious ones in order to give them equal value. His motto is that all products have the same gastronomic value, regardless of their market price – all that counts is the final result. To achieve the same philosophy, I avoided expensive materials. My goal was to create a harmony where plants, trees and sand were used as constructive elements with the same value as stone, wood, metal and glass. In my mind, creativity does not depend on the materials used, but rather on how materials are handled – how they are adapted to their surroundings and integrated into the whole.
How do you acquire, display and incorporate work there?
The works on display are always in flux, from early Renaissance works to contemporary art. The idea is to connect the old and the new, not only through visual similarities, but in a conceptual and intellectual way. Remei and myself have been collecting for a long time and depending on the period of the artworks we find, we acquire from auction houses, directly from artists or from dealers. For each exhibition, a guest curator is appointed, who investigates and conceptualizes a given subject. They commission artists and designers to create audiovisual works based on a particular theme, and the results are then displayed through the windows of La Dividida.
What prompted you to produce this book?
The book is actually the most important thing for me – more important than the building itself. It became a place where I could express different ideas I’d had; and also gave me the opportunity to fully understand what I built. The book and the building are inextricable.
What other projects are you working on currently?
The first is MUVi, a concept museum near Ghent that will open in 2015. The second is a book that explores the relationship between patron and artist in the 21st century, and the third is an audiovisual project based on Old Master drawings.