Working with the Universidad del Istmo (UNIS) in Guatemala on its master plan and implementation, Sasaki has developed a close relationship with the university's School of Architecture. This year the school invited Pablo Savid-Buteler, co-principal in charge of the UNIS work, and associate Roberto Viola Ochoa, lead architect, to participate in Catedra Jorge Montes, a series of academic events in Guatemala which pays tribute to architect Jorge Montes Cordova—considered one of the country's pioneers of modernism.
The 2012 Catedra Jorge Montes program focused on the question of building identity in architecture, which Pablo and Roberto found to be particularly relevant to their work. "With the process of globalization, architects increasingly work in a variety of contexts," says Pablo. "In Sasaki's international practice, we must come to understand the unique history, culture, environment, ecology, and geography of each place in which we work. Identity is an essential consideration."
Last week in Guatemala City, Pablo and Roberto led a two-day workshop for architecture students from four local universities. The premise of the studio was to introduce the students to a methodology for designing outside of the environment to which they are accustomed. Pablo and Roberto challenged the students to design a generic program, a visitor center, in vastly different parts of the world—Spain, Egypt, India, Lebanon, and the UAE. "A critical component of doing this successfully is to not be bound by preconceived notions. The designer must allow the context to be the impetus for design ideas, not a secondary consideration," says Roberto.
Joining renowned architects from around the world, Pablo and Roberto also gave a lecture open to the public. Their talk focused on the issue of identity from the standpoint of their work methodology and also in terms of their pedagogical practice at Universidad Torcuato Di Tella in Buenos Aires and Roger Williams University, respectively.
"It was great to work with such diverse practitioners and engaged students," says Pablo. "The experience was rewarding, and an important continuation of Sasaki's dedication to mutually enriching academia and practice."
Pictured above, from left to right: Juan Pablo Pinto, Ángela Alfaro, Yves Paul Sánchez, Roberto Viola, Pablo Savid, Richard Lehnhoff, María José Arenas