Gramática Arquitectónica
Santiago de Compostela, ES

Founded in 2017 by María Teresa Sánchez Táboas, Gramática Arquitectónica is an architecture practice based in Santiago de Compostela, Galicia (Spain). María Teresa started with the idea of ​​dedicating herself to 3D animation, but some early work experiences pushed her to undertake an independent professional path in architecture. Today, through designing buildings, small-scale projects, or new visions of urban settlements, Maria Teresa's main objective is to contribute to her territory and give something back to her home place and its inhabitants. This way of understanding the context takes shape by defining three representative concepts of Maria Teresa’s approaches.

A process of self-awareness

There was no plan in the beginning. When I enrolled in architecture school, it was a sort of experiment for me since I saw it as a boring degree. I even thought it would have been much better to work doing 3D animation movies. In my first year, I was lucky to have a bunch of good teachers and classmates, and I enjoyed the first project we had to develop as an exercise, which consisted in doing an extension of the Eames house. Creating models and learning how to do 3D models gave me the idea of the type of architect I could be in the future. Later, during the first years of my studies, I had the chance to intern at Creus e Carrasco atelier, and everything in their practice helped me imagine how I wanted to work. At their office, I learnt their attention to detail, love for drawing and models, and knowledge about the constructive process. I remember going to the construction site and enjoying how they perfectly understood everything going on and their equal relationship with all the workers involved in the process. 


But, even with these experiences, I never thought about practising architecture independently from a young age. So I would point to Filipe Magalhães and Ana Luisa Soares from Fala atelier as guilty of this decision. I remember being in Erasmus at Faculdade de Arquitectura do Porto, and their work as students was, even then, genuinely inspiring; their energy and motivation were fearless. Having two young architects from a city close to mine who were able to start their practice right after college gave me a mirror to understand that I could also start from scratch and not wait too long before working for someone else. I was 26 years old when I got my college degree, and I went back from Madrid to Galicia. Thanks to some friends and family who helped me get my first commissions, I started working on my own that same year. In the beginning, everything was complicated. However, I remember having high doses of motivation to solve problems and learn from my mistakes, learning to stay humble and ask, observe and write down absolutely everything. My first years were stressful and sometimes lonely, but it is part of me now and somehow built my personality. I don’t know where my practice will lead me or what I will do in the future, but I enjoy the challenges of architecture and learning different things with new clients and projects.


No office space or fixed employees provide flexibility to the practice.

Right now, my practice is housed in a co-working space. I have been saving money for years to get my own space. Maybe it’ll happen soon, but I have been working all these first years, first from home and then renting in shared spaces such as co-working. I am currently based at Sar53 in Santiago de Compostela, the ground floor of a lovely townhouse with a garden where other architects and creatives also have workspaces. There is no routine in my week, which is one of the things I enjoy the most about leading my practice. Some days, I spend the time visiting a construction site, making sure everything goes forward correctly; others, I have meetings with clients or institutions; some other days, I stay at the office, drawing plans, working on renders, or more technical stuff such as justifications for regulations. As years went by, I learned that it is essential to organise time correctly so one can always leave some time of the week when you can draw or build small models and those small moments of concentration will always bring me joy solving projects, writing about them, thinking about them correctly. Moments of calm are essential to visualise and shape projects. It is difficult to do this when I have to attend calls all the time, so I usually leave these tasks for Fridays or Sundays.


Throughout the years, I have met an excellent team of people who collaborate with me since I don’t have any employees. My office rent partner is Marta, a very good architect who also does her projects, and sometimes we join forces and collaborate. Getting to the office every morning and sharing our thoughts is friendly and helps each other understand or solve problems in our commissions. I also collaborate with Lalo, a quantity surveyor who manages the building process with me. Thanks to his different fields of interest, which involve costs and human security at construction sites, he represents the perfect ally an architect can have. It is essential to find different types of people surrounding you; the more heterogeneous the team, the better, so feedback becomes exciting and challenging.


Eventually, I never worked on 3D animation movies, but I use animations a lot in my practice. It helps me comprehend the totality of the project, and it also entertains me. Most of the time, I build the 3D myself models, play with them as if they were video games and try to create dramatic micro movies with their small scripts and characters. Recently, I realised that somehow, I worked in 3D animation architecture movies, which later transformed into living ones, which made me very happy.


The local landscape influences the architectural project.

Most of the projects I have developed are in Galicia, my home region. We are a region situated in the northwest of Spain, just above Portugal. Our peri-urban landscape creates a net of small and medium cities connected by infinite roads, where smallholding plots of land accommodate houses, industry, agriculture, or commercial uses. The Galician landscape strongly determines my work. I need help designing private houses in a big city like Madrid, where most buildings are multi-family. In Galicia, access to a small plot of land is still available to most people, and tiny private single-family houses are built by small local construction companies. Galicia is also one of the Spanish regions with the highest percentage of autonomous workers, creating opportunities to work for clients that run their small companies. Some of my projects are also oriented for commercial purposes and respond to individuals' requirements to create a visual and architectural concept for their business.


Many times for my projects, I study what surrounds the plot or building that contains the space since it configures the whole new landscape of our city. We can make massive changes in how we weave our territory by making small decisions. One of my first projects, an industrial building for a wood company, helped me understand how critical industrial areas are in Galicia and how they configure, in most cases, vast regions full of concrete where no nature exists. The project ¨Vers Une Industrie Légère¨ turned into a manifesto, a new way of understanding industrial environments, a place where customers and workers could enjoy the industrial process. A green area was added to the plot to function as a little green lung: a small garden where the workers can enjoy the area. When I design a private house or a new building, It is crucial to fit a family in their dream home and build a familiar landscape. Our plans and drawings can be “weapons of mass destruction” of the habitat or reinforce it. A new building can be an isolated object in a lonely plot, or it can vibrate and generate multiple conversations with the neighbouring buildings, its nature, history and the future they all want to achieve. It may sound presumptuous, but with every small project, even interior renovations, I always try to remember that I can dream and build a better Galicia and give something back to my home place and its inhabitants.


Exaltation of nature, constructive honesty, socialisation spaces

Three topics best represent my interests: exaltation of nature, constructive honesty, and socialisation spaces. The first one, “exaltation of nature”, means that small gestures can be done in a small plot that later spread in the neighbourhood. In Galicia, large amounts of land are occupied by eucalyptus monoculture, which later works as raw material for a paper industry in my city. These vast extensions of eucalyptus often destroy the soil and weaken it since it needs large amounts of water. In the warmest days of summer, fires take place in this eucalyptus monocultures and due to the influence of sea wind and the chemical composition of the eucalyptus tree, they rapidly spread and cause massive climatological disasters, such as what happens in other regions of the world, like in North Portugal, Chile or Australia. The more information and knowledge we acquire about nature and soil, the more we can generate better human and natural living conditions. Working lately with wise land space architects and agricultural engineers has shown me how vital vegetation is as a tool and construction material. 


In most projects, especially the ones I am proud of, I always ensure I publish excellent drawings and constructive details. I need to give younger architects some knowledge when they visit my webspace or any magazine. Architecture can not just be images but also techniques, so instead of spending around one minute watching pictures of my projects, I like to think people can spend around one hour reading the ideas of the project, learning about its constructive process and challenges that made it possible. This brings me to the second representative concept I call “Constructive honesty”. It is my way of trying to get away from illusion tricks and make accessible and understandable for everyone how a building works since they are sometimes tiny or big creatures that many professionals contribute to designing their structure, installations and skin, and showing that process, documenting it, is a way of remembering, put into value and preserve knowledge for future generations.


The third and final interest, socialisation spaces, refers to the capacity of buildings, urbanism, and even interior design to divide or unite people. Even in tiny houses, as writer Eider Rodríguez says, ¨families have their constitutions¨, so there are structures and characters in the micro scenarios of biographies. It is always interesting for me to meet new clients to understand them as humans. I always try to create spaces to celebrate that family, find individual spaces to keep each one's privacy and generate common spaces for creative hobbies, reading, socialising, and talking. This micro-scale later evolves with the same objective in more prominent buildings or urbanism, to seek community and weave conversations.


How a coherent narration translates into actions

One of the recent projects I have taken part in during the previous months, which is still unpublished, is a total scale jump for me, and it keeps me learning helpful knowledge for the future. Along with landscape architect María Fandiño, we are developing the complete urbanisation of the town centre of San Salvador de Meis, a small settlement inserted in the vineyard region of Albariño wine. The existing conditions are a Romanesque church dating from the XII century a.C, surrounded by a vast esplanade of asphalt where cars drive dangerously and fast through the street, and a place where no citizen can meet any of their neighbours, and that becomes a scorching spot during the summer due to the large amount of asphalt in the area. The project has involved many institutions, such as the Archbishopric of Santiago de Compostela, the Pontevedra Heritage Institute, the town hall of Meis and the Provincial Council of Pontevedra. All these different institutions have cooperated with us to help the project respect the history of the place and the various relief sculptures of the adjoining stone walls of the church. The Provincial Council of Pontevedra has given us the instructions, thanks to a guide published by their architects, on how we should create pedestrian areas, strategies for car speed reduction using visual methods in pavement design or having trees as allies in the new road design. Here comes again what I’ve defined as the “Exaltation of nature”. Instead of maintaining the vast esplanade of asphalt, this will be removed, and two extensive areas covered in the earth will be new concatenated plazas with indigenous trees and spaces where citizens can rest and generate outdoor meals of festivities. The new town centre will be a climatic shelter regulating temperatures and air humidity by eliminating asphalt in summer. Using deciduous trees will help the surrounding houses have more light and access to sun energy in winter. Also, studying the place, we realised a fountain somehow disappeared once it reached the town centre. This water channel will now be visible and full of light so water can go to the river full of life without decreasing its properties. Getting back to what I call “Constructive honesty”, at the moment, María and I are designing the whole of the pavements and the different transitions between them, as well as new shadow spaces using canopies of vineyards, using natural materials and avoiding the use of plastics. The lighting will be provided by a local company, Setga, that fabricates streetlights using local wood, and we aim to do the most using less material and work with nature and plants as construction materials. And here comes the third concept, “Socialisation spaces”: San Salvador town centre will transform into a space of conversations between neighbours, and it will turn into a scenario where outdoor activities can be held, bikes and pedestrians will have priority over cars, and allow the town to create bonds between people.


The theoretical activity nurtures creativity and production.

When I grow older, I want to teach younger generations about architecture, so I always try to be close to academic research. This year, I was selected as part of the cohort of respondents of AFFIRMATIONS Columbia GSAPP: an eight-month series of discussions with designers, researchers, planners, preservationists, and activists to affirm and interrogate how to think and redesign the built environment at the intersection of climate, ecological, societal, bodily, and technological crises and defiance. Structured through ten conversations among speakers affiliated with a broad spectrum of geographies and organisations, the series intends to reflect pluralism, heterogeneity, and dissent. As a project convened to practice the rewording of societies and ecosystems now, AFFIRMATIONS is intended to align evidence and aspirations. It summarises and states underrepresented histories and possible futures that emerge from the cracks in the structures of power built on the interdependency of carbonisation, extractivist, colonisation, racialisation, anthropocentrism, inequality, patriarchy, and technocracy. The program has now included the participation of GSAPP faculty as well as numerous guests: T.J. Demos, Denise Ferreira da Silva, Samia Henni, Olalekan Jeyifous, Mireia Luzárraga, Fuminori Nousaku, Paulo Tavares, Mio Tsuneyama, Eyal Weizman or David Wengrow among others. 

Whenever I have a moment to rest, I also enjoy all of the books published by Bartlebooth. Bartlebooth is a publishing and research platform that examines contemporary space practice. It was founded in 2013 and developed by Antonio Giráldez López and Pablo Ibáñez Ferrera.


Finally, I also interesting find the activities of the Porto Academy, which I highly recommend, a summer school that promotes an exhaustive program with a great intensity. It is an experience that involves lectures, visits to relevant architectural sites, classes, exhibitions and the creation of publications. While living in a new city, students get to know people from very heterogeneous backgrounds, with whom one can generate productive discussions and build new friendships. No matter how old one is, it is an excellent way to keep learning and evolving our architectural visual language. I have attended the Porto and Mendrisio programs, and both were inspiring.

1.gramatica.office1photo credit Luis Díaz Díaz

2.gramatica.office2photo credit Luis Díaz Díaz

3.gramatica.office3photo credit Iván Torres Hdez

4.alhetaderemate.andresfragaphoto credit Luis Díaz Díaz

5.casamaxima.andresfragaphoto credit Andrés Fraga

6.castrodacostina.luisdiazdiazphoto credit Luis Díaz Díaz

7.covamiradoiro.andresfragaphoto credit Andrés Fraga

8.versuneindustrielegere.luisdiazdiazphoto credit Luis Díaz Díaz

9.torreazucarero.miguerozpidephoto credit Miguel Rózpide

10.gramatica.pazoirlandesimage courtesy Gramática Arquitectónica

11.gramatica.pontedosar2image courtesy Gramática Arquitectónica

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