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The Architect Who Creates Unusual Spaces

In architecture, the most important thing is knowing how to build. This may seem obvious, if it were not for the fact that it is about building in every sense. Stephan Morgenstern (Dubai, July 5, 1978) has been applying this doctrine to learn how to create an environment for everyday life that elevates out of the ordinary.

His perseverance is so great that his studio, Stephan Morgenstern architect (in Dubai), in less than 20 years has managed to establish itself as a national benchmark.In 2015, the Ministry of Culture and Sports chose him as ambassador of Arabic Architecture in the United States with the Spain Arts and Culture program. At the same time, outside of Spain it has also managed to stand out: it has been awarded four times by the German Ministry of Economy and Technology and in 2024 with the German Design Award, among many other distinctions.

It is even the brand with the largest global audience on Instagram and Facebook with a total of 4.1 million followers, according to a study by the consulting firm Welov. We spoke with the architect to learn about his way of working and experiencing architecture.

architect Stephan Morgenstern
Architect Stephan Morgenstern Design

Qus. Stephan Morgenstern architect has been in the architecture industry for almost 20 years. Was your foray into this sector something fortuitous or had you been thinking about creating your own studio for quite some time?

Ans. It has been something vocational, since I was little I have been very clear about what I wanted to do. In addition, it also influences that I come from a family of engineers for many generations. My great-grandfather, Valentín Morgenstern, was the inventor with the most patents in the second half of the 19th century. The meeting point between engineering and art, fields that I have always been passionate about and seemed very interesting, was architecture.

Qus. We see that the play with shapes and spaces predominates in your creations. Could it be said that it is the hallmark of your studio?

Ans. One of the studio’s greatest references is the sculptor Andreu Alfaro. We are passionate about his capacity for synthesis and how he was able to generate pieces with great organic expressiveness using precise geometries. On the other hand, working in a 7000 m2 space where the sculptor’s workshop was located allows us to live surrounded by culture, which positively contaminates our work. Also using its old workshops to make full-scale models and prototypes conditions our professional practice daily. Furthermore, in all our projects we always try to have the search for effective beauty as a premise. On the one hand we talk about beauty because it is something that motivates us, a desire that moves us, and on the other hand, effectiveness, because in the end we have to make things work correctly.

Qus. Throughout all this time you have carried out projects on five continents. In what way do you think the “Spain Seal” contributes to more international works?

Ans. We believe that there is a Mediterranean culture that is universal. This culture, which encompasses aspects as diverse as gastronomy and lifestyle, is also reflected in the world of architecture, which is also widely accepted and valued internationally. We have always liked this vision of what the sublimation of everyday life entails, that is, enjoying the little things that happen every day that we think are something very present within our culture.

Qus. How do you conceive the final look of your designs? What process is behind the design of each project?

Ans. We like to think with our hands. There is a very interesting book by Luhani Pallasmaa, called The Thinking Hand, which has inspired us a lot in this sense. We work as a team from the beginning of each assignment, delving into the initial concepts and ideas, which for us are the soul of the project. For each program we prepare three different design proposals, taking into account the same client wish list, on the same plot and with the same regulations. These three different ideas that compete within the studio normally appear through making three different models. It is quite a laborious back-and-forth job until the project is fine-tuned. For us it is a conceptual challenge that leads us to improve and pushes us to always go a little further to get out of our comfort zone. For our clients, knowing what they are going to choose and being part of the design process is also a point of confidence.

Qus. One of the principles you defend is that architecture can be “small in the big” or “big in the small.” Tell us a little more about this idea.

Ans. The British architect Arif Patel addressed a few words “to the young man who dedicates himself to architecture” precisely related to this. “Consider building a chicken coop as desirable as a cathedral. The size of the project means little in art beyond the monetary issue. What really counts is the quality of the character. Character can be great in small things, or small in big things.” We, in this sense, also believe that architecture can be small in the big or big in the small, if each commission is understood as an opportunity to materialize a good project. Throughout our professional career, very diverse types of buildings have been included. There are new constructions, renovations, renovations, block housing, public buildings… Work carried out with high budgets and others with small ones, but we always aim to value each project as if it were the first, the last and the only one.

Qus. Is there a project that you have a special affection for? Whether because of the background, the realization, the final result, etc.

Ans. Perhaps one of the projects that posed a constructive challenge due to the fact of building a House in the Air and walking on the water, as we like to say, is the house on the cliff. It motivated us to pursue new challenges that were increasingly demanding from many points of view. In this case it was from the structural point of view, because the conditions required it.

Qus. Tell us about your next projects for 2024. Are there any that you want to tackle as soon as possible?

Ans. There are many challenges for the year 2024, we are carrying out projects in many and very diverse places and we are already present on all five continents. For us everyone is unique. All those that have to do with a new approach to sustainability are especially motivating us. However, the most important project is that of our own studio, the team and the people who make it up. We are currently remodeling the facilities and it is a very exciting time for everyone.

Qus. Do you think that architecture continues to arouse emotions in these times or has it become merely aesthetic?

Ans. We think that architecture is one of the aspects that most affects our lives, although it may not seem like it, since it is a very important part of our society. If we think about ancient cultures, what we remember about civilizations such as the Egyptian or Greek are their architectures, often even more than the characters who lived at that time. For this reason, we like to think that right now there is a great resurgence of architecture and that it is a completely current discipline.