Architecture: Responding to society’s needs

With the belief that “good architecture evolved through humble, team-based efforts,” the founders and principal architects of STL, Luis Collado and Jose Luis de la Fuente, have a unique approach to architecture. Founded in 1996, architectural firm STL was established on the belief that creativity and design are instrumental in addressing the challenges and needs of their clients.

lifestyle_detail_media_filename_13_architectureLuis Collado, who earned a master’s degree from Harvard in urban planning and architecture, treats architecture as a discipline, not just a business. “We think of our work as something that defines us as professionals, people, and as a team. It becomes a footprint of the relationship we build with our clients,” says Collado.

Their vision and unique qualities have opened up numerous opportunities to develop new ideas that focus on the practicality of a building and not just its aesthetics.

This is exemplified in the way they think of schools. Although they have worked on over 50 different school buildings, Collado and de la Fuente, question the premise, “What is a school?” Their conclusions describe schools as early foundations of society. “This is a big responsibility,” says Collado, but as architects, they are able to change the way schools are designed, while taking into consideration the various ways children learn.

Their current project immerses a school into the neighborhood; elements such as a library, cafeteria and gym, would be strategically located within the neighborhood for the public to use after hours. In this plan, the administrative offices are the only hub location.

“If you put the gym and cafeteria in the neighborhood, now the neighborhood becomes the school,” Collado said. “This resulted in a colorful approach to represent not only the identity of the school, but the entire community.”

In the United Neighborhood Organization (UNO) charter school project, STL architects were asked to participate due to “… [their] bold vision for the Latino community.” Instead of following the traditional school model, they designed a building that “…embraces the challenge of modernity with heroic determination.”

In yet another project, the STL architects designed The Indore School, a private high school in India, with the concept of both social learning and eco-learning while breaking away from the traditional design of a closed environment.

According to STL, “Learning is no longer contained to a single physical space, but expands to include social-learning that occurs beyond the walls of the classroom…”

The school’s design facilitates a unique way of teaching and learning by including outdoor learning pods for special classes. Both de la Fuente and Collado tend to look for different and more practical ways of contributing to the educational realm.

“We’ve developed school buildings that don’t follow the typical pattern of a school building.”

“This makes us different than other architects,” adds Collado. “What we’re doing is trying to make things better and it is our responsibility as architects and urban planners.”

The critical thinking that Collado and de la Fuente implement into their practice has allowed them to take a deeper stance on the meaning of their work– a societal responsibility.

“We try to understand what’s going on to try and give an architectural response to society’s needs,” says de la Fuente. “We’re contributing the way we know how; through architecture.”


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