Luis Vidal is a Spanish architect, and founder of firm Luis Vidal + Architects.
What attracted you to architecture?
I always thought it was fascinating as it serves society. I want to deliver quality buildings that have a positive impact on people. Our duty is to integrate a building into the neighbourhood, for it to blend with the local community and give the user the best experience possible. Whatever you do, you must focus on harmony. You need to understand the local conditions – the climate, location, society and what surrounds that project.
What draws you to airport design?
People identified a city by its cathedral 1,000 years ago. Airports are the cathedrals of the 21st century. I have been using this analogy for about 30 years.
Wherever you’re landing, the first image your retina captures is the airport. That arrival experience should tell you everything about the place. Airports are the front door and the last image of a city, and even sometimes a country. You need to make them local and convey the place.
Airports are the most complex building type, but I am naturally attracted to solving complex problems.
What inspired the design of Boston airport’s Terminal E?
Red is the most representative colour in Boston and I was always struck with the quality of light in the city and how it changes – its beautiful sunsets, parks with leaves flourishing in yellows, oranges and reds, and its historical institutions, colleges and sport which are also red.
I travelled to Swiss manufacturer Monopol Colors to design the prismatic red colour used for the terminal roof, which I patented and named Boston Red. Prismatic paint was invented for military aviation and stealth planes in the US, when they were trying to make them invisible. The paint subtly changes colour from gold to orange, red and dark burgundy, so it makes the building dynamic. It’s the first-time prismatic paint has been used on an airport facade.
Natural light is the building material I use most. It’s the cheapest material because you cannot buy it, but it’s a very difficult material as you need to use it right.
Does sustainability impact your design?
Sustainability has become a misused and overused adjective. It doesn’t respond to the world’s challenges. Buildings and cities need to be economically viable, and both socially and environmentally responsible. Everyone’s now talking about embodied carbon and net zero. In five years’ time we will talk about how much buildings can provide to the grid.
How long do projects take?
Ten years on average from competition to opening. Not many people get to do a lot of projects. We are very fortunate and have done several.
Which project are you most proud of?
This will be my next project, but I have to win it first.
What’s been your most rewarding travel experience?
Travelling outside my community and society. I used to be a professor at university and taught my students that architecture does not travel. You need to travel to see architecture. You cannot learn or experience architecture through a book or film. Meeting architecture means being in the space, understanding the volume, the light, the temperature, the people.
And most challenging?
Travelling without resources and the wealth of information that we have today. We had no credit cards or mobile phones 40 years ago. Travelling in those conditions was a challenge.
The first thing we all did when we got to a city was to find the tourism information desk and ask for a map. You don’t do that anymore. You would fall onto the first restaurant you saw, you wouldn’t check stars or ratings. It was so different.
What’s your favourite building?
My home – an ever evolving and transforming building. My wife and I continue to design it and introduce new elements.
What’s your dream destination?
Somewhere with my wife – it could be a city or a paradise island.
What’s your inflight entertainment pick?
I am the master of sleeping. As soon as the plane starts to roll, I fall asleep, and then I wake up when it lands.
What’s your indispensable travel gadget?
A very good pair of headphones.
What’s next for Luis?
The importance of the next project is that we actually serve the client, society and city. And give the user the best experience possible.