Between SLOT and MutarQ with Arch. Jiménez-González

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After receiving a master’s in Industrial Design for Architecture at the Politecnico di Milano, Miguel Ángel Jiménez-González went back to Mexico to start his experience at SLOT architectural design studio. Not only is Miguel Ángel specialized in architecture design, but he also covers a broad spectrum of projects through his multidisciplinary design studio –mutarQ. Blending together his expertise with that of his wife, Carmen Valle, mutarQ works on lighting design, product design, landscaping and urbanism projects.

MutarQ Studio.

Can you walk us through what brought you to your current role as the Senior Designer at SLOT Studio?

With SLOT Studio I do what I really like- designing new and innovative things on different fronts. When I was in Milan, I did a master’s in Industrial Design for Architecture and then I went to work in Claudio Bellini’s studio. After that, I entered the world of industrial design, designing pots and chairs, and I realized that even the industrial designers’ companies, which we usually consider the most innovative ones, often go on the safe side. It’s understandable, but perhaps different cultures have different approaches to innovation. In Italy, innovation is important. In Italy, design is history. In Mexico, we still have a lot to do, only now we have the Design Week.

Miguel Ángel Jiménez-González at the Politecnico di Milano with his classmates.

How did you get into SLOT?

As soon as I returned from Milan, I wanted to find a job immediately. That’s when I entered SLOT Studio, almost 5 years ago. At the time, Juan Carlos Vidals and Moritz Melchert were the directors and they were working on a very big project after winning a competition for the Corona Museum. Corona began as a Mexican company before moving on to become a multinational company. Their beer is produced by the ‘Cerveceria Modelo’ brewery, in Mexico City. At that time the brand was 75 years old and we had to create a museum for Corona. We would have spent a year developing the project together. I remember that in March 2015, they told us that the project was canceled. This is a risk for big projects. For SLOT it was like being on a roller coaster. After Corona, the studio had to reinvent itself.

Is SLOT also doing retail?

We did several things for retail, such as the Volkswagen showroom. Our job is to convince the owners of a brand to create a new concept, to represent all the values of the brand, inserting every time new ideas.

“Different cultures have different approaches to innovation.”

SLOT for Mundo Corona (rendering), 2014.

What is mutarQ?

MutarQ is a multidisciplinary design studio based in Mexico City. It blends together my expertise with that of my wife –Carmen Valle– in design, lighting and architecture. My wife is lighting designer and, together with architecture design projects, we cover lighting design projects. For example, we were asked to recreate a temazcal –a traditional Mexican steam bath, which takes place in a round or dome structure made of stone or mud. Besides promoting physical well-being and healing, the temazcal is also a ritual and spiritual practice. I was there for the first time this weekend. The only way to enter is through a very small door. It’s like a cave. From this structure we have taken some ideas on the type of light it is used. Inside it’s all dark and you cannot see anything, the only source of light is the door.

Claro bookcase, MutarQ.

In mutarQ, right after we were selected to exhibit at “Salone Satellite 2018”, we applied to another exhibiton in Guadalajara, in the young designers section. Our main goal was to have a rehearsal prior to debuting abroad. In the end, we were not even selected there. In these situations, one realizes that it is impossible to remain on the same ideas and concepts. We must open ourselves to new horizons.  Maybe is something that has to do with our culture. But my feeling is that in Mexico, even decision makers tend to stick to what and who they know, getting the things done the way they have always done and, therefore, loosing the chance of getting to know beyond their given limits.

MutarQ at ‘Salone Satellite’ in Milan, 2018.

“We like to surprise the customer by creating something incredible every time.”

Is there a specific project that you are most proud of?

Two projects we did with SLOT in Careyes, Mexico. One is a very nice 20×25 meter network –The Ondalinda. We have invented parametric systems to understand how to weave this structure. Combining the skill of craftsmen on site and mastery of digital design techniques, the intervention makes a unique, synergistic statement while define the public space.

Miguel Ángel working on Careyes Canopy.

The other project is a wall-mounted piece, titled “Botero”, hanged inside the terrace area of a beach house in costa Careyes. We worked with artisans on polished copper where the immensity of the shoreline and sea are mirrored.

At the same time, we worked on the “Linear Park” project. The ideas we put together in this park are very popular. It was about renewing the areas lying adjacent to the old Mexico City –Cuernavaca railway line. The project features endemic vegetation and efficient water management, while striving to strike the proper balance between vehicle and pedestrian traffic, which is a key factor in maintaining social cohesion of neighbors.

SLOT Careyes Canopy, 2016.

What brands would you like to design for?

Muji‘s stores are beautiful. I think that brands’ stores must have the same value as the objects displayed inside them, otherwise the objects will not be valued. When we exhibited at the Salone Satellite they asked us: “Are you Mexican? Where are the colors and Frida Kahlo?” We are very simple and minimalist. In other cases, when it comes to designing facades for buildings, we have a different opposing personality.

What brands’ in-store experience do you find interesting?

A great experience was when I entered Massimo Dutti‘s store. I was with my wife and it is as if they knew I was coming. There was an armchair to wait, there were books of architecture and I asked, “Who put these things here?”

MutarQ Lunar Tableware.

People are talking about the death of physical stores. Can we have your opinion on this?

I think it will be like this for the next few years. Digital changes the way architects draw. It is no longer possible to draw as we did once. There are different technologies that, if used, add innovation to our work. However, in my opinion, the physical store and the digital one will never be the same thing. They complement each other. You cannot try the experience of going to a store while sitting on the sofa at home. For example, I personally have never bought an item of clothing online, I don’t trust online shops. In Milan there are lots of stores where the concept involves people directly. In Mexico there is no such thing. To be honest, I try not to go to stores in Mexico because they are too crowded. It’s exhausting.

Please share with us the best advice you have ever been given.

The day I graduated in architecture at the Tecnológico de Monterrey, there was a ceremony where one of my classmates, in his speech said, “always remember what kind of architects you want to become”. I had the opportunity to undertake other types of careers but in the end, I always chose the path of design and architecture. I always listened to that little voice inside of me that pushed me towards that path.

"Always remember what kind of architects you want to become"

Carmen Valle at mutarQ with some clients.

What architect do you take inspiration from?

Renzo Piano. After seeing what he did he became my myth. He does not let himself be intimidated by the diversity of the projects proposed to him. It does not have to be all the same.

Tell us about any exciting future projects.

A beautiful project we are working on is a very small private house in the middle of the woods between Mexico City and Toluca. We had the opportunity to enrich our style with details.

We at MiND really appreciated Miguel Ángel’s quick but revealing preview of his new project, as well as the opportunity to spend some time talking to him in Mexico City.

By: Elena Parise & Lisa Zanon
SLOT Casa Cañada concept rendering, 2019.