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Interview with Nelson Montas Laracuente by MSACT

Oct 08, 2021

Nelson Montas Laracuente, Ph.D.

Nelson Montas Laracuente holds a degree in Architecture from the Pedro Henríquez Ureña National University (2006) in Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic, a Master of Science in Biodigital Architecture (2009) and a Ph.D. in Genetic Architecture (2016) from the International University of Catalonia, specializing in simulation, biomimicry and programmable matter. He was also a visiting researcher at the MAP-MAACC, CNRS-MCC UMR laboratory at the École Nationale Supérieure d’Architecture Paris-La-Villette (2015). Moveover, he has been a designer and consultant for e-architects (2017-18, NY, USA), INSITU Architecture (2019-2020, Paris, France) and Eca2 (2019, Paris-Hong Kong). Furthermore, he was a professor of Project Presentation, Linear Perspective & Technical Drawing at the Pontificia Universidad Católica Madre y Maestra (2012-2014; 2018) where he also held an associate researcher position in the state-funded project titled “Environmental analysis, simulation and digital fabrication of finishing products and construction systems in non-structural facades’’ (2018-2019). Currently, he is pursuing a software development degree at the Université de Versailles Saint-Quentin-en-Yvelines, in France.

MS ACT: Where did you originally study architecture and what is significant about your city of origin in terms of architecture?

Nelson Montas: I first studied architecture in Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic (DR), at the School Of Architecture & Urbanism, Faculty of Architecture & Arts, Universidad Nacional Pedro Henríquez Ureña and graduated there with a five-year degree. The DR has a wide variety of influences in terms of styles and has produced a variety of sub-styles as a consequence (i.e. a local style called “Neocolonial” populates most of the neighborhood of Gazcue in Santo Domingo); most notably the spanish colonial and the international style, modern architecture. Needless to say that those, and other influences from all over the globe, had long lasting and defining influences on our architecture schools -and, by extension, my education. The primary figure, when it comes to defining the national architectural identity, is Guillermo González, a Yale University-trained architect that redefined modern architecture to fit the Caribbean tropics; producing veritable jewels that still make part of Santo Domingo’s cityscape.

MS ACT: What is architecture and what do you like about it?

Nelson Montas: There are a lot of definitions out there but my favorite one is this one: “architecture is the organizing principle of possible worlds” (which I loosely borrow from Prof. Karl Chu) because it makes it a world-making endeavor. The word itself originally means “master” or “ideal” builder (from Greek “arkhi-tekton”) and I also like that it is a principle that shows up in a variety of “disciplines”, from illustration to computer code to natural systems.

MS ACT: What do you think is the future of Architecture?

Nelson Montas: I see architecture becoming, in some sense, a sort of “living” species; through the application of living materials and synthetic biology, the already bogus technologies of machine learning and, more broadly, software + hardware programming to the science of world-making.

MS ACT: How is AI changing architecture?

Nelson Montas: It is changing architecture in the same way it is changing the whole world: by disrupting its status quo and ameliorating its prediction power. Modeling using machine learning has become, in a way, paramount to dealing with the increasingly complex nature of buildings, cities, regions, countries and continents; only the whole world remains at large, for now…

MS ACT: How is robotics changing architecture?

Nelson Montas: Robotics is another discipline that has already changed the world of cars, printed circuit boards and so forth. However what is particularly interesting about what it is doing to architecture is that it is changing the way the discipline has worked, more or less, for literally thousands of years (i.e. hand work is being replaced by robot work, therefore its fabrication error margins and available tolerances are becoming as low as, say, satellite and aircraft manufacturing); the socio-economic and political implications of which we are not able to clearly foresee.

MS ACT: Many thanks Nelson for all your great work and for sharing your interests with us!