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Joan Maria Freixes, Director General de Picharchitects

Picharchitects is an international architecture studio based in Barcelona. With more than 30 years of experience, one of its hallmarks is the application of sustainable criteria in buildings throughout their life cycle, seeking materials and solutions with a low environmental impact. The wellness space Oum Wellness, in Monterrey, presented at a previous edition of Piscina & Wellness Barcelona and recently inaugurated, is an example of this. Its general manager, Joan Maria Freixes, will once again take part in the Latin America, Caribbean, Europe and Middle East Business Meeting hosted by the Fira de Barcelona show to exchange experiences and explore opportunities for collaboration with other professionals involved in the design, construction and business of hotel and wellness centre projects.

Joan Maria Freixes, Managing director of Picharchitects

1. Over three decades, Picharchitects has developed projects in different sectors. What do you perceive as the most outstanding differences or unique elements in the pool and wellness sector compared to other areas?

The biggest differentiating aspect is probably the user experience. The pool and wellness sector is the one that puts the user at the centre in the most notable way. The occupants of these spaces are looking for a place of well-being, a place to meet with oneself. Architecture and interior design play a key role in creating this atmosphere. This implies a more careful consideration of light, water, vegetation or materials compared to other sectors where functionality or efficiency may be a priority.

2. In the previous edition of the show you presented a new project that you have inaugurated this year, Oum Wellness, in Monterrey. Can you tell us about the final result of the project and what values are associated with wellness?

Oum Wellness arose from the idea of a private developer to create a hub for physical, mental and spiritual wellbeing, and at the same time, from the initiative of a private consortium to promote a unique project from the point of view of energy efficiency. The end result is a unique building that seeks a balance between the comfort and well-being of its occupants and maximum commitment to the environment. The building is an infrastructure that accommodates different uses and is capable of adapting to new services. In addition, it is itself the first machine capable of generating the necessary comfort conditions, using the air conditioning equipment as a complement in the most extreme situations of the year. For us it is also a success story in terms of innovation, as we developed together with Cemex a façade capable of cooling the air, incorporating the condensation water from the air-conditioning equipment. In short, a project that combines bioclimatic design, technology and nature to create a space that promotes wellbeing, relaxation and health.

Oum Wellness. Author photography: The Raws

3. You are very aware of the wellness concept in the spaces you create. How do you develop the wellness concept in hospitality spaces?

In hospitality spaces we seek to offer exceptional experiences to guests through a very honest architecture, with few claddings and added elements, more focused on natural comfort and efficiency than on appearance. We combine ancient strategies with the latest technologies to give the spaces we design the best performance. The concept of wellness and sustainability are closely related.
In hospitality spaces we seek to offer exceptional experiences to guests through a very honest architecture, with few claddings and added elements, more focused on natural comfort and efficiency than on appearance. We combine ancient strategies with the latest technologies to give the spaces we design the best performance. The concept of wellness and sustainability are closely related.

4. Picharchitects’ architectural projects focus on promoting innovation, the circular economy and sustainability. How do you put them into practice?

For many years we have had a sustainability department and an innovation department, which we call PichInnovation. Both departments have a cross-cutting relationship with the projects and other areas of the firm. These teams work closely with the construction industry, developing new products and construction systems, combining industry knowledge and our experience. We also participate in numerous research projects with the European Commission from which we have learned a great deal over the last twenty years. All of this knowledge is poured into the projects, always aiming for the highest environmental ambition. For us, digitalisation and industrialisation are essential to respond to the ESG requirements demanded by the sector.

5. What other wellness-related projects can you tell us about?

We are currently working on several projects, both in the hotel and commercial sectors, directly linked to wellness. Firstly, I would highlight a hotel in North Africa in an enclave of great natural value. It is a project that seeks the minimum possible impact on the territory through industrialised elements and at the same time puts guests in close contact with nature. On the other hand, we are working on another facility closely linked to wellness in Mexico with a spa, water area, fitness… in which we are reflecting all the experience acquired in OUM Wellness.

Oum Wellness. Author photography: The Raws

6. For Picharchitects, materials are a priority when planning and developing a project. To what extent are they an element in favour of sustainability?

In our opinion, there are no good and bad materials, with the exception of those that are toxic. There are suitable and unsuitable materials depending on each case. What we need to look at is the carbon footprint of these materials. How have the raw materials been extracted? How has the product been manufactured? Where? How durable is it? What will we do with it at the end of its useful life? Is it reusable? Is it recyclable? These are the questions we ask ourselves or pass on to suppliers. Industrialisation is the answer to these circularity requirements.

7. To what extent do you think your visit to the next Piscina & Wellness Barcelona show will contribute to your projects and business?

We have great expectations, we hope to discover new trends, establish connections with other professionals in the sector and explore opportunities for collaboration that will enrich our current and future projects.

Cristina Benavides, Collaborator of Piscina & Wellness Barcelona