Interview with designer Vírgula i (Vi), regarding views on design, and for the award-winning design Hotel Minho Renewal and Extension Hotel.

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Interview with Vírgula i at Friday 3rd of April 2015: DI: What is the main principle, idea and inspiration behind your design?
Vi : The solution intended to be very simple and in some spaces, highly introverted, retaining the existing structures and introducing the new areas in the floors below the main entrance. At the same time, topics related to sustainability, natural light and local vernacular architecture also arised in all the project phases.

DI: What has been your main focus in designing this work? Especially what did you want to achieve?
Vi : The project was developed to the smallest detail, integrating interior and exterior space, using efficiently the natural light, the inner patios and the design of several decoration items that might range from furniture, lighting or even the hotel sign system. All these small steps gave the final visual tone intended since the very beginning of the project.

DI: What are your future plans for this award winning design?
Vi : Being a renewal and extension, parts of the building were not interveined by us. The existing room wings (corridors and rooms), the suites and the external swimming pool are still part of the original hotel. Maybe with this award and international attention the client will want to go further and start a new phase in the future.

DI: How long did it take you to design this particular concept?
Vi : It was a long way! It started in 2009 and ended in 2014. Uncountable hours of work, lots of kilometers between our studio and the site, and even better two beautiful kids in the middle. This award made all this worthwhile!

DI: Why did you design this particular concept? Was this design commissioned or did you decide to pursuit an inspiration?
Vi : It was a second comission from the same client. The first one was to construct a new spa in the basement of the existing hotel. Despite fo the fact we always mentioned this space as very difficult to have a good standard spa, the entering of a new hotel director changed everything. He was the one that intended to have an added value to the new project, and from there, everything evolved to a sencond comission, one a bigger scale and new area.

DI: Is your design being produced or used by another company, or do you plan to sell or lease the production rights or do you intent to produce your work yourself?
Vi : Our studio is always seeking new opportunities on different areas of work. Our practice constantly works on different contexts, scales and architecture briefs.

DI: What made you design this particular type of work?
Vi : This work was a big challenge for us, where we've invested all our time and strength. More was needed?

DI: Where there any other designs and/or designers that helped the influence the design of your work?
Vi : The modern architecture of Portugal, mainly the one rooted in the 50's and 60's very close from what was being doing in the northern coutries (mainly Sweden and Denmark), where always on the back of our minds.

DI: Who is the target customer for his design?
Vi : National and international travellers.

DI: How did you come up with the name for this design? What does it mean?
Vi : The hotel original name was "Hotel Turismo do Minho". It was our idea to shorcut the new name into "Hotel Minho", mainly because is more efficient, smaller and that stands out was the flag of the Minho region (north of Portugal).

DI: What is the most unique aspect of your design?
Vi : The warmness of the spaces, the craftsmanship of several details, the fact that even the ones that know the hotel from the media and the web, still get surprised by the quality of the work.

DI: Who did you collaborate with for this design? Did you work with people with technical / specialized skills?
Vi : R2 Design where responsible by the communication design of the hotel and the sign system. Our close work is a strong part of the project. Other companies where also part of the project, mainly the engineering team - Termoprojecto.

DI: What is the role of technology in this particular design?
Vi : Not to be present... all very tradition, almost wanting to be old fashioned!

DI: What are some of the challenges you faced during the design/realization of your concept?
Vi : The construction was very difficult with countless conflicts with the contractor. It was a mess!

DI: How did you decide to submit your design to an international design competition?
Vi : We, as a very young studio, were fortunate to be sponsored by our client, otherwise it would be impossible. Even in that they were the smart ones!

DI: What did you learn or how did you improve yourself during the designing of this work?
Vi : Five years of intense work in this project, two new babies in the middle, an award two show to our families, clients and friends, as you my imagine I could write a book with all this new information!

DI: Any other things you would like to cover that have not been covered in these questions?
Vi : The personal side of the equation is a great story to be listened! More than architecture and the great result of the project, this project was life changer!