We chatted with Ivan Mata. Architect.
Once one reads Iván’s resume and background, it is easy to think that he is the product of a career planned quite in detail. A letter of introduction as an architect in Paris with his own projects and experience in the most prestigious architecture offices in the city of lights cannot be the result of chance. Then you meet him and everything changes. From the neat and to a certain extent snotty architect that one expects we went to a man with an easy and friendly smile, always ready to chat about what he loves, architecture. He has a career full of coincidences that, together with the passion that he exudes through his pores for architecture, has led him to experiences and milestones that surely only a few can tell. A professional story that deserves to be told and that with this humble interview we are going to try to capture and combine with his point of view on new trends, ephemeral architecture and the concept of spaces. Sit down, have a cup of whatever you drink and enjoy, Iván is all about it.

Ivan Mata and Quim Rabassa

What does a Catalan Architect do in Paris?
– It’s all the fault of an Erasmus.

And why Paris?
– Well, it’s a curious story. During my university career I had never applied to do an Erasmus, for one reason or another it had never happened. The day before the last opportunity to take one expired, a friend convinced me that it was an opportunity that I had to take advantage of and I jumped at it.

From today to tomorrow?
– Indeed.

But, to do an Erasmus you have to present a project, have it validated and once presented they give you a place, right?
– That’s right, the price I paid was spending the entire night before the last day of the application preparing the project that would allow me to enter. My friend helped me, we worked all night… And it came out!

One of those stories that are told to you and are hard to believe!
– That’s how it was, that’s how my journey through Paris begins.

And French?
– A summer course and a great desire to communicate. The rest of the learning comes from living there.

The more you need languages, the faster they are learned!
– Exact!

How do you approach a late Erasmus with an advanced degree?
– I focused on three things. The first to develop subjects that she did not know. I had almost all the credits ready so I could afford to learn specific subjects that helped me learn new approaches. The second was to know and enjoy the city, Paris. Finally, being on Erasmus I had to be smart about obtaining financial resources, so I decided to put out my resume and try my luck with architects in the city. I thought “why aren’t the big guys going to give you a chance?” And there you have me cold calling and leaving my resume in the offices of Nicolà Michelin, Dominic Perou and Jean Nouvel.

“During the creative process I imagined and looked for a type of structure that did not leave an ecological footprint, that was light, that allowed contact as close as possible to the experience of being in the middle of the desert and that in terms of energy consumption was sustainable.”
You did not lack courage…
– No! I remember arriving, being attended to by secretaries who, when I explained that I was offering to work in the office, took my resume and put it in a drawer without looking at it. At that moment you get that feeling that the resume entered an unknown dimension from which it would never leave. Ha ha

– The first to answer was Jean Nouvel and he was the first one I worked with.

Were you surprised that they contacted you?
– Partly yes because of what I have told you, but the good reputation that Spanish universities have in terms of architectural training is also very important. Spanish architects have a good international reputation and that helps.

How was the experience?
– With Nouvel I learned a lot, I returned to Barcelona and they contacted me again to work on a small part of the Agbar tower project, in the Parc Central de Poble Nou and in some homes in Ibiza. Super interesting. At the same time, however, I felt the need to go further, especially about the dynamics of project creation. Everything that involves the concept of architecture and its involvement in society. With Nouvel I had the feeling of being in a rigid and hierarchical structure, everything very top to bottom and I was looking for the opposite. This led me to knock on Rem Khoolhaas’s door.

– Indeed, an experience that very well complemented the knowledge and processes that I had acquired. A work dynamic in which it was the architectural teams that conceived and contributed at a creative level to the model and ideas of the projects with Rem Khoolhaas who was like a floating entity in the office reviewing and getting involved in the different projects in no apparent order. . It was hard, there were very busy days, but today I can say that it was what I was looking for.

How interesting! But then you return to Paris after a while, is that right?
– Indeed. The 2008 crisis forced the firm not to renew 40% of its team. When my turn came they offered me to renew for very short periods of time and with me being displaced it was a lifeless experience due to the insecurity generated. On the other hand, some friends in France insisted that I return to work on the “La Defense” project, which I found very interesting. So I decided to go back.
Shortly after, my international experience gave me the option of collaborating with BIG, the office of Bjarge Ingels, on the Mecca project in Bordeaux, a very ambitious project, with the involvement of very powerful French companies that would last almost 8 years.

You haven’t had time to get bored…
– The truth is, no! As you can see, one thing has led to another and, although at times it has been hard, the path has been worth it!


“I see Skybubbles as a continuation of Walter-Müller’s legacy. Asking questions, going beyond and pushing the limits established to create structures that are respectful of the environment, giving the guest the possibility of not giving up comfort while enjoying of a privileged 360º view where there are no walls that limit or sensory separate the person from their surroundings.’”
And, currently, what are you working on?
– I have several open projects, all of them focused on taking advantage of what I have learned at an international level. One is to make my way in Barcelona while maintaining the audience that I already have dynamically consolidated in France. Example of them are; renovate an episcopal palace in a small town in France, conception and development of cooperative housing in Vilafranca del Penedès that will be able to see the light of day thanks to next generation funds.

When and how do you come into contact with inflatable architecture?
– In 2018, through a collaboration with the artist Robin Meyer, we began to think about an incursion into the Abu Dhabi desert. During the creative process I imagined and looked for a type of structure that did not leave an ecological footprint, that was light, that allowed contact as close as possible to the experience of being in the middle of the desert and that in terms of energy consumption was sustainable. . I investigate and discover that I am not even the first to think something similar; I see the work of Tomás Saraceno or Graham Stevens and they impress me. The path leads me to contact Quim and to design that project for Art Basel.

– We had to stop at the door of the pandemic. Art Basel cancels its installations in Abu Dhabi for obvious reasons… But it was a very interesting experience that introduced me to the social movement of this type of architecture of the 60s and 70s and to wanting to investigate and learn more about the subject. We even went with Quim to see and interview Hans Walter-Müller, one of the fathers of this type of architecture.

What was it like interviewing and meeting Hans Walter-Müller? What impression did you get?
– Meeting a reference is always special; He received us in a very welcoming way, he explained his story to us and we were able to see first-hand that he has lived in an inflatable bubble for more than 50 years. I thought that we should not let these types of ideas that are put into practice and work be lost even though they move away from the conventional or the classic. It is architectural heritage and a resource that can be used in a multitude of situations.

And what do you think of Skybubbles?
– It connects a lot and I see it as a continuation of Walter-Müller’s legacy. Ask questions, go beyond and push the established limits to create environmentally friendly structures, giving the guest the opportunity not to give up comfort while enjoying a privileged 360º view where there are no walls that limit or sensory separate the guests. the person around you. The challenge is to continue innovating, if we understand Skybubbles as a concept and not just as a cabin, the possibilities skyrocket to be able to use them in different areas in a simple, sustainable and ephemeral way.

Iván thank you very much, we will continue in contact and collaborating.
– Thank you!