Menis Arquitectos: Professional vocation for internationalization
Fernando Martín Menis, more known as Fernando Menis, is an architect who graduated in the Barcelona School of Architecture (ETSAB). He is the president of Laboratorio para la Innovación en Arquitectura, Diseño y Turismo Avanzado (literally, Laboratory for Innovation in Architecture, Design and Advanced Tourism) in Tenerife and he also works as a professor in EUC (European University of Canarias). Besides this, sometimes, he participates as a guest speaker in International Conferences about Architecture and Universities from Europe and U.S.
In 2004, Fernando Menis founded Menis Arquitectos, an architectural firm with offices in Tenerife, Madrid and Valencia. Their designs, distinguished by being sustainable and adaptable, represent other low cost projects which combine natural elements of skyline with architecture.
Among their most famous works there are Presidency of The Canary Islands Government in Santa Cruz de Tenerife (1999); Badeschiff Swimming Pool in Spree River in Berlin (2004), Magma Art & Congress (2005) and Insular Athletics Stadium (2007). The most recent (current) projects include Bürchen Mystik – Strategy for the economic Reconversion and Masterplan of Bürchen, a complex which includes, among others, the public square of Bünchen ended in 2015 and a Hotel which is now in process; CKK Jordanki, Culture and Conference Center which includes a multifunctional concert hall, in Torun (Poland). It won the 2016 Iconic Awards in the category of best public building and Holy Redeemer Church in San Cristóbal de La Laguna, Tenerife, being this one, part of the permanent collection of the Museum of Modern Art (MoMA) in New York.
Currently, what is the core business of the company?
At present, they work in any place around the world where one requires their services. Their activity is focused on the architecture based on high-design, singular, affordable and, in conclusion, they work with a global vision applied to their local solutions. Every project has to meet the needs they have been created for and, in order to do that, they require an environmental scanning, a population analysis, uses… “We have a global vision to act locally”.
Why do you think it is interesting for business development to look at foreign markets?
The 2008 financial crisis has affected the national and Canary Islands economy in general and it was particularly hard for the building industry and all those professionals related with it, such as architects. The drop in private and public works supply was significant. All of this makes one consider working abroad. “First, because there is no job in Spain and second because being global is interesting. We started going abroad before the crisis. Initially, we founded a fabric in Lisbon and a swimming pool in Berlin in 2004; then, we carried on abroad and when crisis arrived we have just been there”.
Fernando Menis has always had a vocation for “global”, for internationalization, since when he finished his architectural studies he moved to Paris to work at Ricardo Bofill office and to start his professional career. This gave him the opportunity of knowing many professionals and learning from European architecture, different from the Spanish one.
What projects are you performing now abroad?
We are working on Bürchen Mystik - Strategy for the economic Reconversion and Masterplan of Bürchen, a complex which includes, among others, the public square of Bünchen ended in 2015 and a Hotel which is now in process. We are also working on houses in Warsaw, Poland; houses in Lijang, China; a winery in Crimea; a multi-use building in Chingy, India (weddings, offices…) called Binny Mills.
In which countries and why?
In general, they work in any country, although recently they have been focused on Switzerland, Poland, China, Ukraine and Cape Verde. “Almost all projects have come from international tenders we have presented to, except the project in Crimea in which the client came for us in Tenerife and the project in China where a friend of us called us. I suppose it is because of contacts one establishes gradually throughout life or because people like our previous works. For example, we consider that MAGMA in Tenerife open us the door for working abroad.”
What products or services you think they are the most interesting to internationalize?
The experiences they have gained during the years they have been working consist in having a small size with the capacity of meeting the needs of the demand of projects to develop. These experiences lie in growing with a staff and facilities, as required.
“The real architecture we are able to make is based on our previous experience of more than 60 buildings. We know how to program, design, plan and manage the low cost construction. We not only limit ourselves to design, but this is our most interesting service”.
What problems have you faced when going outside? How have you solved them? Have you received any support?
Having pre-financing to start with internationalization is something essential. Besides this, having a technical staff to do comprehensive studies of solicitation documents of international tenders, techniques, legal ones…, travelling expenses, stays prior to works and, above all, the required guarantees in order to be able to submit a tender.
“The real problem is cost; the rest is solved when solving that. We have received support from PROEXCA through Strategic Plan of Architecture Services 2015 and programme of market studies from students of the Master’s degree in International Business, but we need a bit more to consolidate. Architecture is not easy because clients don’t repeat. Usually, every architect makes only a work for each client”.
Have you achieved any international goal?
They have been present in almost all awards about architecture at the regional, national and insular level because of the quality of their works. Thus, in Menis long history, they have obtained 9 First Prizes and several Second Prizes in different calls of the Architectural Regional Prize Manuel Oráa of the Canary Islands School of Architecture for their works Proa Building, El Tanque Cultural Space, Magma Art & Congress, Cuchillitos Park, among others. It is the Canary Islands’ architect who has won these prizes so many times.
At the national level the most important issue is they have won the National Architecture and Design Prize PAD 2000 for the Presidency of the Canary Islands Government. It was finalist in several calls in Spanish Biannual of Architecture and it was selected to the Spanish Architecture Prize for Magma Art & Congress.
At the international level is where they have obtained more recognition. They won several calls of World Architecture Festival – WAF. They have also won Premio Internacional de la Piedra en Arquitectura Italia (literally, International Prize of Stone Architecture) for the Presidency of the Canary Islands Government; Premio Internacional de la Innovación en Arquitectura con Hormigón (literally, International Prize for Innovation in Concrete Architecture) of Fundación Ambuja in India. They were the winners of the Jury Prize in Premios Bryla (literally, Pryla Prize) for CKK Jordanki, ICONIC Prize for Public Building, Best Cultural Building of Polish School of Architecture. They were selected several times for the Venice Biennale of Architecture; they were finalists in several calls of IberFAD Prizes, European Prize for Urban Public Space. They have also been nominated to European Prize of Architecture Mies van der Rohe and they are pending the decision of several prizes.
They also take part in the permanent architecture collection of the Museum of Modern Art (MoMA) in New York. We are there with the project of the Holy Redeemer Church in La Laguna (Tenerife). “This may be the most significant metaphor for our process of internationalization, since we have reached the architectural mecca from a small work in a remote island”.
“Clearly, this prize list is really useful when tenders, in particular those they have won recently. The rest they have won many years ago are not considered in international tenders”.
It was easy going outside? How did this experience start?
You have to take into account that professional initiation as architects have always had an international vision, since practical training promoted this way of working. The need of having economic resources is something crucial when covering internationalization. Besides this, you should have assistants and techniques specialized in the processing of documents and guarantees in order to access international tenders. “It has been very difficult, but a wonderful experience. As I have mentioned, we began many years ago in Lisbon. The hardest part started as of 2008”.
Why would you recommend going outside?
“I would recommend it because if you want to develop completely as an architect you have to leave because, unfortunately, there are no chances here and now”.
Fernando Martín Menis
Director de FERNANDO MENIS SLPU
Tel: +34 922 288 838
Translated by Laura Falcón Gil, 06 April 2017