Mextizo has just opened its doors in downtown Barcelona. There you can enjoy the Mexditerranean style of cooking created by Adrián Marín and his team, a place where a friendly staff providing a high quality service is an integral part of the restaurant’s philosophy and identity. And, if that was not enough, there is something else that always draws the attention of those who enter the restaurant: the restaurant’s design, which produces a WOW! effect whenever guests enter its great hall with inner terrace, making them feel amazed but welcome at the same time. The creator of this space is the renowned Barcelonian architect Juli Capella from Capella García Arquitectura, a studio which great important both domestically and internationally.
Juli Capella dedicates his professional life to design, architecture and urban planning. He was founder-director of magazines De diseño and Ardi, and director of the design section at Domus Magazine; He has also authored books such as Nuevo Diseño español; Arquitecturas diminutas; Cocos, copias y coincidencias; or Made in Spain: 101 iconos del diseño español; He has commissioned several exhibits in Spain and abroad such as A la Castiglioni, Vanity case by Starck, Diseño industrial en España, 300% Spanish Design, Bravos, or Tapas: Spanish Design for food; and he has also founded the Primavera del disseny fair. Capella has also written a large number of articles on design, architecture and culture in several national and international magazines since 1985. Among his architectural works are the shopping centers Zig Zag in Murcia and Heron City in Barcelona, along with the Omm and the Diagonal Barcelona hotels in Barcelona. Capella was the president of FAD-Foment de les Arts i del Disseny between 2001 and 2005 and promoter of the Design year in 2003. He was also a member of Catalonia’s Council of Culture and Arts between 2009 and 2011 and in the year 2000 he received an honorific mention over the Premios Nacionales de Diseño.
Currently, Juli Capella directs the Capella García Arquitectura studio, created in 2001 in partnership with Miquel García – the place where Mextizo’s design was conceived. Today we have made a reservation for two and sat with Capella so he could share with us all the curious aspects of his Mextizo project.
When did you meet Adrián Marín? How are you two related?
A few years ago, Fermín Puig, Adrián Marín and I started a project for a future restaurant in Barcelona, which we did not complete. A couple of years later Marín went to conquer Mexico but he eventually started considering the idea of returning home. Finally, in a trip I made to Mexico he told me about his idea when we met, and I was immediately seduced by it. That was how we met again and 10 years later, materialized our ideas.
You are considered one of the most creative minds in the country, What could we expect of Mextizo’s design?
Well, thank you, but only my mom actually thinks that. In a humbler way, in our studio we try to offer passionate, innovative and fresh creations… Some turn out fine others not so much. We had a lot of luck with Mextizo, because the space is fantastic and working with Adrián has been very inspiring. Besides, the Mexican client is friendly and supporting. We had no excuse to fail: a foreign investor that chooses to come all the way here has the right to demand excellence.
Which is your most unusual or surprising place where to find inspiration?
Although this is a bit comical, for me it is the shower. Before, when I had an idea I would get out of it quickly and still wet only to make a small sketch and write it down. Now I think that I will not forget about a really good idea even after I have gotten dressed and had breakfast. Honestly, I believe inspiration comes when the mind is fresh from a good sleep and a good hot shower. And inspiring ideas thrive in a team of fantastic people who like to discuss them. Without this team I would not be able to erect even a small tent to sell chestnuts. Mextizo is the creative symbiosis of many people.
What inspired you to create the Mextizo project?
Certainly, my inspiration was the Mexican culture, which fascinates me. But it was also the Catalan culture that I cannot escape from, even if I wanted – which is not the case of course. But it was not about blending both cultures just for the sake of blending. It was not about making a copy-paste, or a patchwork of concepts. It was about sifting the experience of both cities through what they evoke, discarding their brazenness so as to flow into an original space. And above all Mextizo aspires to be contemporary without any guilt. At a time in which we see an avalanche of vintage restaurants pretending to be historical, proposing a fake antiquity and using that as a theme, we wanted to offer modernity.
How important do you consider design to be for a restaurant’s success? How intertwined are design and gastronomy?
In a restaurant, the most important things are, in this order of most relevant to least: food, service, price, location, and at the very end, design. Even if design comes last, I maintain that a good design makes not only food more appealing but also the entire experience around the table, the conversations, the encounters and the enjoyment of the experience. Design can both favor or ruin a good meal. Without a doubt the relation between design and gastronomy is increasing. Design enhances the experience of the mere act of eating.
What does a place or an object need in order to have design value?
Nothing, because every object or place already has an intrinsic design value. I have never seen a chair or a bar without a design. Everything is designed. Now of course a certain thing can be designed in a simple or a luxurious way, or minimalist, baroque and so on. Design is about getting your intentions right, and that is incredibly difficult because it is not only about making something pleasant to you, but also pleasing the environment, the chef, the client, the budget, the norms, the firefighters’ regulations, the City Hall’s regulations…
Tell us a bit about the moment Adrián Marín got in contact with you to explain you his project and when you started working on it.
In our studio we like to first undergo a conceptualization process. We collect ideas, throw hypothesis, collect materials, all with the purpose of creating a certain ambiance. Then we start working by virtually building the space in 3D. Until we have a clear idea of the space’s size, we do not distribute things around it, which is the most important. If you make a slip there, the project is doomed. And of course we like to share the project with the client, in this case with Adrián, but also the investors from Alcis Corp such as July García, Óscar Padilla and Lupita García de Padilla; who fortunately have experience in the area, and clear and sound ideas. We do that either via Skype or during sporadic visits.
Mextizo was born with the strong intent of establishing itself as a place like no other in Barcelona. Which elements does it have that makes it an effectively incredible space?
Every restaurant is unique. Even the simplest of franchises has its own peculiarities. We do not only intend to be different just for the sake of being different, because this is easy and because every single restaurant already is different by their own nature. There is no doubt, however, that we meant to create a welcoming and comfortable place where you want to spend time, a place that enhances the food experience – which has to be of a high quality of course. It is about an adequate, non-imposing environment, but with personality and materials with great quality.
Which of the following terms is the closest to your own concept of design: emotion, aesthetics or functionality? With that in mind, how has design evolved over time and what do you expect of it in the future?
My briefest definition of design is “thinking before doing”, and in a designer’s mind there is a cocktail of all the terms you mentioned. It is not true that first you decide the function and then there is the shape, that is false, the brain creates in a disorderly and simultaneous fashion. Design has appeared only a couple of centuries ago with the industrial revolution, and therefore it is a very recent discipline, despite we talk a lot about it. It is true that restaurants and furniture have always been made, but now this labor has become more specialized and I believe there is no going back. Design is here to stay and it is not a fad, but a profession that conquers challenges. The future will have a better design, that nowadays remains still precarious.
After creating Mextizo’s design, tell us of your favorite place in the restaurant. Which place will dazzle Mextizo’s guests?
The day I come alone, I like to feel indulged from the entrance’s bar, peaking at people coming in. When I come with my wife, I chose a table in the central aisle, under the inverted tree. On a business lunch, I chose a booth in order to remain focused. If I come with my friends for fun, I chose to shut the curtains and have a private space with direct access to the kitchen so that Adrián becomes a part of it. If the weather permits, maybe I will stay at the terrace… I think Mextizo has many singular spaces, there is not just one big dining hall, but many different spaces. Each person will find their favorite, according to the occasion and spirit.
In your opinion, in which way can architecture contribute to the protection of the environment?
I believe that nowadays ecological consciousness must be an obligation. The designer that overlooks it is almost a criminal. It is a very serious issue, and in our studio we always try to have it in our minds, choosing long-lasting and recycled materials, optimizing the spaces with resource-saving systems, making the best with the minimum consumption. But let us not be fooled, there is no zero-footprint architecture as some advocate.
The concept of Mexditerranean cuisine created by Mextizo is the combination of paella-style rices from Castellón, the Basque grilling tradition, the flavor of Mexican cuisine and Barcelona’s edginess. Can you still astonish people in a city with such a big architectural and gastronomic heritage?
There always is an opportunity to surprise curious and hedonistic people. But people are very unfaithful: even if they find a restaurant they like, in no time they are already searching for a different one, it is only human and normal. But Mextizo does not aim at competing with other places, it aims at becoming part of the many welcoming places this city has to offer. There is plenty of space in this city and our goal is to expand the rich tradition of restaurants with a good modern design and excellent food.
In terms of design, what could not be left out in Mextizo?
A different, elegant and personalized toilet. Instead of a dirty and removed place as it usually is, we proposed it as a glamorous and central space.
Tell us some of Mextizo’s curiosities.
We only use LED-lamps, which allows us to save a lot of electricity. The lamps inside the kitchen are warm, as to create an environment of a home kitchen instead of an industrial one. The central tree-lamp had to be cut in half to enter through the door. The central dome is inspired in the Mexican pyramids of Teotihuacán, connecting us in a firmament of flavors. The tiles in the toilets are hydraulic and handmade in Mallorca and not ceramic. Plus, the toilet sinks have a shape especially adapted to the space.
Which design would you like to convert in reality one day?
I would be happy designing any medical tool that helped saving lives. It is the dream of any humanistic creator. But since this is very difficult and far from my area, I am happy to design hotels, houses, offices or restaurants where people can be a bit happier. I truly believe that good design will transform the world.