We had the good fortune of connecting with Luis Othon Villegas-Solis and we’ve shared our conversation below.

Hi Luis Othon, what role has risk played in your life or career?
Taking risks has been challenging; the fear of losing or not doing things correctly can be a paralyzing factor that does not lead to good results. My story is about risks, difficulties, dogmas, and knowing to lose. During my childhood, I did not know about risks; I believe that before adolescence, most children lacked knowledge about what risks meant. Instead of risks, these can be seen as challenges. My childhood in school revolved around getting the best grades and scores and winning at all costs where you had to win. The idea of ​​winning over the years and being surrounded by contexts where the winner is rewarded soon faded away. For me, the challenges became less relevant, and it is that over the years, one learns that challenges will always be a push towards something better in every way. But in my first stage of adulthood, I realized that risks also go hand in hand with challenges, and as one matures, one becomes more cautious about what one does.

My story begins with a boy who liked challenges and sought to be the best wherever he wanted. Although never good at sports, my focus was always on studying. During my university years, I realized that I wanted to know more, to continue soaking up knowledge, although I did not find a specific reason why I should know more. There was an internal struggle to prove to myself that I could do what I wanted. So I saw my first challenge knowing that I was taking a risk. After finishing my architecture degree, I wanted to go to Harvard. It was a tremendous challenge for a boy from a small town in the south of the state of Jalisco in Mexico. A personal thought that I kept secret for fear of losing and running the risk of not being admitted.

The first challenge was to prepare me for the English language, and the second was to pass the entrance exams for the United States educational system. I enrolled in a school that could prepare me for both, but my professor tried to dissuade me with advice on applying to any other college but Harvard. His ideas were based on how disappointing it could be not to be admitted, and although the challenge was high, I decided to ignore it and take my first risk. I sent applications to Columbia University and Alberta in Canada. The admission letters arrived, the first from Columbia University with a disappointing rejection letter that asked me to wait one more year, and the second with the best response that any student can expect, acceptance to one of the most prestigious universities in the world, Harvard University. Alberta never came.

However, although the challenge was met, the most crucial thing came: discovering a vocation that justified the reason for going to Harvard. At that moment, I was unclear about what I wanted to do or how to direct my master’s degree. In search of that goal, I spoke with my advisor and asked him for help. In Mexico, one looks for help hoping that someone will tell you which way to go or what instructions to follow. A substantial cultural difference was when I discovered that my education was always dogmatic and rarely forced me to think for myself; it was always full of norms and rules to follow, of instructions. Almost like saying which chapter of a book I should read. My new situation opened a different perspective at Harvard, especially when my advisor asked me to reflect on a small word on the Harvard emblem: Veritas. Veritas in Latin means truth; it was when I discovered that it was up to me to find my truth.

In continuing my career as an architect and having a clear mind, I realized that the challenge now had to be more profound and substantial. The search for a profession would not only allow me to know how to design and provide a solution to a building but also make me think about the well-being of people in built environments.

My second challenge was to look for job opportunities in the USA; I still think that it is not about risks but about challenges, about the idea of ​​jumping into any arena and looking for the opportunity to be better. After Harvard, I had the great fortune to collaborate with Paola Antonelli, Curator of Architecture and Design at MoMA NY. She invited me to work with her at one of the most important shows at MoMA, Design and The Elastic Mind, which was also a turning point in my professional and personal experience. After this, I worked with Enrique Norten in NY, who invited me to work with him and artist Lawrence Weiner at the Snow Show in Finland. I was fortunate to work for one of the best interior design and experience firms, Rockwell Group, with whom I could rethink my professional career goals and review the importance of people’s well-being experience in built environments.

The challenge, accompanied by risks, was to return to Mexico and create my design firm. And even with all my risks and fears, I returned to Guadalajara. I had to reconnect with my people, with my friends, and with my professional practice. But it was essential to start from scratch. I returned to Mexico with something clear; to create an architecture that is not only intended to provide a design solution through the construction of buildings but by observing, listening, and putting myself in the shoes of the one I am designing.

My architectural dialogue focuses on analyzing and observing users, understanding, listening, and empathizing with each person who will use a space. Still, most importantly, my work now focuses on deep and thorough research that the human sciences can offer me. My work is located at the intersection of architecture, cognitive psychology, and neuroscience; I believe a highly informed architecture can deliver more and better design answers. But above all, it allows us to understand ourselves as human beings, our perceptions, actions, and emotions. But above all, it gives answers that bring us closer to our biological nature and leads us to dialogue about living well and well-being for people’s physical and mental health.

And precisely, a new way of seeing my profession from another perspective began. One that would allow me to think of architecture as a well-being tool for people’s lives. Along the way, I discovered the human sciences, like cognitive psychology and neuroscience. The opportunity then turned to studying and creating a conversation between them and architecture. I’m now working with one of the most prestigious computational neuroscientists in the world, Dr. Michael Arbib. Together, we are preparing a course on this latest book, When Brains Meet Buildings.

Risks fade little by little for me; I don’t see them as such; the word risk leads us to uncertainty and fear; perhaps it paralyzes us. Risks are no longer part of my lexicon; challenges will be and will continue to be more critical; risk stops, and the challenge allows us to move forward and improve our goals and lives, and lead us to be better human beings.

Can you open up a bit about your work and career? We’re big fans and we’d love for our community to learn more about your work.
I think I mentioned most in the first question. Here is a bit of my bio:

Luis Othón Villegas-Solis is an award-winning designer and architect. He received a Master’s Degree in Design Studies from Harvard University in 2003 and a degree in Architecture from Universidad Autónoma de Guadalajara in 1997. He is the founder of LVS Architecture, a firm that explores the connections between behavioral psychology and built spaces. His firm aims to transform sensory experiences in users through design and architecture. Luis Othón has been a guest speaker at several national and international universities such as the NewSchool of Architecture and Design, Harvard University, School of Visual Arts, and Pratt Institute. In 2021 he was selected to present his research work on a Neuroarchitectural Interpretation System at the Neuroscience and Architecture Symposium of the Salk Institute for Biological Studies and the ANFA Academy of Neuroscience for Architecture in La Jolla, California. Luis Othón has been a teaching assistant for Paola Antonelli. He researched and contributed to the exhibitions: Design and The Elastic Mind and Safe: Design Takes on Risk at the Museum of Modern Art in New York. At the beginning of his career, Luis Othón worked for Enrique Norten Architects in New York and Rockwell Group, one of the leading experience design firms in the United States. He participated with Enrique Norten and artist Lawrence Weiner at the Snow Show in Finland.

He is the former director of the School of Architecture and Interiors at CEDIM Monterrey, Mexico. Luis has made written contributions to various publications, websites, and magazines such as The Architects Newspaper in New York, Connections 360, 10Deco, CoolhunterMX, Mexico Design, and BLINK. Luis Othón is also the founder of Design, Belly, and Brain, a lab of ideas exploring and investigating the intersection between design and brain and architecture perception and human behavior. Mr. Villegas collaborated with Dr. Michael Arbib, and Meredith Banasiak in a chapter called “Systems of Systems: Architectural Atmosphere, Neuromorphic Architecture, and the Well-Being of Humans and Ecospheres” for Mitra Kanaani’s forthcoming Book The Routledge Companion to Ecological Design Thinking: Healthful Ecotopian Visions for Architecture and Urbanism. His latest project is the co-creation of the INPAD Institute of Neuroscience for Architecture and Design. Neuroscience and cognitive science research are promoted to inform architecture and design.

Let’s say your best friend was visiting the area and you wanted to show them the best time ever. Where would you take them? Give us a little itinerary – say it was a week long trip, where would you eat, drink, visit, hang out, etc.
I love to eat and have fun. So I’m always up to having great meals with friends. My recommendations go for the hip and cool restaurants in town, but not fancy, I prefer the up-and-coming neighborhoods, where we can find design vibes, relaxed atmospheres, petit stores, and experimental food. Local restaurants and bars are my specialties since most of my work are in restaurant design. In Guadalajara Mexico, I’ll take my friends for a nice walk at Colonia Americana and for food to La Panga del Impostor, have some coffee at Espacio Abierto, and have a look at Albergue Transitorio from Fashion Designers, sisters Julia and Renata Franco. At night we can grab a burger at ATOM and later some craft beer at Patan Alehouse and LOBA.

Who else deserves some credit and recognition?
My father and my mother, together with my siblings are an enormous part of who I am. I am deeply grateful for their love and support. I’m also grateful for the people who have been close to me and from whom I learned to be humble and stay positive. Paola Antonelli is a person who I really admired and was important support at the beginning of my career and through my professional formation.

Website: http://www.lvs-architecture.com/

Instagram: @luis_othon

Linkedin: https://www.linkedin.com/in/luisothonvillegassolis/

Twitter: luisothon

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/lvsarchitecture/

Other: instagram: @lvs_architecture

Image Credits
Photos: _MG_6647 _MG_2125 _MG_3242 _MG_6543 by: Lorena Darquea Photos: A__RES ATOM_02 A__RES ATOM_10 ATOM_FOTO LUIS OTHON by: Arturo Gonzalez & Cecilia Gutierrez

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