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Terms and Conditions
Introduction
Welcome to TONGUES, provided by Voodoo Voodoo Ltd (“we”, “us”, “our”). Access to and use of this website (“TONGUES”) is provided by us on the basis of a number of important terms and conditions, which are set out in full below.
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Changes to Terms
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General
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Privacy & Cookies Policy
Introduction
The tongues.cc website is operated by Voodoo Voodoo Ltd (‘TONGUES’).
This privacy policy applies to TONGUES.
We want you to enjoy our website and services secure in the knowledge that we have implemented fair information practices to protect your privacy. By visiting our website, you are accepting the practices described in our privacy policy, including our use of cookies and similar online tracking technologies. If you do not agree to the terms of this privacy policy, please do not use the website.
TONGUES may change this policy from time to time by updating this page and you should regularly check to ensure that you are happy with any changes. This policy was last updated on 11 February 2020.
The policy outlines:
1. General principle
2. How we collect information
3. Types of information we may collect
4. How we use your information
5. How we protect the information we collect
6. Access to your personal information
7. How to contact us
1. General principle
There are two types of information we may collect from you when you use the website: non-personally identifiable information and personally identifiable information. Non-personally identifiable information does not individually identify you, but it may include tracking and usage information about your general location, demographics, use of the website and the internet. Personally identifiable information is information that you voluntarily provide when you set up a user account, subscribe to a newsletter, or query that can individually identify you and may include your name and email address etc.
We do not link non-personally identifiable information to your personally identifiable information.
We do not share either type of information unless required to run the website and services (see third-party services below). We will never sell either type of information.
This privacy policy does not apply to any information collected outside of the website, including offline or through other means (for example, via telephone or through email), unless otherwise stated below or at the time of collection.
2. How we collect information
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Links to other websites, social media platforms
Our website may contain links to other websites of interest. However, once you have used these links to leave our website, you should note that we do not have any control over the information that is collected and shared about you. You should exercise caution and look at the privacy statement applicable to the website in question.
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3. Types of information we may collect
The types of information we may collect includes:
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The information we collect may be used to help us:
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Disclosure to third-party services
As part of providing our website and services to you we use a limited number of third-party services that perform functions on our behalf, including but not limited to website hosting, server monitoring, tracking user behaviour, marketing automation services, and customer service.
We have no control over, and assume no responsibility for, the conduct, practices or privacy policies of these third-party services and encourage you to read the policies of the services we use below:
TONGUES uses the MailerLite marketing automation service to issue newsletters. Find out more about MailerLite’s Privacy Policy and Terms.
When you subscribe to our email newsletters
By clicking ‘Subscribe’ you agree to the following: 
We will use the email address you provide to send you a weekly or monthly email. We also send occasional updates and, no more than once a year, reader surveys. 
The email address/es you provide will be transferred to our external marketing automation service ‘MailerLite’ for processing in accordance with their Privacy Policy and Terms. We use MailerLite to issue our newsletters. We have no control over, and assume no responsibility for, the conduct, practices or privacy policies of MailerLite
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5. How we protect the information we collect
We are committed to ensuring that your information is secure. We have taken reasonable measures to protect information about you from loss, theft, misuse or unauthorised access, disclosure, alteration and destruction. No physical or electronic security system is impenetrable however and you should take your own precautions to protect the security of any personally identifiable information you transmit. We cannot guarantee that the personal information you supply will not be intercepted while transmitted to us or third-party service providers. 
Sharing your personal information
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Data transfer
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Our website is not directed at children under the age of 18 and we do not knowingly collect or maintain information from those we know are younger than 18. If you are younger than 18, you should not submit or post any personally identifiable information to our website. By using the Service, you represent that you are at least 18 years of age.
6. Access to your personal information
You may request a copy of the personal information we hold about you by submitting a written request to info@tongues.cc. We may only implement requests with respect to the personal information associated with the particular email address you use to send us the request. We will try and respond to your request as soon as reasonably practical. When you receive the information, if you think any of it is wrong or out of date, you can ask us to change or delete it for you. 
We take all reasonable steps to ensure the information held is accurate, up-to-date, complete, relevant and not misleading. 
7. Contact us
If you have any questions about our privacy policy or our use of your information, please contact us at info@tongues.cc.

Gregory Melitonov & Inés Guzmán

July 27 / 2020

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Taller KEN is a New York and Guatemala based practice focused on playful design with social and cultural relevance. Founded in 2013, the firm embraces the collaborative nature of making partnerships and connections. Incorporating a multitude of voices, its work goes beyond merely elevating elements of design to creating an architecture with broad appeal.

The firm often works in developing countries and urban areas defined by an imbalance of growth and social inequities. Realising projects in this context has helped the practice establish its approach to working in the public realm. In 2016, Taller KEN began an annual design-build initiative in order to work more closely with local communities. The program, FUNdaMENTAL, brings design interns together with real world problems and partners to engage in all phases of realising a public urban intervention for the collective good.

 

Q >What’s the hardest thing you’ve ever done?

IG/GM >  We’d always been very active in Guatemala, but in 2017, the traditional way we were trying to grow our office in Guatemala wasn’t working financially and led to layoffs of our entire staff over a period of a few months. It was tough to let go of great people and friends who helped us grow as a fledgling firm, and it led to a lot of heartbreak and tears. It also led to the realisation that we needed to expand into other markets, like Costa Rica and New York City, where we had a foothold but hadn’t really invested the time. Most importantly, it led us to build on our connection to emerging talent through our (501(c)(3), FUNdaMENTAL Design Build, to keep doing the meaningful, impactful work our firm was known for, but in an unorthodox and philanthropic way. Ultimately, we came out of that period stronger and a lot more nimble.

Q >With FUNdaMENTAL, you’ve worked closely with early-career architects. What insights have emerged from this process, and what advice would you offer architecture graduates that are graduating this year or who recently concluded their studies?

GM >  Each person, including Ines and I, enters the three month design-build intensive very headstrong, with preloaded assumptions about architecture. We are all quickly challenged to reset to find common ground resulting in a “greater than the sum of its parts” project that is truly from many authors. 

I would encourage new graduates to see this unique time as an opportunity. A lot of doors will be closed regarding traditional ways of entering the workforce, but there are still many pressing social issues that can use the added value of their skills sets. For example, right now, there is a need for temporary structures or shelters for vulnerable populations that can be achieved through low tech, low-cost means. My advice: find others you share your passion or vision, make a proposal, and start looking for partners to make it happen.

IG >    Diversity is the key element that comes from this experience. Every new generation comes with a new set of tools, new outlooks, and different cultural perspectives, which continues to broaden the discussion. It’s incredibly rewarding to see the built result of an idea or concept that emerges entirely from the participants through their engagement with a local community, executed in three months with 100% donated materials.

In general, I don’t like to give advice, but I’d like to encourage all architecture graduates to rethink and reinvent the practice. Focusing on reusing, repurposing and improving the existing built environment, but also start thinking in terms of drastic mindset shifts — what does it mean to be an architect in the future? What does it mean to live together as humans in the future?

Q >Describe the role that collaboration plays in your practice — why is it important, and how does it manifest?

IG >    The foundation of our firm starts from the combination of two different, distinct experiences: one is a born-and-raised New Yorker, the other is born in Guatemala and raised in Costa Rica. One was exposed to every kind of cultural or artistic vanguard, the other to the extreme contrasts of social and environmental characteristics of developing countries. These and other intersections allow for unpredictable results and we like it.

Questioning “what we do and how we do it” is a must in our values. Collaboration allows us to do this because encourages diversity and openness. I believe it especially manifests in the projects that are more socially conscious and more artistic in terms of a collage of influences.

GM >  Ines and I come from such contrasting perspectives a kind of a natural “oil and balsamic” that there is rarely a conversation that isn’t an ongoing, open debate. That means there is room for everyone from the client to the craftspeople to give their input. That design approach manifests in the outcome it’s a bigger tent, more accessible to everyone. 

Q >Can you give an example of a building you wished you’d designed (or that you really admire)? What about it makes it so special?

IG >    The rock-cut architecture of Cappadocia. The spaces carved out of the volcanic landscape in Central Turkey have served many purposes, and are still standing after thousands of years. I am deeply attracted by strong traditions and ancient cultures, as well as sacred architecture. To me, what makes these structures so meaningful is the singular use of the landscape, the mountain and the rock. It’s really an essential, timeless manifestation of the place as well as a pure blend of technical construction and aesthetics.

GM >  The Pompidou Centre. I admire how much at the time of its planning it reimagined the relationship between “high-culture” and public space. I first saw it on a trip to Paris when I was 10. It was the first time I’d really left New York, and it made a huge impression like a big toy! 20 years later I went to work for the same architect (Renzo Piano), so it’s very foundational for me. I still love how it makes an iconic, colourful, playful background to a vibrant urban space that flows in and up the building. We are so saturated with “new” design these days, but I rarely see something that rises to that level of innovation. 

Q >How can architects and designers (and their work) be part of a force for social change?

GM >  Architects are really good at choreographing large amounts of resources. Our day-to-day is communicating with a variety of trades and across diverse geographical, cultural, and socioeconomic demographics. If our skills are put to use for a good cause one that seeks to spark debate, to form community then you can tap into the real power of architecture, which, at least in my view, is to foster human connection.

IG >    Architecture, especially public architecture, directly impacts a wide variety of people, so it’s our responsibility to do so in a positive way a way that is inclusive and promotes more equality. How can we, as architects and designers, make projects less driven by demands of programme and cost and more by the quality and capacity to use and reuse what we already have? 

With FUNdaMENTAL we strive to get a little closer to this question because we don’t have a client or institution with specific desires. Instead, we have communities and the public that demonstrate problems and necessities. We have always been able to work with readily available materials to create something new. For example, FUN ’16 used hundreds of yards of elastic that was not being used or sold by a factory. After the activation, it was used by the community: a local designer made sandals out of the material; another non-profit public project used it for marking trails through the ravines at the edge of Guatemala City.

Q >How does where you live (or previously have lived) affect your work and the ethos that drives it?

GM >  Living and working in Guatemala really defined for me an approach to both working locally with an outside point of view. Beginning our practice in a region where growth is so closely paired with social inequality made us realise what an architect’s role should be in the public realm.

IG >    Coming from Guatemala and living in high-contrasting economic conditions makes you very aware of necessity and injustice. On the other hand, living in Italy and working for a world-renowned “starchitect” (Renzo Piano), developing museums for millions of dollars has also given us a totally different foundation. The mix of both these places continues to influence our work and our values very much.

Q >Which things would you like to include more in your life, what would you like to include less of?

IG >    More countryside, more handwork. Less device addiction.

GM >  Less envy, less regret. More focus on the long view.

Q >What are the biggest challenges facing your practice (and others in the design sector) in the coming months and how can/should these challenges be addressed?

GM >  Maybe the biggest challenge is to lose focus, to panic, and be too quick to seek easy answers. I think more people should be focused on why they are in the design world and not how they get work. That hopefully means when there is more demand again, that people are better situated to tell their unique story.

IG >    Maybe the biggest challenge is to clearly see the steps and changes we have to make to adapt to a new way of inhabiting this planet. This historical moment is an opportunity for all of us to stop and change all the things that we were doing wrong before just to survive in an unbalanced system.

 

Prior to founding Taller KEN, Inés Guzmán and Gregory Melitonov worked for Pritzker Prize laureate Renzo Piano. Both gained a great deal of experience on large construction projects in Manhattan as part of the design team for the Whitney Museum of American Art and the headquarters building for the High Line.

Guzmán holds a Masters and Bachelors degree in Architecture from the Universidad del Diseño de San José, Costa Rica. Melitonov holds a Masters in Architecture from Yale University and a Bachelors of Science in Studio Art from Skidmore College. 

Gregory Melitonov and Inés Guzmán

Concepcion Restaurant. Photo by Andres Asturias

Losteria Antigua. Photo by Agustin Fallas

Hija de Tigre. Photo by Andres Garcia Lachner

Madero. Photo by Marcelo Guitterez

ParqueO2. Photo by Andres Garcia Lachner

Playa Chomo. Photo by Marcelo Guitterez

Playa Chomo. Photo by Marcelo Guitterez

FUNdaMENTAL Design Build Group, 2016. Courtesy of Taller KEN

FUNdaMENTAL Design Build Group, 2017. Courtesy of Taller KEN

FUNdaMENTAL Design Build Group, 2019. Courtesy of Taller KEN