8 Questions to Salvador Rivas, Director and Principal at HKS Mexico and Jury member of LIV Awards.

February 18, 2021

Salvador Rivas graduated in Mexico, he has an M.A. in Architectural Design from the Bartlett, UCL, and is a Chartered Architect in the UK. He was based in the UK for 15 years where he collaborated as an associate partner at Foster+Partners on a wide range of projects including hotels and resorts for Banyan Tree, Oberoi, and Intercontinental Hotel Groups. Salvador is sharing his professional journey and the challenges of developing Hospitality projects in Mexico and the Latin America region.


Could you tell us a little about yourself?

I am a Mexican-British architect and designer; who has always been passionate about the effectiveness of natural systems, technical advancements and design performance. I have been fortunate to explore and test some of these ideas through research, development, and professional collaborations for more than twenty years. Since childhood, I had to deal with constant change, so I consider myself quite adaptable, an asset that is becoming extremely valuable in this constantly evolving world.

What inspired your love for architecture and interior design?

Initially, I wanted to become an airplane pilot as I was fascinated by how humans were able to be inspired by an act of nature like flying and turn it into efficient man-made aircraft. My interest then moved to automotive design, but since this specialty was not available in Mexico I decided to become an architect, thinking that I would be able to have a wider reach with the design of cities, architecture, interiors, and even products. It was the right decision, indeed, as I truly believe that as architects and designers, we have a responsibility to improve people´s lives through good design, regardless of project location, type, and scale.

What brought you to work mostly on Hospitality projects?

Throughout my career, I have been fortunate to collaborate on a series of different projects from performing arts centers to airport terminal buildings. But hospitality projects are the ones that I have certainly enjoyed the most as they are about creating new and different experiences for guests, visitors, and users alike. Each project should respond to its particular physical, environmental, and cultural context and this is where the uniqueness of a project can be achieved. There is also an important aspect of social responsibility, where hospitality projects must be more sustainable, efficient and adaptable to changing trends.

In 2017, you founded S*ARC, your architectural practice, when did you decide it was time to start your own company?

Since I graduated from architecture school, I had the idea that “one day”, after pursuing further postgraduate studies and professional experience, I would be able to start my own company. This became possible a few years ago with the opportunity to collaborate on the design and development of some interesting projects in Mexico and other countries.

The experience has been really fulfilling, leading to the foundation of another company in the UK, and it has been one of the most satisfying yet challenging periods of my professional life. As these initiatives follow their path, I am pleased to collaborate at HKS in my current role.

What is your priority when starting a new project? Is there something fundamental to your practice – your philosophy and your process?

Throughout the years, I have had the opportunity to collaborate with some of the most important architects and designers in Mexico and the UK. Each experience has provided me with a good insight into project development. For me, one of the key aspects when starting a project is dedicating sufficient time to truly understand the client, user, and site requirements to be able to develop a robust concept that could withstand future changes to any major variables. What is fundamental for me is that each project becomes a new opportunity to create a truly innovative, sustainable, and now more than ever, adaptable design solution.

What are the main challenges when developing Hospitality projects in Mexico and Central America in General?

Being such an important tourist destination, our region has experienced a significant influx of varied hospitality formulas throughout the years, across different typologies and categories. Recent challenges are related to the delivery of original, timeless, sustainable and efficient design solutions.  The current global pandemic is posing even more challenges on how designers can effectively deal with new trends, program requirements, and adaptability of existing and new hospitality projects. As it has happened in other locations around the world, our regions will rapidly need to adapt to the challenges and changes resulting from our “new normal”.

You mentioned that your “focus is in hospitality projects relates to excellence in design, integration with their environment, and creating great experiences for guests and all users”.

Do you mind sharing some of the projects you have been working on, where the “environment integration” was in the center of the Architecture and Property Landscaping?

An interesting example of this integration could be a project developed for one of the leading hospitality groups in the world, to be located in Mauritius Island. This project considered different aspects of its unique natural setting to integrate different spaces that would accommodate special experiences for its guests. For instance, the reception would be located close to a waterfall to provide natural cooling and a ´wow factor´ upon arrival, the main hotel building would literally emerge from the natural terrain and the exclusive villas would respond to the site´s topography and an exhaustive study on optimal landscaping, orientation, views and privacy.

Which architect most influences your work or your work habits?

 There have been three influential figures in my work habits to date, all of whom I have met and worked with throughout my professional life: Enrique Murillo, a great Mexican architect, Sir Peter Cook, a distinguished British professor and visionary and Lord Norman Foster, one of the most respected living architects in the world. They have all led through example, to challenge conventions, to exceed standards on design quality and to inspire current and new generations to understand that good, innovative and sustainable design can truly make our world better.