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  • Writer's pictureAnuj Chaman

Josh & Joana - Tulum, Mexico

I had the pleasure of meeting Josh Beck and Joana Gomes during my first night in Tulum at Tulum Treehouse; a multipurpose oasis they designed and built. It combines guest rooms, an open air restaurant/lounge outdoor dining and rooftop all neatly tucked within the surrounding jungle.


We met again as they were visiting Casa Aviv, another property they recently finished to have the conversation transcribed below. Although a lengthy read, we go into their story of how they both met, their journey starting their own design office in Tulum (CO-LAB Design) including their philosophies on design and sustainability, what it means to be partners in business and in life and turning obstacles they faced into bridges to overcome them.


Instagram: @Colab_Tulum

 

--

Anuj:

Let's start with some introductions. Tell me a little about yourself.


Joana:

I'm Joana. I'm originally from Portugal where I also studied architecture. When on exchange in Berlin I applied for a job in Poland where I first started my practice. I ended up staying there for another four years where I eventually met Josh.


Joana Gomes

Josh:

I'm originally from Washington, DC but then moved out west to do my undergraduate degree at University of Colorado Boulder and then my graduate degree at UC Berkeley, both of them in architecture. After, I decided to go to Holland, because I got an opportunity to work with Rem Koolhaas for five years. It was an incredible environment. Everyone worked so hard and was at the top of their field and yet also had complete creative freedom.


While I was there, I met Joanna. We ended up in an architecture competition together working 80-100 hour weeks. I still don’t know how we managed to do it - It was completely crazy but also really fun.


I think that first competitions kind of planted a seed for us that we could create our own design office. It was not until like, four or five years later that we actually had the chance to do more projects together. We went to LA and did a whole series of competitions trying to get business for our office that way. We actually did really well. We won second place and honourable mentions, but unfortunately, none of those led to a paying commission client.


Being tight with the finances, we ultimately had to take work with another office. We still kept our eyes open for the right opportunity and that’s when a really great one presented itself in Mexico. So we decided, okay, this can be it, let's launch the office there. That first project was the Papaya Playa project building out 11 guest suites along the beach.


It was about three years of hard work. The first year, we were working directly from the restaurant already there and living down on the beach in a casita (small cabin). Albeit, basically a small bedroom, we had this incredible view and our commute was only steps along the beach to the restaurant.


Josh Beck

Joana:

I don't think we wore shoes for a year. We got here in 2013 just as a big travel boom started. Tulum was a backpacker place for a very long time before change in traveller tastes. The housing aesthetic moved away from rustic Mayan structures made from wooden sticks and cement and palm leaf roofs.


Josh:

You’ll still see this traditional style when you drive out into the countryside. We got involved to capture the new more upscale clientele by designing a new style of casitas. For example, we were conscious of how the wind would flow through them to keep them naturally cool. The windows are placed in such a way to harness the constant breeze passing onshore from the ocean. It really helps cool things off, but of course, the American market very much still likes their Air Conditioning so those luxuries are in place as well.


We also designed the structures in such a way to harness the natural shade of surrounding trees and offset the concrete dome roofs so you’re basically sitting inside the roof which functions to keep the inside cooler, but also gives an amazing view.


Casa Aviv that Josh & Joana built and where we had this conversation

Joana:

We also built a Capel nearby to capture the destination wedding market emerging so you can marry with the sea. That structure is one large A-frame open at either end; one opening up to the ocean, and the other towards the jungle. It’s a multipurpose venue for more than just weddings; yoga classes, group meditations, all different kinds of events.


We try not to cut any trees to maintain the beauty so we didn’t use any heavy machinery. Because of this, drilling four holes into solid rock for the foundation took 2 weeks in itself. The rest of the build was only 1 week to complete.


--

Anuj:

So explain a bit more about the scope of the work you both are in. Is it architecture, interior design, or the actual construction itself?


Joana:

Well, we started with designing, but the nature of Mexico itself is fixed in straight construction and Tulum is no different. There aren’t really any true architects that only just design.


Josh:

It's a very informal process. There are owners of the land/existing development and they tell workers they hire directly what they want built through photos they're inspired by.


Joana:

It's very hard to understand the work of an architect. We basically deliver drawings. Most of the clients don't know how to interpret or understand the complexity of them. It’s like reading another language. This was a big realization for us. Another obstacle was figuring out how we charge for our work. Coming from Europe and LA, we were working with super high tech architects. Coming here, we had to embrace a whole other way of doing things.


Josh:

In the past, we were working in some of the most premier offices at that time in the world, doing super high end, very expensive, one off kinds of things that started with beautiful drawings. And then we came here and we were like, “Okay, cool we have to figure this out.”


Joana:

It was a lot of learning on the go. I recall this very clear image of a worker we hired and no matter how he levelled this wall he was working on it always came out crooked. It needed to be completely redone.


Josh:

We were producing our drawings the way we were trained and giving them to our workers to build. I remember this one time in particular, we had this guy that we used to work with all the time and I’m not joking, he takes the design plan and just like a captain on a sailboat going into the storm he holds them straight out from his face with his legs spread out.


He stayed in that pose for 10 minutes. And then after “facing this storm” he responds, “okay we can do it.” Other times we would give drawings to people and they would literally take them and then rotate them 90 degrees, take a look and then rotate it again all the way around.


Josh "facing the storm"

Joana:

But I guess it’s a common thing because most construction workers are not trained builders but just being directed by somebody else. We didn't have an intermediary contractor.


Josh:

We realized we're going to have to draw and communicate differently and have different expectations in some cases like Jo was saying they couldn’t build a straight wall. Now, in that scenario it was particularly exacerbated by the owner not wanting to spend enough money for good builders. He had his maintenance team that were all super young kids around 18 years old build that hotel. Maybe one had experience but the owner was running the operation like we'd had 80 people on site, building in this kind of mad rush.


In that process we realized we couldn't do this kind of building with them the way we envisioned. So we had to adapt. It’s something we always discuss with the client now, the team and the materials we’re going to be using.


I feel like adapting is really at the core of our work. For instance, if we suddenly moved to New Zealand or France, what we'd end up building would be in response to what's available.


Joana:

We were lucky because we realized quickly that we could not build very professionally and clean here the way we had in the past. It had to be more rustic. But luckily, the world embraced that look here. People understood that the super clean, modern, sleek and contemporary way lacks the character this place needs for people to express themselves.


Everything in cities are manufactured and standardized but actually, people who have money, value things that are custom made and have character like what we do here.


Hand-fabricated divots in the table Josh & Joana built

Josh:

Those same people appreciate things hand made. That’s part of the movement here in Tulum and in a larger context changes happening to the hospitality business around the world. A slow return to organic, natural processes and going away from these mega hotels, where you have everything perfect, brass and shiny and five star.


On a global scale we're waking from this fabricated, factory-like life we've created and participating in. Living in mega cities, driving everywhere, stuck in traffic, buying all the same stuff from IKEA. It's like, really devoid.


I think this is one of the draws for people to come to Tulum. They get away from all that and really enjoy it because they immediately sense that change. You connect with nature, and embrace other people.


Joana:

And designing with nature in the earlier days was exactly like you would in a city like New York. You would tear down all the trees first, build up the structures and then replace the trees. We worked. to change that with owners. I would have to study the online Spanish dictionary on my free time at night to get good enough to discuss technical things with the workers. I was already a woman on a male dominated work site. I wasn’t about to ask them how to say a word; it’d lose all my credibility.



--

Anuj:

So this dovetails well, into my next question. What would you say has been the most challenging and the most rewarding thing about the work you do?


Joana:

For me the most challenging thing was not seeing what you designed come to life how you envisioned. This was especially true if you weren't at the job site. Workers might make decisions to make the job easier but that sacrifices subtle details they didn’t know were important. For example, in this house we’re in right now, you don't see any window frames. The windows run continuously from bottom to top. Same goes for the doors, you don’t see any headers or beams. Everything is flush, without visible columns or indentations and nothing. And those things are noted directly in the designs. But a contractor might not understand the concepts and the differences and instead convince the client that it would be much cheaper if you don’t hide beams or reinforcements. It’s a challenge everywhere but more here because not a lot of the contractors have seen the designs we’re trying to create.


We eventually realized we were spending more time on the job site battling with contractors so after a while we just hired and trained our team to do it ourselves.



Josh:

I think one of the challenging things here is that it's oftentimes very difficult to get parts that are much easier, cheaper and better quality to get if we were building elsewhere. But that's also one of the things that's actually really beautiful here because we’re forced to be incredibly inventive and make our own parts by hacking stuff together.


Like for example at Treehouse we did, all the lights we ended up making ourselves. It was a total hack job. We basically cut up different parts from separate lights we liked and combined it with other parts we built by hand. From there we got more into it and starting building other lights entirely from copper. It was really cool thing I don't think we would have ever done in Europe or in the US.


I think that's the beautiful thing about our time here is learning all these new techniques. Almost the same amount of time that I've spent in school, I've also spent training in various handcrafts. For example, I did a one year long wooden boat building fellowship in San Francisco, where we did very high level Japanese designs for museums. It was an incredible learning environment because whenever you would mess something up, our teacher, Robert Darr would would just point to a stack of wood in the corner and you just try again.


Robert was a poet and had us start each day with meditation by sharpening our Japanese tools. I still use a lot of the different techniques I learned like wood burning in order to bring out the resin and help protect it from termites. It's also a form of meditation, and I think it's reflected in the one of a kind pieces being made; you can really engage with it. It's not just a clean, slick, polished thing. You engage with its imperfections. I love that about being here (in Tulum). We get to do these kinds of things and it’s so fun for me to just make stuff from scratch.


Joana:

I’d have to agree on the rewarding feeling of getting to do the product designing as well. We always have friends from the states asking so, can you teach me how to do these finishes Unless you're willing to spend the extra time and money you're not going to achieve them because the unevenness comes from the hand, not from the machine.


For each project we test with a lot of samples, different tastes, textures or pigmentations for example. It’s amazing to have so much control of the space we design down to the things we fabricate to fill the space. Like for example in this space the only things we didn’t do are those two chairs, and the carpet.


From the beginning we were clear that we wanted to be product designers as well. Doing it all, not just the architecture feels very rewarding.


Josh:

We always edit things to match the aesthetic of the place. Instead of being a pain for people we buy things from, why not just buy them unfinished and finish them ourselves?


Casa Aviv Great Room with hand finished chairs and ceramics

You feel the difference in a space like this. The cohesiveness throughout basically makes the architecture disappear. It’s peaceful and calm and not in your face, constantly causing you to engage, but it creates a nice calm palette allowing a space for reflection. I really look to provide a place for meditation and allow people that opportunity to have calmness, either with themselves or to build relationships with others or with nature.



--

Anuj:

What is a project you are most proud of?


Joana:

I would definitely have to say Tree house where we met first met this week. It’s a beautiful cooperation with a network of designers and relationship we’ve built with the owner and and his commitment to not try to commercialize the space. Where lots of Tulum is becoming commercialized, Treehouse is a breath of fresh air.


Josh:

I’d say the same also because it was one of our earlier projects it was very much influential in really solidifying our core principles here in Tulum. Our goals and vision between us and the owner were aligned and he really helped distill the vision.


For instance the lights. We could’ve bought those but he was adamant to make this a house about Mexican craft so we made them. He allowed us to embrace that side.


We actually won a prize for that house. We were really surprised because it was a small little house and there was other stuff that was really much more architecturally interesting. But the story of the treehouse is actually a very interesting one. I mentioned to some of the judges how I was really surprised we were selected because we’re not Mexican. They said sometimes it takes someone from outside with fresh eyes to reveal the potential of Mexico. I feel like Klaus (the owner of Treehouse) fostered that freedom and gave us another level of clarity.


Joana:

But every project is interesting in its own way. Take this house we’re in. We have a very strong connection with it as well because the owner was aligned with our vision and gave us the freedom to control a lot of stuff.


Josh:

I feel like it's impossible to have a favourite. It's like asking me who’s my favourite child. Each one has different qualities you love.


Casa Aviv rear pool and garden

Anuj

What I imagine must be so fulfilling is that you get to create a living place where you can control all elements and go visit and actually create an experience. And it's probably even more fulfilling experiencing other people enjoying the space as well.


Josh:

It's really interesting because this all starts with a client conversation. Just seeds of words. And then those words translate into lines on paper and then designs on a computer and then you get building on site and it just keeps snowballing


And it all starts from an initial email that someone sends you. Then two to three years later you’re sitting on the sofa with the client in that place you first talked about. That's a really cool feeling. I feel like a time traveler in some regards.



--

Anuj:

Talk a bit about sustainability and your work.


Josh:

Of course there’s more we can do. For example, our first house we built collects all run-off rainwater and is solar powered but we're also very much aware that building with concrete is not the most sustainable.


Joana:

We could definitely be more sustainable. It all depends on how you look at sustainability. A lot of the “sustainable techniques” are very much dependent on technology, which is where it breaks down here in Tulum. For example, solar panel batteries actually pollute a lot and aren’t durable here because of all the salt in the air from the sea. Same goes for engines. A lot of these things just don’t last.


We're still trying to analyze if collecting rainwater is really a good option, because it rains infrequently and requires storage to be aired. Also, how to sustainably access the water available in the ground here is still a challenge.


Looping back to concrete, yes it is not a very sustainable material, but it will also last 100 years, whereas you’d have to replace a wooden structure 3-4 times in the same time period. We definitely try and move trees, rather than cut them and plant any we remove. The house we built next door from here has solar panels that are connected to a reverse meter that’s putting excess power back into the energy grid. And we’re still experimenting like we’ve done on a project building with bamboo.


Josh:

And it's a little bit tricky because even though I might feel comfortable with just a breeze from an open window others would immediately turn on the AC, because that's what they're used to and comfortable with. The biggest energy consumption are ACs. If we can find a way to curtail use we’re like 80% towards there.


But that's the challenge. When people are on vacation, oftentimes, the want all the luxuries. Their pool to be at a particular temperature, the air at a particular temperature. So it’s a constant struggle to design for both. We always try to consciously place windows in such a way to allow the natural flow. Same with sun angles. We analyze sun exposure and determine if we need to build in an overhang in certain places.


Anuj:

Do you think there is education missing that could get visitors to use the spaces more sustainably?


Joana:

Of course, but the issue is a lot of these places are just for renting and Airbnb and people generally don’t care to be careful. They sometimes completely destroy the place to the point where chairs are broken so forget about education and energy sustainability.


Josh:

I mean, it's understandable. Like, you know, when you're in the rat race in your home city and you have your two weeks of vacation, you want to party and relax and not have to worry about anything.


But the bright side is I think in general Tulum generally attracts a certain group of people that are a bit more open and receptive to things like this. For instance, you don't put the toilet paper in the toilet, because the plumbing system here does not handle that very well. A lot of people provide organic soaps, you know, so people kind of, I think, are on board with some of that stuff. But you’re right, that there needs to be greater education.


Joana:

I always think back to our time living on the beach when we first got here. There was no A/C and there was one plug in the restaurant for the entire hotel. And people would often disconnect instead of waiting in the three hour line to charge. From there to today where people expect an A/C in every room. This is where I think Tulum took a wrong turn in a way because of course we all like these comforts but the beaches barely have enough power from private generators for electricity let alone for A/Cs


--

Anuj:

Is there a place you'd love to travel to?


Joana:

I think we’d both say Costa Rica.


Anuj:

Why?


Josh:

Just because we haven't been there yet. Everything I’ve read about it and have learned from an environmental point of view I just feel like there's a consciousness there, of trying to protect the beauty of the natural world and the planet and animals.


Joana:

It’s like a primitive Tulum before it’s the Tulum we know now.


Josh:

To speak briefly about the condo developer aspect. There’s a very ugly side of development purely about greed, profit, taking shortcuts and stripping away the things we work so hard build with - list sustainability. That's why we've basically retired ourselves from building condos. It's too heartbreaking to watch. For like 100 bucks savings here and there, they change this or change that. And each time you do that you're stripping away natural beauty. We get tons of offers to do places like that that we turn down.


We go through so much trouble to protect the trees but the mentality of some people is just to do what’s fastest, which is clear cut, build the building, then replace any trees back.

And we’re like, “No, these trees have been growing here. They a part of history and have a story to tell. All these native endemic trees are exchanged for the palms you see all over Cancun to make this place look like what you’d imagine in from a postcard but actually the jungles here don’t look as tropical as people might imagine. It’s a lot of deciduous trees that drop their leaves.


I think that’s part of why Costa Rica is so appealing, is that they've already set aside so much of their country and landscape as protected lands. The culture is already there where as here we do so much to try and convince developers.




Anuj:

What would you say inspires you?


Joana:

Natural beauty. I was born in a little town of 200 people in the countryside of Portugal. Even when I went to Porto, Portugal to study I would still come back home every weekend to get mental peace in nature.


It just kept getting bigger and bigger when my studies and work transported me to Berlin, Los Angeles and then Mexico City. So landing in Tulum I was happy; you have the qualities of countryside combined with the interesting people you find in a city. I like the city culture but I don't need that for my everyday life.


There's nothing that feels better than going for a swim in the sea each morning before work. I have control of my environment exchange thoughtful conversations with interesting people you naturally meet in a place like Tulum. Tulum is still very much like this and that inspires me.


Josh:

There's still pockets of quiet places here. Even during the high season there are places we swim to where you don’t see anybody. Granted you need to swim a little distance or walk but you have the beach to yourself.


I would definitely agree that nature is the big inspiration, but for me it’s creating the lifestyle and work that allows us to appreciate nature and to have a more quality existence. Obviously that's very subjective how that’s defined. But for me, a quality and meaningful existence is one where you are very mindful of what you're doing. For example, I actually love to do the dishes. It’s perhaps a very Buddhist-like philosophy but when you're really present in what you're doing and really connected, it stops being a chore, burden or work.


That is what I'm most thankful for and most inspired about everyday in my life here.

But to be fair, I had a hard time adjusting in the beginning.


Joana:

Josh had his bags packed every month.



Josh:

Let me explain. Through all my education and training, I was metaphorically getting my pencils really sharpened and my computer skills at a super level and that ultimately collectively culminated into the work I was doing before Tulum in LA. I was doing celebrity homes for A list celebrities and it was a crazy, amazing world and finally my hard work in architecture was paying off and I was like, “wow, this is the top!” We could create things like a floor that retracts out on top of a pool and like water falling, or whatever you can dream of there were people asking for it and I made it.


Joana:

Meanwhile I was barefoot living in a 10 square meter cabana with tarantulas coming in my room every day.


Josh:

I knew I was walking away from a very financially profitable trajectory in my career. All of what I've been experiencing was leading to that..


Joana:

..And that’s the tricky part, because once you get on that path, it’s hard to walk away from it. For the rest of your life you’re looking for more and more..


Josh:

Walking away from a very materialistic lifestyle, I’m happy that I did because there's much more opportunities right here to be more mindfully present. And that is something that is super hard to do in LA. Of course there's ways to do it regardless of the place but the environment here in Tulum helps for sure.


Joana:

Maybe it’s just me but it was not so hard for me to adapt to a more simpler lifestyle. I understand that many other people here grew up in cities so it was often very hard for them to adjust. So I think we all learned, I think you learn to come to a simpler lifestyle and appreciate the beauty of not having such a fast lifestyle where everything is build for efficiency.


Of all the places I’ve experienced, Tulum felt like home. Meeting other bright minds of the world in any field and actually getting to know them; It’s something in a city you don’t get. People are always so busy.


I had to learn to have patience with Josh and help him see the beautiful parts of this place and not just those parts that didn’t work. But it was very tough. There was a period where it was hard. We had our fair share of struggles financially and went bankrupt so many times at the start. I kept motivating and not letting him just go back to LA.


Josh:

For like three to four years, we were working to exhaustion. We would work from our kitchen table, on weekdays, always on weekends, all the time. We just pushed, pushed, pushed, and then finally we just had so many projects that we couldn't do them all and decided we had to hire someone. But then we didn't have the money because our profits weren’t at the level we’d expected yet.


Open Kitchen leading out to Great Room

Joana:

But it was fine because it’s not important where you are but where you’re going. We were trying to design and build places that one else was doing. Different from the huts that people were so used to seeing to build a portfolio and confidence in builders to hire you to take on that next level project. And then you had to do that one well too. It’s like a ladder. Rather than do things cheap and try to pocket more money, we understood we may have to lose money, in order to get things to a certain standard at the start. But at least be happy with the project and it would take us to the next rung of the ladder.


Hopefully, one day, we can do projects without a client first and worrying about who’s going to buy this or if people will understand the value from the beginning. One of the challenges because we're both creatives at heart was learning the business and administration side. To add to this, we had to learn it for another country like Mexico. Learn the systems and working with business partners you don’t know if you can trust or that that don’t have knowledge working with foreigners.


We’re pretty proud because others we know that are super creative went bankrupt and closed their offices. We ensured we had projects planned before we hired people for security before taking the next step.


It’s a lot of things no one prepares you for. I feel like schools rather than just focusing on the creative architecture side need to prepare you to actually run a business.


Josh:

We have a pretty good team now, 10 people in the office but we’ve had anywhere from 18 to 60 people on site depending on how many projects we have on the go. We prefer to go at a slower pace but other than getting skilled workers it’s even difficult to even get motivated people.


Joana:

It was a good thing to learn - the different motivations between us and the local Mayan locals. They get allotted their land as part of a local government project and they have their chickens to raise and eat and hammocks to relax and they're not really that ambitious relatively speaking. Of course they want a decent phone and work to cover expenses but they’re not driven to work more than they need to.


Josh:

We’ll say (to our workers), “but we’ll pay you double” and they’ll be like, “we'd rather go be with our friends.” And we’ll be like, “Come on, don't you want money? You need money.” And then we're realizing like, actually, that's the sickness in itself.


Anuj:

You both have been in a partnership for your business. But of course you are also a couple and there’s a partnership there. How has that been? What have you learned? What are some tips you'd give to couples who want to go into business with each other?


Joana:

I mean there are some times where you fight, because we're both very passionate about what we do. Most of our fights actually revolve around work and eventually we just understand that through the fight, confrontation, conflict comes new ideas or better way of doing something.


It's like if you’re playing a football game. You’re on two different sides on the field but the differences stay on the field. Even though it can be difficult, it’s important to not take things personally, because a lot of times, they're not personal but to focus on the positive outcomes.


Josh:

I agree and the first I want to say is you're totally badass.


Joana:

No, I think I can be very impatient and be very aggressive. But yeah…


Josh:

..Sure all of us can be so many different things. But you're a total badass


Joana:

Well, thank you. Now I'm just preparing for whatever you’re going to say after.


Josh:

No, not at all.

You’re amazing..

Really..


I feel like we're both just so passionate about what we do. Of course there's times we do fight and things do break down. But it’s always because for whatever reason, we’re not allowing ourselves enough time to completely resolve things. Because oftentimes in life, there just isn't enough time for everything and unfortunately, sometimes you have a client breathing down your neck, or there’s water gushing out of the wall and there's just all this stress that's always happening.


There’s problems when we don't make this space and time for each other then we fight. Oftentimes we're having our own perspectives on things we think the way we see the world is the correct way. But as we all know, there is no correct way. There's just how we're going to go through this together and sometimes it gets the better of us. I think because we love what we do so much and the work is so rewarding that we keep returning to it together.



Joana:

I think it's also the fact that we're both so competitive. We both did competitive sports when we were young. I was a swimmer and then a rower. And we compete every day, all the time, but in a constructive way to push each other forward. But it can be exhausting too. Sometimes I just want to take it easy but then Josh has all energy that day and makes something better and then I’m like “fuck I need to do something else too” and so it can be exhausting. But it's also what pushes us through because we know from a team perspective we’re trying to do something better and through competing we’re collectively improving.


Josh:

No I really don’t see it like I'm trying to do better or be better than you…


Joana:

...I know you don't see it like that. The difference is I admit it and you don’t.

*Joana & I both laughed*



Josh

Of course I try to push myself and yes, I agree, when you’re competing on a serious athletic level you need to find the motivation to get up and train and get to that next gear constantly. When it's raining, when it's snowing, and it's miserable outside and you have to go for a six hour bike ride and that's the last thing you want to do and you know your toes are going to freeze during that process.


What is motivating in people that do that is there's something that you learn and develop within yourself to be able to push yourself that hard. I don't see it as much like I’m competing with other people. Even when I was a cyclist, the other people were there, but I was competing against myself.


Sure there'll be times where the competition is with others. When you see a situation, like those three cyclists in front of you, if you notice they get too far down the road I know they’ll work together and make it very hard for me to pass so I have to go now or else.


But it's a self driven competitiveness. With us it’s more playful. For instance, we do these long swims in the morning. And in the beginning I couldn't swim very well. I hadn't found my rhythm of breathing.


I’ve always loved running so I learned how to breathe when I run and at different paces I can adapt my breathing. I enter a flow state when I'm really in the zone, I can run forever, really fast, my hair stands on end, I feel a buzz at the top of my head and I'm connecting with something beyond just running. It’s incredibly deep and powerful, very much like when you meditate. Sometimes you reach those moments, after all the noise when you take these breaths that are so deep and powerful and really relaxing.


With swimming. I didn't know how to do that. I was all out of pace. And I didn't particularly enjoy swimming. But the ocean isn’t going anywhere. We're not going anywhere. There's no race. I'm not trying to beat anybody. I can go as fast or as slow as I need. So I slowed down and I found my rhythm. And then I was able to build up and she taught me a lot of techniques like how to refine this and that and find my rhythm.


--

Anuj:

If you could meet your 20 year old self what advice would you give them?


Josh:

That's your Tim Ferriss question eh?


Anuj:

You know it.


Josh:

I spent year basically backpacking around the world. When you're traveling like that, it's amazing, because you really feel protected by something unexplainable, as long as you stay open and are embracing your surroundings. But to get that you have to travel by yourself, because when you travel with another person, even just one other person, then the locals don’t engage with you as much because you’re doing something with someone.


In a weird way you feel really protected. And particularly when you're traveling around, you feel this, like, force protecting, it's insane. Like, it's really, it's a beautiful thing.


Oftentimes I would arrive in a city not knowing where I’m going to sleep. Somehow, someone would appear, and I would always be super skeptical? Because it was too easy. I thought I’d have to go through a struggle to find my place. A lot of times, I would end up back at that first thing. I was like, this is a really interesting lesson that I think I need to learn. Go with that intuition more.


In other scenarios, I would try to embrace my decisions that I make more completely and not always be second guessing if that was the right thing because that prevents you from fully experiencing the moment.


It’s extra important as designers because we constantly evaluate everything you do to find ways to improve it.


That's a line that we constantly have to walk as designers. Of course we have to critique what we do and learn to do better, like this could have been a different colour or this little bit further back but then we can also sit here in this space and enjoy it.



Joana:

I also think women are more intuitive. I’m not very big into astrology but I do start to see certain patterns with people that are born in certain times of the year.


I'm totally intuitive and I've learned through the process that the two or three times that I over rationalized things, I got to the same end outcome after taking many weeks to figure it out. And if it's not the right decision at the start, you have time to change it still.


Josh is very analytical. It’s one of the things that compliments me so well. Whereas I'm a starter that charges forward Josh is very detailed and always rationalizing. But there are many times when he came to the same conclusion after rationalizing something that he did when he first went with his gut.


For me it’s don’t get so personally, or emotionally involved with things that are related to business. You immediately get very close to clients when you're designing their house. You want to do the best of your ability so you need to get to know them better. To translate what they’re looking for in the design of their space with what they’ll be happy with. On one side it’s very nice to have these close relationships. I’m grateful for that. But on the other side, it just complicates everything else.


We're both creatives but things like negotiation, even though I don’t really look forward to it, it’s a crucial part of the business.


My father, who was into finances, always told me when you're negotiating, you exist from here up (motioning neck up), nothing exists from here down (motioning neck down).


I could also give myself other advice to get to the super top architectural office, but that doesn’t suit me. I don't find success in what the majority of the world finds success in.


To me, success isn’t working 50 years of your life, stacking money so you can come here after to retire and live the last 20 years of your life being fulfilled if you spent the other years doing things you're not fulfilled with just to get the money to get to do the things that actually fulfill you after.


I’d rather sacrifice not being where I want to be financially but I am fulfilling my life every day. If I look back at the places where we experienced that , of course it does have like so much better stuff, but I'm very happy with how my life developed. Important things in life come from being in the right place at the right time and being able to appreciate the moment and staying present.


As humans, we spend all our time looking for things and forget to enjoy where we are. I remember this very particular moment in Portugal with this friend who was visiting me. She was swiping looking for her next date as we were at a table with 5 handsome men. I was like what are you doing?


Humanity is so worried about the goal that we forget to enjoy the journey, you know. I think there's a real disconnect more and more in humanity, which creates spaces for all negative things like greed. You always want more and to get further and when you reach there, there's another thing to get. It’s only when you’re 70 years old do you you finally feel you’re finally done.


But you're much older and you probably don't have all the abilities you own had anymore. So yeah, I think my words of advice are stay present, live the moment, enjoy the moment and enjoy the ride.


When your mind is busy just preparing your entire future, you can actually miss the important things of the present that can lead you there faster.


I enjoyed every moment and the lessons I’ve been given at the right time. At the end of the day we're living in a place where so many people pay so much money to come and stay. We're here every day. What better can you have? It's perfect.



Thank you for sharing this moment, your story and spaces with me Josh and Joana.


-AC


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