Welcome to the world of architect Rolf Blakstad, where a lifelong journey of uncovering Ibiza’s rich heritage unfolds. Born and raised on the island, Rolf carries on the legacy of his parents, Rolph and Mary Blakstad, who ventured to Ibiza from Canada in 1956. At the helm of Blakstad Design Consultants, an internationally acclaimed family firm, Rolf leads the way in preserving and restoring Ibiza’s vernacular architecture with utmost sensitivity. Join us as we delve into the remarkable work of a visionary architect dedicated to honoring the island’s cultural heritage.
Rolph and Mary arrived in Ibiza in 1956, adventurous travelers seeking a new way of life. From Vancouver, they brought with them a desire to create a different environment for their family. They raised their five children on the island and left a lasting impact by establishing two enduring institutions: Mary founded the Morna Valley School, now known as Morna International College, to educate their growing brood, while Rolph forged a remarkable career as a designer and architectural historian under the Blakstad name. All five siblings were influenced by the architectural world and continue to work in various capacities within the field. Rolf, in particular, carries on the family legacy as the head of Blakstad Design Consultants.
When Rolph and Mary realized they were here to stay permanently, they fully immersed their children in the local culture. Rolf became fluent in Catalan, Castellano, and English and embraced his identity as a Spanish national. Ibiza became deeply rooted in his life through language, family, and work. His father’s passion for local traditions and his pragmatic design approach continue to leave their mark across the island, and Rolf has done his father proud by evolving the Blakstad brand into the leading architectural practice in Ibiza.
As a child, Rolf accompanied his father to construction sites, entrusted with the task of climbing crumbling walls and venturing onto precarious rooftops to take measurements. Together, father and son would plan and survey the foundations of a house or investigate renovations of another. “It was just a part of life,” Rolf recalls. “We spent an immense amount of time together.” The ability to perceive structure in a pile of deteriorating stones was passed down from father to son through osmosis, and it was only natural for Rolf to continue the work. “My father thought outside the box, but always approached things practically,” he explains. “And I believe we still do that. It’s not about us; it’s about the spaces our clients will inhabit.”
Rolf seems to be constantly on the move, basing himself either on construction sites, in his car, or within the book-lined walls of the Blakstad Design Consultants library. There is a dynamism about him that sharply contrasts with the serene atmosphere of the office. His mind quickly grasps concepts and effortlessly transitions between understanding his clients’ needs and nurturing the creative ideas of his team.
Pragmatism remains at the core of the Blakstad practice, in stark contrast to the common stereotype of egoistic architects building monuments to themselves. Every Blakstad design revolves around family. “We never assume that we should dictate how people should live,” says Rolf. “On the contrary, our designs adapt to each family. It’s truly important to us.” Rolf views the dialogue between himself and his clients as an opportunity for learning and expanding his own experiences. “Working with different people and teams allows me to incorporate new ideas into our daily work. If we were constantly imposing our own concepts, everything would be repetitive.”
“Being able to imagine the spaces and see them realised is the part I really enjoy,” he says. “You have to think in volumes, in wholes. You’re imagining walking through them, that’s when you can feel a sort of euphoria. That’s when you can see that something is going to be a beautiful space. Physically giving shape to something and being able to see those concepts come to be built is very satisfying.”
A driving force propels Rolf forward, and he relishes every stage of a project’s progression. “In my opinion, the role of an architect is to genuinely understand a lifestyle,” he asserts. “Although I consider architecture to be temporary, it must endure long enough and remain flexible to accommodate a family’s changing needs.” With two children of his own, he comprehends the fleeting nature of family life. “Families change more rapidly than you’d think. A home needs to adapt to various circumstances – the birth and growth of children, their departure, and even the seasonal differences. I strive to design with those needs in mind.”
When Rolph and Mary finally realised they were here to stay permanently they immersed their children into the local culture. Rolf speaks fluent Catalan, Castellano and English and identifies solidly as a Spanish national. His roots are strongly tethered to Ibiza through his language, his family and his work. Traces of his father’s passion for local traditions and his pragmatic approach to design are still evident across the island and Rolph would definitely be proud of how Rolf has evolved the Blakstad brand to become the leading architectural practice in Ibiza.
As a child Rolf accompanied his father to building sites, charged with the job of scrambling up crumbling walls and onto dubious rooftops to take measurements. Together, father and son would plot and pace out the foundations of a house or investigate the refurbishments of another. “It was just always part of life,” says Rolf “We spent masses of time together.” The ability to see structure in a pile of crumbling stones had been passed by osmosis from father to son; it was a natural progression for Rolf to continue the work. “My father thought out of the box, but he always approached things from a practical level,” he says. “I think that’s something we still do. It’s not about us, it’s about the space which our clients are going to inhabit.”
Rolf seems to base himself either on site, in the car or within the book-lined walls of the Blakstad Design Consultants library. There’s a dynamism about him that’s in stark contrast to the studied calm of the office. He’s constantly on the move, his mind quickly grasping concepts and flitting between an intuitive understanding of his clients’ needs and the creative urges of his team.
Pragmatism continues to be the cornerstone of the Blakstad practice and unlike the common stereotype of the egoist architect building a testament to himself, a Blakstad design always comes back to family. “At no point do we consider that we are going to tell people how they should live,” says Rolf. “On the contrary, we adapt our designs on each family. It’s really important to us.” Rolf sees the dialogue between himself and his clients as an opportunity to learn and expand his experience. “Working with different people and different teams gives me the possibility to incorporate new ideas into what we do every day. If we were constantly pushing our own concept everything would always be the same.”
There’s a driving force that propels him ever forward and he appears to relish every stage of a project’s passage. “In my view, the role of the architect is to really understand lifestyle,” he says. “Even though I consider architecture to be temporary, it has to last long enough and be flexible enough to adapt to the family.” With two children of his own, he understands the fleeting nature of family life. “Families change much more quickly than you think. A house needs to adapt to the circumstances – children being born, growing up, leaving. Even the differences between summer and winter need addressing. I try to design according to those needs.”