António de Sousa Coutinho joined the Fragmentos team in 2012 and took on the role of project coordinator in 2017. He has the role of Business Development Coordinator. In 2022, António became an associate. Read his full bio here.
You joined Fragmentos 10 years ago as an architect. Currently, you are an associate architect and coordinate the Business Development Department. Having witnessed the sharp growth of the firm in recent years and the need to create a specialised department in the area, how would you describe this evolution?
The growth of the studio in recent years has increased our visibility, brought us new clients, and led us to increasingly being sought out for new projects. Along with the growth of the real estate market in Portugal, this has led Fragmentos to create a Commercial Development Department in order to develop strategies, better understand the market, and establish commercial goals that would otherwise be difficult to manage, allowing us to develop more and better quality work. This exclusive dedication to the commercial field allows us to give greater attention to those who come to us for the first time (or return to us), to go into detail in the presentation of the studio and the concepts that underpin our work, and to establish a plan from the outset that allows us to anticipate and accompany the client’s needs, from the first contact until the conclusion of the project. The Department oversees the evolution and growth of the studio, helping us trace the path we seek to follow.
As an architect by training, how do you see this challenge? Do you still have time to work on design?
It’s just that, a challenge! One more among 10 years of them at Fragmentos. I work less on projects now, but I still understand and follow the studio's projects. Although most of the time I don't draw or design nowadays, from when I first meet clients and come to understand their wishes and dreams and the initial concepts, I still feel they are a little bit mine. I like to imagine a thread that connects us all to the various stages of a project: when I make the first contacts with the client, when I draw the first outline, often in words, of what will become a Fragmentos project, I am in a way sowing the seed for what can be born and grow in the studio. As I was saying, it is a real challenge. This is not the area of my basic training, but it is a huge personal investment which has allowed us to take our studio to the next level.
Another challenge of your career at Fragmentos was your experience as Country Manager in Chile. What role did this period play in your career shift?
Chile, the country of Alejandre Aravena and other famous architects, is a very special country. The difficulty in setting up a Fragmentos banner in a country where we still had no projects led us to be bolder and more multi-faceted in our strategy, it was very clear to us that our approach had to be different. My work in Chile was very much related to running operations, executive management and, of course, attracting contacts and clients. These functions that were in addition to my work as an architect increasingly became a central part of my role in the studio, so the transition to the Commercial area on my return to Lisbon was very natural. Unfortunately, the climate of political instability meant that we were not able to stay there for very long but it was definitely a remarkable experience.
One of the great focuses of the Department's work is to strengthen client relationships, but also to create new relationships, often as a first point of contact. How do you set yourself apart in this regard?
The Commercial Development Department is precisely that which enables us to offer something unique and special to each client. As I was saying before, it allows us to communicate the concept of Fragmentos from the first contact and then take it further, creating a relationship of trust with the client. The other great aspect of this department is reaching out to new contacts, entering the market and making the studio even more known. To be the face of what Fragmentos wants to transmit and convey that message to those who reach out to us. To evolve, we have to know the market we are operating in, who is there and what they want, where we can make a difference. This is the only way we can keep Fragmentos on its unique path. I feel privileged to be able to convey the right message to each client, to be the gateway for those who we reach out to or who come to us. This department will allow us to continue to develop as a studio and grow even bigger and better.