“Where do we go from here?
It is not necessary, nor possible, to invent
a new kind of architecture
every Monday morning.”
Mies van der Rohe, 1960
With this famous maxim, what Mies wished to put into question, above all, was the widespread zeal for novelty, for unnecessary invention and surprise as pillars of architectural quality.
Given new meaning, I believe, the maxim can be applied to current circumstances.
We have come to a point where it is unnecessary to build more, and necessary, instead, to direct efforts at making the most of what already exists but is not being optimized.
Developed societies, where housing needs and public services are already much taken care of, are seeing the rise of the need to preserve territory still unbuilt on. So are less developed societies, those suffering great scarcities yet have overgrown cities: Lagos, Mexico City, Monterrey, Mumbai, and so on. In these places it is even more pressing to discontinue occupying new stretches of land unless really necessary. The inevitable deterioration of the built realm makes it obligatory to reflect on ways of satisfying future and current needs through reuse of the built heritage.
Moreover, it is a fact that in different parts of the world, inadequate building operations have been carried out all too frequently, with grave consequences on the landscape and environmental conditions. Suffice it to look at the coasts and other places of tourist interest in many countries, Spain included, or at landscapes of exceptional value, all of which it would be so good to get back. These operations have also often given rise to social situations and economic expectations that then need to be addressed, involving, as they do, the means of subsistence of entire populations. They could be addressed, precisely, if the territory and the landscape were gained back.
That is why, after so many years of uncontrolled occupation of territory, it seems that the time has come to stop and think of how best to make use of what is already built, both optimizing and improving it. That is, both through the use of obsolete and less useful pieces of the urban fabric (which can then again be occupied efficiently), and through the transformation of pieces that may be deteriorated, changing their uses or purposes or eliminating them altogether. Programmatically we could call this the rebuilding of the built city, or the second building of the city.
That is, reconstructing the constructed, either by changing the use of the already built, or restoring or eliminating the badly built. And by bravely addressing cases where recent costly operations are still reversible.
Of course this is a strategy that affects many issues and has many implications: economic, cultural, heritage-related… Many inherited building are badly constructed, and are in disuse in their current state, no longer serving the purposes they were built for.
By heritage we do not only mean what we ordinarily call ‘old’, but some very recently built works as well. It is important to look for ways to reuse recently constructed buildings: urban monuments to megalomania and inappropriateness, built with little reflection and good sense, such as some museums, auditorium, sport centers, or stadiums…; buildings which may even be abandoned or half built, and which deserve to be turned into useful spaces.
Within the context of the proposal to consider reuse and repair of the built heritage, an altogether separate issue that is important to address is the need for public spaces of the efficient kind many cities lack. It can be addressed by promoting vertical growth to free up the necessary space, or by eliminating all less useful pieces of the urban fabric.
Presented this way, the theme does not stray much from the reflections of our previous Campuses, with which the forthcoming one forms a clear unit. In the last editions the debate centered on more speculative, but very important issues. In 2011 the discussion revolved around the desired survival of abstraction in architecture and urban planning, in opposition to the growing trend of an expressionist neo-formalism devoid of content (Arrivals, Departures, June 2011. T6 Ediciones, 2012); and in 2012 and 2013, under the mottos Beauty: Challenge and Service (T6 Ediciones, 2013) and The Time of Beauty (T6 Ediciones, 2015), the focus was the inalienable condition of beauty that it is architecture’s duty to give society.
Staying within those excellent frameworks that guarantee the intellectual and programmatic excellence which ought to characterize the architectural deed, and to which Campus Ulztama aspires, with the 2015 edition we wish to concentrate the debate on the need to look at the built heritage and built cities as a ‘new lot’ for modern construction; to re-think the city and territory with our eyes on regaining urban space, on rectifying all that which was built without taking urban space into account, or with little care for the quality of social life.
The idea is reflection and discussion on bringing back these qualities through architecture, that is, through architecture of quality and ambition, as against architecture of facile and noisy populisms, of attitudes that may seem groundbreaking but are useless, made up with a pseudo-intellectual patina, reproducing 1970s attitudes but devoid of real content, with no genuine care about the qualitative values of space, limited to simply turning spaces into venues of popular activity.
Taut’s Aussewohn raum (“habitable outdoor space”) and Rossi’s genius loci have nothing to do with the literally and figuratively noisy attitudes behind the simply rebellious, beauty-less and progress-less occupation of space, attitudes based on exalting the spontaneous and primitive, and expressed without intellectual elaboration, forgetting Paul Valéry’s wise warning that maximum liberty requires maximum order (P. Valéry, Eupalinos, or the Architect).
To hide behind paradigm changes as a strategy is to hide behind a bullring barrier that still gives a view of the bulls; in contrast, if we dare to commit to repairing with magnanimity, aware of past errors, maybe we can make real remedies and progress.
And all this in real society, without common utopias, using the extraordinary means we have at our disposal: architecture and ambitious design. For we cannot drop to the ingenuous attitude of those who think that everything low-cost is good.
We have a great opportunity before us, more than a problem, as Botto well expressed: “the growth of new building projects in abandoned areas marks a new frontier for urban planning, one which, along with the inevitable demolition of obsolete buildings, projects new territories and new visions for the city, visions with the capacity to sew and recompose the large voids created by old industrial zones” (M. Botta; Los centros históricos, Pamplona 2014).
We have to bring back the ideals of modernity, its zeal for social service and its great ambition. But this time, to work on built cities and badly occupied territories, to try to make them more beautiful, more useful, and more human, even if to do so, sometimes what is ultimately more beneficial may be more costly in economic and social terms. But it will always be more costly in terms of effort and thought.
We are meeting at the Equestrian Center of Robledales de Ultzama with the aim of finding the best way to re-build the built.
José Manuel Pozo
This concept is not new. From the beginning, any city is a complex system, a great palimpsest, a constant dialogue between old and new.
But the concept has probably never been as necessary, as it is now, for architects to delve further and deeper into this branch of their activity.
There are various reasons for this, including the economic crisis, which in countries like Spain has decreased the number of new constructions drastically. But it is due as well to structural reasons— some of an economic nature, others related to energy waste, to ecological imbalance, or to questions of sustainability. The idea of endless growth has come to a limit, met its boundaries. In the near future, re-use of buildings will be more and more frequent. It may even become more an obligation than an option.
What does it mean to build the built? Every case has its own complexity, and requires a specific answer. A building’s new function, and the context of its site, could be the best guide and the best motor when it comes to designing and materializing a transformation. There is no place for fundamentalism or radicalism in the question of the pros and cons of demolitions, vis-à-vis the systematic preservation of old buildings. In every single case, the choice between demolition and preservation could be an achievement or a terrible mistake.
Public opinion must be brought on to our side in operations of this kind, but things do not always work this way, for sentimental reasons—certain people developing strong emotional ties with buildings about to be transformed.
Other times, the reasons have to do with a general loss of confidence in architects, the consequence of many years of spectacular architecture. But architects must absolutely win back the trust of society and the complicity of public opinion, and become leading nexuses between the city and the citizens. It is architects who best know the discipline, as well as the laws of the city. They should be the first and main advisors in re-building operations, which are all too often driven by economic and political criteria.
Architects should take on a more proactive role, and act as instigators in certain processes. They should also play a pedagogical role, and be able to instill in citizens a more sensitive approach to the task of rebuilding the built.
This is how architects ought to go about their work nowadays, but not just to solve current problems. The design of new buildings should take into account future needs, future transformations, future re-uses. It is necessary to change architecture by making every building bear a potential for flexibility and transformation. However, it is not about neutral, flexible spaces, but rather about spatially defined, well phrased, specified, and at the same time prospectively variable spaces.
It will help to develop a wide range of new typologies for acting on constructions built long ago; typologies which are useful as tools and criteria in re-building architectural works and re-using them once they are deemed worth preserving.
He received his doctorate in architecture from the University of Navarre (UNAV) IN 1990, corresponding to the period 1988-1990, the Aragon Architects Association give him its Research Award.
At the UNAV School of Architecture he has held the positions of Vice Dean, Postgraduate Program Director (for doctorates, specializations and masters): Architectural Projects Department Secretary, and Head of Publications.
In 1995 he and Juan Miguel Otxotorena Elicegui founded the publishing company T & 6 Ediciones.
He promoted and was executive director of “Revista de Arquitectura” Ra, which in 2007 was included in the Arts & Humanities Citation Index. He has sat on the scientific committee of this magazine, on that of the UNAV School of Architecture´s Historic Archive of Contemporary Spanish Architecture and on that of the International Congress on the History of 20th-Century Spanish Architecture. he has also served as Heritage Secretary of the Biennial of Latin American Architecture (BAL) and as a member of this scientific committee. He organized the first Pamplona biennial at the UNAV School of Architecture and has participated in diverse research programs.
Since 2010 he has been closely involved with the Fundación Arquitectura y Sociedad, serving as director of Campus Ultzama ‘Arrivals/Departures’ in 2011, Beauty: Challenge and Service” in 2012 and Beauty´s Time in 2013 and as deputy director of the International Architecture Congress ‘The Common’, held in Pamplona in June 2012 and organized and directed by Luis Fernández-Galiano.
Llàtzer Moix (Sabadell, 1955) is a cultural journalist. Having earned his degree in Informa- tion Sciences at the Universidad Autónoma de Barcelona, he worked in Catalunya-Express, El Correo Catalán, and TVE (Spanish Television) before starting in the Barcelona newspaper La Vanguardia, in which for twenty years, until 2009, he was in charge of cultural themes, and where he now serves as deputy editor, leader writer, columnist, and architecture critic. His books, published by Anagrama and Six Barral, include Mariscal (1992), La ciudad de los arquitectos (1994), Wilt soy yo. Conversaciones con Tom Sharpe (2002), Mundo Mendoza (2006), and Arquitectura milagrosa (2010). He taught in the University of Gerona’s Master of Art Communication and Criticism program and participated as a relator in the Fundación Arquitectura y Sociedad’s ‘More for Less’ congress in 2010.
After graduating from the School of Architecture of the University of Navarre (2010), she stayed on to do a master program in Theory and History of Architecture, and she is currently working on a doctoral thesis in her alma mater’s projects department, on the religious architecture of the new towns raised in Spain in the period 1939–1974. She has taken part in various publications as well as congresses having to do with this research. From 2010 to 2013, still at her school, she collaborated in the teaching of the subject Architectural Drawing. Since 2013 she has been serving as assistant professor of Elements of Composition.
Architecture degree earned at the Barcelona School of Architecture (1977).
Doctorate in architecture (Cum laude, 1977) with thesis on the work of Domènech i Montaner.
Diploma (Excellent) in Legal and Forensic Architecture at Pompeu Fabra University (2003).
Professor at the Barcelona School of Architecture (1974–1990).
Deputy Director of the Barcelona School of Architecture (1984–1987).
Member of culture board of the Catalonia College of Architects (1981–1985, 1986–1988, 1994–2000).
During his professional practice (1997–2007) he received several architecture awards, including for the Institut Barri Besós Gymnasium, the Tordera water treatment plant, and the reconstruction of the Swedish Pavilion of the 1929 Universal Exposition in Berga.
Prominent among his works are the interior design and furniture of 24 floors of offices in Agbar Tower (2002–2005) and the complex of buildings in the FECSA ENDESA city block in Barcelona (2001–2007).
Director of Arquia Foundation since 2007.
Ricardo Bak Gordon was born in Lisbon in 1967. He graduated in 1990 at Faculdade de Arquitectura da Universidade Técnica de Lisboa. During his studies he also attended Faculdade de Arquitectura da Universidade do Porto and Politecnico di Milano.
He is currently a visiting professor in the Integrated Master Degree (MSc) in Architecture at Instituto Superior Técnico (IST), Lisbon. He has also lectured and/or attended as visiting professor at several universities and institutions such as the Faculdade de Arquitectura da Universidade Técnica de Lisboa, the Escola Superior Artística do Porto, Universidade Lusíada, the Universidade Autónoma de Lisboa, Universidad Camilo José Cela, Madrid, Universidad de Salamanca, Col·legi d’Arquitectes de Catalunya, Politecnico di Milano, Universitá Cá Foscari, Venice, Universitá degli Studi di Sassari, Academmia di Architettura di Mendrizio, Hochschule Luzern, Universität Liechtenstein, Trinity College, Dublin, Universidade de Brasília, Universidad de San Francisco de Quito, the Ozone Foundation in Tokyo or the Universitá IUAV di Venezia.
His activity as an architect has been developed since 1990, and in the year 2002 he created the studio Bak Gordon Arquitectos, where currently works. He was the author of the Portugal Pavilion in ExpoZaragoza 2008, of the Portugal Pavilion in São Paulo Biennial 2007 and of the exhibition project in the first edition of Lisbon International Architecture Trienal 2007.
His work as an architect was presented in different exhibitions in Portugal, Spain, Italy, United Kingdom, Germany, Czech Republic, Mexico, Ecuador, Brazil, Macau, South Korea and Japan; and published on prestigious editions of the specialty.
He was a nominee for the Mies van der Rohe prize in 2009 and 2011; winner of the FAD Prize 2011 (Barcelona, Spain) and BIAU Prize 2012 (Cádiz, Spain). He was one of Portugal’s representatives at the Venice Biennale in 2010 and 2012.
Sofia Krimizi studied architecture at the National Technical University of Athens graduating with honors in 2008 and the Ecole National Superieure de Paris la Villete (Master I- Erasmus).
She earned a post-graduate degree at the Graduate School of Architecture, Planning and Preservation of Columbia University in New York (Master of Science in Advanced Architectural Design) having received scholarships from the Fulbright Foundation, the Foundation for Education and European Culture and the Goulandris Foundation, while winning the William Kinne travel Award, the Honor Award for Excellence in Design and the AAD Exit Lectures mention.
Sofia has worked for various offices including Steven Holl Architects in New York, Ateliers Jean Nouvel in Paris and Grafeio 405 Aris Zambikos in Athens before founding ksestudio with Kyriakos Kyriakou in Brooklyn-NY. She has taught design studios and research seminars as a Visiting Assistant Professor at Pratt Institute, the University of Pennsylvania and the Cooper Union, while currently serves as a Visiting Critic Professor at Cornell University. She recently received a research grant from NYSCA (New York State Council of the Arts) and the Storefront for Art and Architecture the American Condominum Metabolism project with ksestudio. She has received numerous awards and mentions in international competitions and exhibited her work at the Museum of the City of New York, the Storefront for Art and Architecture and the Benaki Museum in Athens and the Venice Biennale amongst other places.
“This book- text in my case– is both an attempt at architectural criticism and an apologia- an explanation, indirectly of my work. Because I am a practicing architect, my ideas on architecture are inevitably a by-product of the criticism which accompanies working, and which is, as T.S.Eliot has said, of “capital importance… in the work of creation itself.” I write then, as an architect who employs criticism rather than a critic who chooses architecture and this book – text in my case- represents a particular set of emphases, a way of seeing architecture, which I find valid. “ Robert Venturi, Complexity and Contradiction.
One can argue that we have built it all and that actually we managed to have build even more than that. Form followed function and function was determined as a problem solving equation between program and square footage. I want to examine a literally superficial example of “building the built” starting from the case of the Nashville Parthenon in Tennessee, USA. Built out of plaster, wood and brick, as the temporary main pavilion of the 1897 Tennessee Centennial Exposition, the Nashville Parthenon was a full-scale exact replica of the “original” Parthenon on the athenian Acropolis. Being too expensive and too popular to be completely demolished after twenty years of decay, the Nashville Parthenon was rebuilt as a permanent concrete structure in 1925 (fig.1 & 2). Going beyond the notion of typology, the crystallization of the marble ruins as measured and surveyed in a specific moment in time allowed a reconstruction of what was considered as original. The material mutation from marble to the unstable mixture of plaster- wood and brick and then to the liquid stone of poured concrete was similar and comparable to the transition of the timber ancient temple to the stone one. Site, material and program became interchangeable, or simply irrelevant in this case of building the already built, leaving us to wonder upon the very core of what we define as building (noun) and what re-building (verb).
The argument I am trying to make through the multiplicity of Parthenons, consists of an eternally anew building, obliged to be rebuilt- and hopefully in redefining- an existing condition. The answer is that nothing is essentially unbuilt, so our discipline shifts -or should shift- constantly from the “invented every Monday morning architecture” (Mies van der Rohe, 1960) type towards a synthetic act of design that understands novelty, invention and surprise as a mechanism and structure of architecture and not as desired outcomes. One can trace the origins of this operation in the dichotomy between teaching architecture either empirically or academically. Even the notion of architectural (technical) drawing itself operates with the prerequisite of having a specimen to draw. A line in a technical/ architectural drawing is a representation of something that already exists in the built dimension.
The line, the dot, the dash, the hatch, the tags, the blocks, the whites, the blacks, the greys, the orthographic representation of an impossible architectural state of a plan, a section, an elevation; all of the conventional drawing elements and techniques adopted by the profession and the discipline manifest that we are building the built both literally and metaphorically. Words, numbers, signs, inhabit the lines, the dots and the hatches that the architectural drawing is made out of. How does this hypertext eventually links to elements external and irrelevant to its meaning and content? Doesn’t the teaching of architecture consist of understanding exactly what are the elements of drawing are and how they possibly transcribe themselves to elements of architecture and design? Isn’t the way we draw, the way we design after all?
In this light I want to discuss the work of the research seminar “X-ray: Elements of drawing” produced during the fall semester of 2014 at the University of Cornell, as well as the act of analysis as a synthetic tool in the pedagogy of the Cooper Union.
As architects, we are facing the paradox of an inherited and unaltered language of representation that endures and reproduces ad nauseam. The X-ray seminar aimed to render the students aware of the conventions embedded in the language of architecture and eventually allow them to claim a knowledge of their origin and thus its potential redefinition. The course attempted to formulate an inventory of drawing conventions that operated as the pool of elements that were dissected, X-rayed and exploded. Each student selected an element of interest and proceeded to create a chart of its appearance, performance and transformation throughout the history of drawing. Following this exercise each student committed an act of drawing against the nature of the selected element. For instance (the students looking at the convention of the door and its representation challenged, or rather intentionally confused -the notation of the element with the notation of the rotation and movement of the door ending up having to invent new types of door to fit the “ballet” of movements their curve analysis had produced (fig.3, 4 & 5).
Yet another relevant pedagogical example of the “build the built” theme is the didactic approach towards analysis developed at the Cooper Union continuously from 1960 to today. The structural and abstract nature of the act of analysis clashes against the material and irrevocable reality of an existing (built) building the students are asked to research, document, disassemble and reassemble in the process of the analysis studio. A very interesting and critical moment in this long tradition of “analytical synthesis” was the case of a studio team which analyzed John M. Johansen’s “Mummers Theater” complex in Oklahoma City (1970), while it was begin demolished in the fall of 2014. A synchronous act of demolition and analysis was taking place at that moment in time when the discipline was celebrating a radical building (radical in its program, material, structure, site) and the real world was condemning it as irrelevant and redundant. 
We are building the built. The way we claim this non negotiable fact is probably what we came here today to discuss and ponder about. And finally going back to Venturi, the complexities of this sysiphean effort can only produce contradictions in the way we understand, teach and synthesize architecture.
 Images by Kyriakos Kyriakou, 2015.
 Work by Ross Amato, Shixin Chen, Edbert Cheng, Jamie Chow, Ben Hoffman, Tamara Jamil, Whitney Liang, Jing Liu, Isidoro Guindi Michan, Apexa Patel, Eduardo Hernandez Reims, Cole Skaggs, Akshay Surana, Sophia Szagala, Elena Toumayan, Whitney VanHouten, Anna Walling
 The analysis studio I am referring to was the fall 2014, third year studio at the Cooper Union taught by Stephen Rustow, Tamar Zinguer and myself.
PhD Architecture from the University of Navarre School of Architecture. Born on 7 April 1959 in Montevideo (Uruguay).
He was municipal architect of Tafalla from 29 November 1984 to 1 March 1989, and then at Pamplona City Hall, from 1 March 1989 to July 1999, he was the architect of the office for restorations. As such, he was in the team that drew up numerous urban plans in the period 1993–1996. He has been a professor in the construction department of the UNAV School of Architecture since 1985, and directs various postgraduate and doctoral courses specially having to do with restoration themes.
He was part of several research groups within his university department from 1996 to 2003. He has written numerous articles and spoken in several congresses on restoration and the city.
Since 11 June 2011 he has been Mayor of Pamplona.
Pola Mora (Santiago, Chile, 1983) earned her degree in architecture as well as a master in cultural management from the University of Chile. Since 2003 she has participated in several interdisciplinary projects, and we can mention the catalogs she helped put together and edit for the ‘Chilean Connection’ exhibition held at the FAD (Foment de les Arts i del Disseny) halls in Barcelona (2003) and the FONDART 2008 prize for the dissemination of Chilean national art, design, and architecture products. More recently she took part in leading the project for the ‘Archikidz! Santiago’ festival of architecture for children (2013–2015). From 2010 to 2013 she was active in education, serving as assistant professor in first-year workshops at the University of Chile and as coordinator at the Universidad San Sebastián. She is currently editor-in-chief of Plataforma Arquitectura, the Spanish-language version of ArchDaily.com, the world’s most visited architecture website.
Camillo Botticini is currently a professor of architectural design at Milan Polytechnic, where in 2003 he earned a doctorate in Architectural and Urban Design. He has received important awards, including the Special Prize in the Gold Medal for Italian Architecture in 2012 and First Prize in the Italian Institute of Architecture Award in 2007, and he was selected in the Mies van der Rohe Award of 2007 and the Venice Architecture Biennale of 2000, 2010, and 2014. His works have been published in leading architecture magazines (Casabella, Domus, A10, Mark, AD, Metalocus, Detail) as well as in books like The Phaidon Atlas of 21st Century World Architecture). A complete survey of his building work and research can be found in www.botticini-arch.com .
So traveling in the territory of Ersilia
come upon the ruins of abandoned cities,
without the walls which do not last,
without the bones of the dead which the wind roll:
webs of intricate relationships seeking a form
I. Calvino, The invisible cities
Build the built belongs to the condition that from the reflections of W. Morris has identified the consciousness of operating in contexts already characterized by human transformations. We have lost the condition of primitive context. The architecture is in a transformed world that deforms and is deformed. As shown by J. Lucan (1), this condition does not impose a new order ex nihilo bringing to light a not evident order. This vision implying a comparison with a world inhabited, not colonized.
We apply today, retroactively, on ancient architecture, our guilt complexes for environmental destruction, with the declaration of contextualist theories for which a architecture “derives” from a place, hiding with this attitude, the primal violence conteined in every architectural act as self-defense against the equal violence of mother nature.
For F.Purini, (2) “design and build an architecture means producing an intersection between the will of a self-determination of the manufacture, to grow up free from any conditioning as if it was built in an absolute vacuum,”, to define other than what exists, (joined to an idea of form or living, or a poetic intentionality) however, against “the opposite tension to be the terminal concretion of the world historical process of construction as a result of a long stratification of traces, urban tissues, monuments that has given shape to a place”. Build the built expresses in a synthesis this subtle contradiction with grades that ranging from autonomy to a total integration, underlining how architecture is generated by this double reason.
The conceptualization processed by F. Purini shows a point of variation if applied to the general process to build in the urban unstructured space. The built on which to build is now made of rubble settlements with lack of coherence and quality, where the loss of form and identity of the places requires to the architectural and urban design a “recomposition of fragments that form the built on which to build.
In the mechanisms of contemporary urbanization there is a reversal of the relationship. The space is an isotropic material, subjected to the transformation’s techniques and interchangeably operable. S. Crotti (3) shows that today” is not the fence that cuts with his artificial rule the natural context, but it is the unstructured surrounding of the artificial forms that delimit empty spaces, formally indetermined”.
Today the dust of urban sprawl is standardizing a landscape built in in centuries on the differences, on the specifics, on exclusion, but also on the migration of cultures.The ‘”original” does not exist, and is basically an invention. Every culture has repeatedly exchanged information with the other, every landscape has felt the presence of the man.
It remains as a central condition, that the project builds on a place, which is in turn built with an attitude that implies a transformation in the host organism, but also a deep understanding of its physiology. (4) C. Zucchi. Knowledge and change of the existing conditions are the two foundation elements of architectural design. Build the built is the basic’s design condition.
Every recipe, every technique, every shape, every knowledge, was drawn over the centuries by a process of trial and error, intelligent and able to learn from their mistakes, closely observing the outcomes of complex minor variations. If the functionalism of the last century tried the zero degree, the contemporary thinking is pursuing new goals and values through a metamorphosis of the existing structures.
Is typical of the european culture built on a pre-existing fact, whether physical or cultural, where the condition of the contemporary becomes not an absolute act but subtle dialogue, sophisticated in the strategies and in the outcomes, where the place and its characters are not just a physical limit, but a morphogenetic material.
If the concept of “contextualism” evokes a simple adaptation to the new formal practices in order to make them acceptable, I share the position of Cino Zucchi of a “grafting” approach that presupposes a wound in the host organism, but also a deep knowledge of its physiology.
Precisely this is the original contribution about what the design culture has developed after the war the ‘ abnormal modernity ‘, marked by the ability to innovate and at the same time to interpret previous states.No formal adjustments to the rear of the new, compared to the existing, but rather generated by these and able to act with effectively and sensitively in urban stratified contexts.
The “modern project” has often pursued an architectural autonomous body created by the simple functional program and potentially reproducible in many copies; but the architectural culture particulararly in European thinking has always come to terms with the presence of urban and territorial complex structure, where the new intervention is just a new layer of a broader program schedule.
If in structured condtions the references are potentially identifiable, the problem is how to define and understand the terms of the new contexts. Facing with a general dissolution of the settlement and the fragmentation of the components and quality of the urban space, the systematic erasure of historical and geographical layers and a general loss of relationships, leads to a crisis about how to change them and take references; how to found principles of construction open to the interpretation this new contexts and able to generate new architectural form and settlement.
In front of the spread fragments of the metropolitan diffusion is necessary to think an architecture that works simultaneously on different scales, able to be local and redefine the character and identity of the contexts, that constitute a global correlation with the general urban settlement.
The disidentified contexts, is today the built space, the real design horizon in contemporary cities. The process of reconstruction of urban architecture can be conceptually assimilated to the Braque collages, where the fragments were reassembled in a new order.
The goal might be, interpretating a text of of A.Terranova, (5) defining the idea to built on build as “the way of coordinating complementary differences in a recognized plurality that using the different processing techniques of architectural design, operates a rooting to the specific historical – geographical elements and introjecting the mutants materials expression of the the multiform contemporary transformations, identifying the recognition of referentiality “against which the project builds its distance from the reference conditions.
(1) J. Lucan, contextualism? Lotus n. 99, 1992
(2) F. Purini, comporre l’architettura, Laterza, Ba, 1999
(3) S. Crotti, natura urbana dell’artifico By F. Giorgetta, Clup Mi, 1989
(4) C. Zucchi Innesti – Grafting Biennale catalogue, 2012- Marsilio (Pd)
(5) A.Terranova, mostri metropolitani, Meltemi Babel, Rome, 2000
Johan Celsing, born 1955 in Stockholm, is professor of Advanced Design at the Royal Institute of Technology in Stockholm. He has lectured and acted as invited critic at institutions such as Harvard GSD, London Metropolitan University, Madrid ETSAM, Lima Catholic University PUCP, and others. In 2014 Celsing has held a visiting professorship at the University of Navarra. Celsing’s built work has been published internationally in publications like The Architectural Review, A+U, Harvard Design Review, Casabella, Architecture d`aujourdhui, or Baumeister.
Johan Celsing has designed the Nobel Forum in Stockholm and several museums and art institutions in Sweden. Recently completed works include the Church at Arsta (2011), and the New Crematorium at Woodland Cemetery (2014) in Stockholm.
Several projects have exteriors as well as interiors of brick and glazed ceramics. The recent ceremonial buildings have exteriors of a quiet gravity with contrasting interiors where white and colored glazed bricks are used. Johan Celsing’s architecture is characterized by an intense but realistic craftsmanship where articulated atmospheres and careful detailing are reoccurring features. Currently under construction is a high-rise apartment building of 19 floors where the facade has in-situ built brick masonry. Other current works are a mosque in Stockholm and a new University Auditorium and major alterations of the University Library in Uppsala.
Essays by Johan Celsing include: The robust, the sincere, published by Routledge (London, 2008) in the anthology Nordic Architects Write. A recent text, Decorum, tentative notes on its contemporary relevance and use, was written for Fundación Arquitectura y Sociedad in 2013.
Johan Celsing is an elected member of the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences and the Royal Swedish Academy of Fine Art.
In the arms race of commercial architecture the visual aspects of the exteriors of buildings is given attention far beyond what is reasonable for our cities as well as for our discipline. As we know the aim to give the buildings striking appearances, whatever their social role, comes from the developers and clients desire for landmarks rather than from users, tenants or neighbours.
An improvement in our service to society would be to put greater attention to the immediate surroundings of man. Be they the details at the bus stop, the waiting room at the hospital or the plan of the individual dwelling. In short I would argue that the interior and the detailing of architecture should be given an intensified treatment instead of the amount of interest that today concerns the visual apearence of buildings.
The French architects, Anne Lacaton and Jean-Philippe Vassal has achieved extraordinary results in their transformation of 1960-ies apartment buildings in Paris that was on the brink of being torn down by the municipality who owned them. The optimism of the project, Tour Bois-Le-Pretre and its strategy is an inspiring example of architecture and of its service. In the early 1950-ies Alvar Aalto commented on related issues in an article titled, ”On the decadence of public buildings”
On this matter one may also reflect upon the dense traditional city of the Middle East. These cities frequently has realtively mute exteriors facing the city. On the other hand the interiors that unfold upon entering are in contrast to the exteriors and often present rich and unexpected interior characters. The facade may be the intelligent mask that mediates between the required freedom in the interior versus other aims in the realm of the urban landscape.
This brings to mind Adolf Loos who commented on the role of discretion in mens garments in the modern city that he considered to be a precondition for the freedom for the individual. Loos mute exteriors of his private houses as we know contain remarkable interiors, Raumplan, that excel in the three-dimensional arrangement of the private realm.
Evidently all aspects in our commissions cannot be solved with formal, volumetric or visual decisions. As different as our contexts are it is often surprising how seemingly similar the architectural output still is around the globe.
As the contexts and conditions for our practices are different depending on where and how we work our common discipline still has the capacity to embody and carry values and being an active field concerning the moral issues.
Ultimately it is critical how we percieve our discipline; what commissions are we ready to take on, argue about, or even to reject. That we technically may be able to achieve yet another higher tower or erase neighbourhoods or existing structures in no time does not mean that we should do so.
Our discipline need to discuss values other than the formal (visual) and technical. Obviously there need to be ethical dicussions in the field of medicine about issues such as manipulation of genes in the human body and for lawers in the field of legislation etc. Just like the codexes that govern those professions it seems architects are in the need to develop concience about how to serve society with dignity. For the our profession as well as for the individual architect further discussions in these matters can raise the awareness and the critical judgement for all involved.
In the wide and problematic issues in our cities and landscapes of how to remedy their often sad or neglected state it may be tempting to chose general all-embracing solutions. Our profession has frequently fallen prey to grand retoric schemes as signs of change and improvement. If occasionally radical solutions may be called for, as a rule, we shall rather with outmost attention strive for humility in the face of the often complex and multifaceted conditions at hand. As an alternative to the easy way of heroic gestures one may look upon our profession as one aiming at the reconciliation of the complex conditions that we have to tackle. Among key words in the strategy are reflection and the willing to give time to the problem to solve.
With serious ambitions and the best of intentions we still have to be aware that paradoxes may arise. As serious as our ambitions may be. It is not that labour that is to be expressed but a problem to be solved.
To quote the Irish poet William Butler Yeats from the poem Adam`s curse:
”… A line may take us hours maybe;
Yet if it does not seem a moments thought
Our stitching and unstitching has been nought. ”
Graduated from the School of Architecture, FA-UTL, in 1984. Opened own office in Lisbon in 1987. Collaboration with Álvaro Siza and Gonçalo Byrne since 1993. Visiting Professor since 2003 at the School of Architecture of the Instituto Superior Técnico, IST–UTL, Lisbon, and at the Escuela Técnica Superior de Arquitectura, University of Navarra, Pamplona, Spain, since October 2010. Shortlisted for the SECIL Architecture Prize 2002 and the Mies van der Rohe Award for European Architecture 2003, for the Saraiva Lima House II in Alcacer do Sal.
Shortlisted for the 5th Iberian-American Biennial of Architecture 2006, for the Carlos Barros House, Aroucas, Castro Marim. Shortlisted for the European Prize for Urban Public Space 2006, the Mies van der Rohe Award for European Architecture 2007 and the SECIL Architecture Prize 2007, for the Requalification of the Surroundings of the Santa Maria de Alcobaça Monastery in Alcobaça. Shortlisted for the FAD Architectural Award 2007, for the doca do Bom Sucesso’s ‘À Margem’ bar, Lisbon. Shortlisted for the BSI Swiss Architectural Architectural Award, International Prize, 2010. Shortlisted for the FAD Architectural Award 2013, for the Banco de Portugal Head Office Refurbishment, Lisbon.
For Campus Ultzama 2015, and according to the proposed subject, ‘Build the Built’, as my contribution I would like to present for reflection and criticism the Strategic Plan for the Safeguarding and Enhancement of Queluz National Palace (Royal Palace) and Gardens, a site of significant heritage value, dating back to the second half of the 18th century,
It is located in Queluz, on the outskirts of Lisbon, a satellite neighborhood for people who commute to the capital, featureless and heavily stigmatized.
The palace, currently undergoing refurbishment, contains in itself, and mostly in relation to its admirable gardens, the enormous regenerative potential of an extensive surrounding territory.
The old royal domains, well defined and related to eam area, which, in the long run, could cover 700 hectares, as much as Monsanto, an existing park.
The baroque composition, the radial layout similar to other remarkable European examples, such as Versailles, Vaux-le-Vicomte, and Fontainebleau, gives a central place to the palace and the succession of surrounding gardens distinct in hierarchy and character.
The proposal to create a great urban park would readdress and reinforce the cohesion and identity of the territory by sorting, clearing, and refurbishing the adjacent built areas.
For the drawing up of the plan, the proposals for ecological structure reinforcement play a key part, and understanding the orography and water-courses is important in the genesis and evolution of Queluz Palace and Gardens.
Excessive construction and soil sealing are causing cyclic floods, with the attendant high costs.
The proposal for the enhancement and recovery of the principal water-courses, as well as the creation of dams and detention basins in strategic places, will help prevent the above-mentioned floods.
Integrated in urban parks, treated and cleansed, water-courses and their banks will become elements for public enjoyment. Together with pedestrian paths, bike lanes, and sport circuits, they will allow monitoring, cleaning, and controlling the riverbeds.
The protection and enhancement of existing green zones is considered, in particular the Quinta da Matinha, a magnificent forest of evergreen oaks and cork oaks located in an urban environment.
Issues regarding access and mobility for everyone’s comfort are of great importance when drawing up a plan.
An important highway, the IC19, crosses and divides the territory under study, not to mention its very high negative impact, so it is known as the most dangerous road in Portugal, and the stretch near Queluz Palace the most deadly.
The plan proposes to evaluate the causes of this situation and to implement changes in solving the highway problem, though in a way that looks for its smooth insertion in the context.
Because of its proximity to Queluz Palace and Gardens, the intervention must be exemplary in its efforts at landscape integration. The creation of embankments in the adjacent terrains, combined with the planting of trees, will diminish the impact of the highway both visually and acoustically.
As part of the strategy to create a large park that reinforces territorial cohesion and identity, a new passage over the IC19 is proposed, to be used by pedestrians and cyclists, completing the paths created on the embankments providing acoustic and visual protection, and reinforcing the continuity and accessibility of the whole territory.
The plan counts on the Lisbon–Sintra railway as a primary access to Queluz Palace and Gardens. The easy access from Lisbon’s Rossio Station to the palace in Queluz, which goes back to 1891, together with the increasing prominence of Lisbon and its dynamic center, especially tourism-wise, promotes the use of the railway as a means of transport.
It will be complemented by pedestrian and cycling paths near the water-courses, along the valley until the mouth of the Tagus River.
This overall mobility solution, besides the advantage of promoting the use of sustainable and ecological, environment-friendly transport means, would also connect a structural public transport means, the train, to an architectural enclave and landscape of great heritage value.
Studying the unimplemented project for the palace’s extension (watercolour drawing, 1795, Rio de Janeiro National Library) has helped to throw light on the spatial relationships between the different parts of the Palace/Garden and the surroundings, mainly in the old Queluz Palace yard (Terreiro de Paço de Queluz). The drawings show an ambition and magnificence that the actual place expresses only timidly.
In a careful examination aided by these drawings, the structural axis that generates spatial connections of symmetry, scale, solids and voids, and several compositional details becomes evident, with the resulting reinforcement of the beauty, coherence, and clarity of the plan.
The ground plan of the palace yard shows a wide reception area. It is clearly delimited and restrained, and has a great scenic power, with rich effects of perspective and surprise.
On the contrary, the existing area is characterized by fragmentation. The heavy traffic in the vicinity, which is not only for the Palace/Garden and surroundings but also for other destinations, affects the heritage site negatively, causing vibration, pollution, and noise. Parking for cars and tourist buses is scattered, chaotic, anarchic.
In the Rio de Janeiro plan, the space in front of the palace not only precedes it, but also integrates it. Therefore, the proposed plan aims for a traffic solution that controls, regulates, and reduces the impact of intersecting routes and parking.
The palace yard entrances must be designed with care. The axis that marks the approach to the grounds, and its theatrical treatment, are very important in the overall perception of the monumental complex.
White promoting the use of sustainable and ecological means of transportation, the palace yard must have a considerable parking capacity as well. Possible strategies of integration include optimization, regulation, and even dissimulation.
The plan also aims to give continuity to the enhancement and restoration of the Quinta de Queluz water supply system. It should take into account the entire hydraulic system, its connection course, and the components: mines, galleries, skylights, aqueducts, sources, fountains, and basins.
The dimensions and richness of the Quinta de Queluz, with all the gardens and water-plays, requires abundant and continuous supply of water. Throughout its existence it has undergone works for the purpose of bringing water in from sources in the area. In the last fifty years, with heavy urban pressure, these various sources have been successively deactivated or they have simply degraded, warranting the adoption of water supply solutions involving artesian wells of unknown duration.
I am pleased to present a brief description of the plan, still in development.
The park should be a medium/long-term intermunicipal project with a view to promoting social integration, the physical and economic regeneration of adjacent urban areas, risk prevention and management (earthquakes, floods, fires, pollution, etc.), sustainable mobility, and reduction of carbon emissions in Lisbon’s metropolitan area.
Without being a specialist, I am attempting a multidisciplinary vision which connects the different periods involved and aims for the idea and perception of the whole, of great clarity and of increased value in serving the collective need for utility and beauty.
Bernard Khoury studied architecture at the Rhode Island school of Design (BFA 1990 / B.Arch 1991). He received a Masters in Architectural Studies from Harvard University (M.Arch 1993). In 2001, he was awarded by the municipality of Rome the honorable mention of the Borromini Prize given to architects under fourty years of age. In 2004, he was awarded the Architecture + Award. He is the co-founder of the Arab Center for Architecture. He was a visiting professor at the Ecole Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne, L’Ecole Spéciale d’Architecture in Paris and the American University of Beirut. He has lectured and exhibited his work in prestigious academic institutions in Europe and the U.S. including a solo show of his work given by the International Forum for Contemporary Architecture at the Aedes gallery in Berlin (2003) and numerous group shows including YOUprison at the Fondazione Sandretto Re Rebaudengo in Turin (2008) and Spazio at the opening show of the MAXXI museum in Rome (2010). He was the co-curator and architect of the Kingdom of Bahrain’s national pavilion at the Venice Biennale’s 14th International Architecture Exhibition in 2014. His work has been extensively published by the professional press. Khoury started an independent practice in 1993. Over the past fifteen years, his office has developed an international reputation and a significant diverse portfolio of projects both locally and abroad.
I want to be a bartender, for the liquor to flow in the gloomy ground floor of a disaffected building.I want to be the concierge, of a grand palace, to be able to draw incongruous circuits in our beloved city and build memories in a way no one else can.
I want to be a pharmacist, to never close my doors in the face of the infallible natives of the night.I want to be a cashier in a supermarket, to observe what feeds my fellow citizens.
I want to be a cab driver, to reinvent my city at every command, and thread my way through the journeys of the strangers I escort.
I want to be a baker, to inflict the scent of my bread on my very own street.
I want to be a fireman, to make my sirens wail and abuse of my priority pass.
I want to be a prostitute, to claim ownership over the bench of a bus stop after midnight and bring back a tint of color to the otherwise inanimate sidewalk.
I want to be a drug-dealer to draw people to my street of pariah, to inject a taste of Baalbek in Las Vegas.
I want to be a banker, to know better than others where to invest and to ruthlessly tie and untie projects.
I want to be all those protagonists who construct the marvelous tableau that is my living city. The city that is not there to be contemplated; the city that is there to be experienced.
Because my city is not a still life, a bundle of carcasses, it escapes all attempts at sanctifying it as an inanimate corpse.
Behind its massive walls and in the core of its monumental arteries overflows a dynamic of an elusive nature that cannot be carved in marble or crystallized in any other matter.
My city has outlived all the stiff schemes that were dictated by professionals and specialists, the preachers of archaic urban planning methods, the relentless guardians of the architectural profession. It has never and will never obey to their conventional definitions of space. It has grown and will continue to develop without them and despite them.
My city is too complex to be framed in theoretical classifications. It will not be trapped in any identity project, any consensual and reductive definitions.
My city has no role in the histories that favor the generic, annihilate the unexpected and obliterate the specific.
That being said, my city is not at all too healthy and that’s OK. She has survived too many disorders and will hopefully remain in perpetual convalescence.
It has become clear to me and to all her intimate friends that the true causes of her maladies transcend the limited knowledge and understanding of the wise technocrats or the cynical poets who make a living out of supposedly plotting its recovery or charting its future.
So let me be a serial killer.
To exterminate the specialty consultants who in all legitimacy can dictate what to do and what not to do when we are commissioned to plan a hotel, a school, a prison, a stadium, a hospital, a train station, an airport, a museum, a concert hall, a shopping center, an office tower…
Exterminating them could give way to more spontaneous spaces.
Let me be a charlatan.
To tell you all the ineffectual and futile stories that history will not register.
The kind of stories I will never be held accountable for and imagine a universe made of spaces that the all too serious establishments will always dismiss.
Let me be a pirate.
A pirate who hijacks vessels that were set on a defined route, a pirate who will attempt to seduce his hostages into reevaluating and reinventing their journey.
A pirate who reclaims the wrecks of failed urban projects, who re-appropriates those over-calculated and restrained gestures, to celebrate their bankruptcy.
I want to be a pirate to throw overboard all that no longer tempts me.
To abuse of all that’s left.
Inès Lamunière, daughter of the Swiss architect Jean-Marc Lamuniére, finished her architectural studies at the École polytechnique fédérale de Lausanne (EPFL) in 1980, then went on to take up Theory and History of Architecture as a member of the Swiss Institute in Rome, and worked as assistant to Professor Werner Oeschlin at ETH Zurich. She would be named professor of Theory and Criticism of the Architectural Project at ETH Zurich, and in 1994 at EPFL. In 2001 she set up Laboratoire d’architecture et de mobilité urbaine (LAMU) and has been at the helm of it since. She directed the EPFL’s architecture section from 2008 to 2011. In 1996, 2008, and 2008 she was a visiting professor at the Graduate School of Design (GSD) of Harvary University. From 1989 to 2004 she was coeditor of the magazine Foces – Journal d’Architecture in Geneva. She is a frequently invited lecturer and critic in Europe, the United States, and Canada. In 2004 she published a book on theory of urban architecture titled Fo(u)r cities, and in 2006 Habiter la menace, an essay on contemporary perception danger and its effects on architecture, both with Presses polytechniques universitaires romandes, in Lausanne. In 1983, in partnership with Patrick Devanthéry she set up Devanthéry & Lamunière – architecture, restauration du patrimoine et urbanisme, and in 2007 this studio became dl-a, designlab-architecture SA, which she has headed since January 2014.
The growth in demography and urban development of these past 50 years is incredible. Both the notion of “city” and the general sprawl of urbanization have conducted to new life styles, new economies, new social segmentations and new infrastructural reorientations regarding energy and equipment. In this context mobility has become an inescapable question, simultaneously as vector and obstacle of urban densification. Confronted to such rapid and deep changes, today’s qualification of the urban seems more and more necessary to define itself in a coherent manner. The “city” is everywhere, the city is nowhere; classical notions such as centrality, historic heritage, suburbs, open country, nature, density, seem to all dissolve in a sort of new global geography. A world understood as a built world, were even the most remote forests have been planted, were migrations have impacted on all social identities. Until now, this complex conglomerate of themes is still in the melting pot of undistinguished properties.
The scope of the trend “urban culture” which I develop in my practice and my studio is to develop and renew considerations in design in architecture, specifically in what I call “urban” architecture.
What types of projects are appropriate for the complex concepts of twenty-first century city life? In what terms can architecture construct the city and question its urban planning? How do new lifestyles and types of mobility change the perception that we have of urban space? How can the evolution of technologies linked to energy resources renew construction and its expression in the urban fabric? In which circumstances are the limits of private and public spaces blurred and where are they similar? How can density become a quality? Can a new relationship be found between nature and artifice, between the “urban” figure and the “natural” ground, between inside and outside?
These are some of the questions that are necessary to consider when addressing architectural projects for the cities of the twenty-first century. Among the many types of emerging urbanisms and society’s growing sprawl, some cities more than others might express an occidental form of urban culture. We can think of Milan and its transformations from Leonardo da Vinci’s sketches, of Paris and its questioning of public space from Pierre Patte’s sections, of London’s terraces and John Nash’s profiles. We can also think of New York and its questions of density on the abstract grid. Today, these four cities have become four icons, particularly rich as mythical metropolises, subjects of literary explorations, imagined utopias, and evoked dreams. They are known through specific odors, noises, symbols, images.
Our occidental cities have these ambiguous qualities, they have evolved with new towers, neighborhood gentrification, financial prosperity through the 1990’s to 2008, rehabilitation and transformations of their industrial, transport, and housing environments. They are also now confronted to the need of a sort of “progressive simplicity”, an approach to a project which thinks it over twice, more deeply rooted in context (social, economic and environmental).
The city has become a metropolis, but shaken, of diffused materiality—at once dream and nightmare. Our virtual and physical hypermobility has changed our relationship to space: the urban and the urbanity are on the move, mentally and physically.
Types in relation to…
Architectural design is currently undergoing re-evaluation via one of its most important descriptive models: the type and, by extension, the classification of buildings based on a typological approach. From Francesco Milizia through to Nikolaus Pevsner, identifying buildings by their function has been a constant of modern architectural thought. School, prison, theatre, museum, railway station: all refer to the programmatic implementation of a constructed object, subject to dimensional, spatial and distributive rules founded on specialist expertise. Because size plays only a secondary role here, these designs can still be ‘read’, via a process of analogy, at very different scales.
Type is a highly effective determinant, and yet these models, so perfect in the eyes of the modern age, are constantly confronted with a reality that is utterly different in nature: undoubtedly more muddled, and at any rate increasingly complex. For planners, today’s evolving and ever more complex urban reality calls for a renewed approach to design, in which design is envisaged not in isolation, as before, but in relation to a set of:
– other urban functions (evolving uses, mixed use)
– other existing fabric (re-use, historical heritage)
– other accessibilities (communication nets)
– other scales in investment (big and small economies in real estate)
– other clients (public, private, associations)
– other time schedules (long consultation, quick building)
– other land regulations (density, heights, surface)
– other design scopes (landmark, marketing)
th time, the projects and buildings of the 19th and 20th centuries are succumbing to obsolescence, both in purely physical and technical terms and in terms of the needs they are required to satisfy. When they were constructed the aim was to service and structure activities and territories that had not as yet been accessed; today in most cases the challenge is to make subtle interventions in sensitive urban or natural contexts. New mobility practices, the regeneration of peri-, sub- and hyper-urban environments with the focus on compactness, servicing neighborhoods and regions, conserving natural resources, optimizing the built and natural heritage—all of these challenges call for new synergies.
These new design strategies need integration of multilayered thinking. Architects have to consider leading teams on their unique capacity of distributing space and concepts in three dimensions. But they also have to take into account that they will not substitute themselves to all the complexity of a variety of disciplines needed. Plus, that some very strong players have for the past ten year strongly evolved: economy towards real-estate finance, construction plot laws towards planning laws, structural engineering towards mechanical and environmental engineering, etc.
I’m very much fond of the idea that there are specificities in designing in the built world. Full of new opportunities. It’s all about adding, removing, combining. It’s about form-making and distorting. It’s about perceiving by fragments, getting hold of cityscapes under angles induced by obstacles and movement. It’s about buildings where every floor is a first floor. Recognizing time as a fantastic vector for buildings where the skeleton can induce spaces and activities of a new generation.
Program, form, construction, and context are physically meshed in an intricate process around the notion of comfort and ‘atmosphere’ in projects involved in the transformation of the city fabric.
Andrea Simitch is an Associate Professor with tenure at Cornell University and served as the Director of the Bachelor of Architecture Program at Cornell from 2011 through 2014. She served as Associate Dean of the College of Architecture Art and Planning from 2002 to 2003 and as Director of Undergraduate Studies from 2007 to 2008. She has served as Visiting Professor at numerous institutions including the University of Toronto, the Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, the University of Minnesota, and Tunghai University in Taiwan, and as guest critic at architectural institutions worldwide, most recently including the Universidad de Navarra School of Architecture in Pamplona, the KTH School of Architecture in Stockholm, and the Università della Svizzera Italiana’s Academy of Architecture in Mendrisio. She has been a panelist on the New York State Council on the Arts and a department representative for the Cornell Council for the Arts, as well as collaborated with the artist Andrew Goldsworthy in a workshop at Storm King Arts Center. She teaches courses in architectural design as well as architectural representation and furniture design, and works by her students have been exhibited at the International Contemporary Furniture Fair in New York. She has taught extensively for Cornell in numerous international venues in Europe and Central and South America. She is a partner with Val Warke in a collaborative architectural practice, and recent works of theirs include residential and commercial projects in North America and China. Recent competitions have been for the Arbedo Castione (Ticino) School, the Serbian Center for Science, ‘Designing in Teheran’ (Benetton competition), the Mill Center for the Arts, and the Stockholm City Library. Essays by Andrea Simitch have been included in the Cornell Journal of Architecture (#8) and Sheila Kennedy’s The Nomadic Surface, and collages by her were published in João Alvaro Rocha’s monograph, Architectures. Her seminal book on architectural education, written with Val Warke and entitled The Language of Architecture: 26 Principles Every Architect Should Know, was published in 2014, and has been assigned as a required textbook at several institutions. It is under translation and soon to be published in both traditional Chinese and Chinese editions.
A work never exists in isolation. There is always a context in which it is situated, and in which a relationship to that context is established. And while that relationship can be platonic, casual, symbiotic or detrimental, it is the specifics of that context and the ways in which it is interpreted that establish the terms of dialog.
For one project it might be the physical context that emerges as the most pressing voice to engage, for another it might be the infrastructural, for yet another it might be the ephemeral or the environmental. The dialog can be one of friendship or of foe, one of accomplice or of exploitation, one of exaggeration or of disregard, of exposure or of obfuscation.
And yet context is a fluid condition, thus a particular dialog can be fleeting and transient, yet simultaneously bear witness to a particular set of circumstances in which the work was created. Ultimately a work has the responsibility to give meaning to a particular context, to not only encompass what already exists within that context but it also has the opportunity to inflect previously unknown or obscured contexts. And finally, a work has the responsibility to produce future contexts.
In his 1987 essay entitled Weak Architecture Ignasi Solà-Morales advocates for the strength of a weak architecture, one that “adopts a posture that is not aggressive and dominating, but tangential and weak….” as in “the tremulous clangor of the bell..that..reverberates after it has ceased to ring, the lingering resonance of poetry after it has been heard, the recollection of architecture after it has been seen.”
What then is weak architecture? Perhaps it is an architecture that has the ability to transform, one that does not claim authority and dominance over what has come before, and instead relentlessly pursues a conversation, where the work is fundamentally conceived as another layer onto, or into, the context in which it is situated: a ‘palimpsestuous’ architecture.
While agreeing with Eisenman that strong form alone is insufficient to carry meaning, perhaps if one redefines the term strong (as say Vitruvius might in the triad “Utilitas Firmitas, et Venustas” ), strong form might be considered essential to this concept of a weak architecture. In other words, if space is beautiful, and if structure is useful and if form is materialized, architecture – buildings and urban space – can adapt to change. Thus a strong architecture is sponge-like –– it is absorbent and elastic, it has the ability to shift programs and scales, to gesture and cajole, to lean and to attract. In other words, it has the ability to exhibit transformative characteristics that reinforce its form through its association, its borrowing, its collaboration with adjacent architectures. Strong architecture is incomplete architecture, a relentlessly dialogic architecture.
Going forward, architecture must be opportunistic – it must capitalize on the ‘mistakes’ of the architectures that have come before: architectures that refuse, or are incapable of, transformation, architectures that have fallen derelict through obsolescence.
Between 1973 and 1974 Gordon Matta-Clarke’s purchased, for insignificant sums, 15 small lots in Queens and Staten Island New York. These real estate parcels he termed Fake Estates as they were all unbuildable, and most inaccessible. In calling attention to these leftover bits, these ‘mistakes’ of zoning codes, plot parceling and ownership, they were suddenly given real value as, once appropriated and collected into this provocative work they became productive sites of our imagination.
To expand on this a little more, perhaps we can once again turn to Ignasi Solà-Morales, to an essay entitled “Terrain Vague” that was published in an issue of Anyplace (MIT Press) in 1995. Here he coins the term terrain vague, a physically vacant, often derelict urban territory that is saturated with the potential for something to happen: in other words, an expectant territory. This urban, industrial and sometimes rural detritus is most often composed of abandoned factories and deteriorated infrastructures — sites that when considered through the lens of an architecture of rationalization, of efficiency and of production are considered negative blights to be ‘cleaned up’ and erased. Solà-Morales suggests instead that architecture can have a role in these derelict territories when perceived through an alternate lens: ‘by paying attention to continuities….not of the planned, efficient and legitimated city,… but by listening to the flows, the energies, the rhythms of the passing of time and the loss of proposal … superimposed on the already existing…silent artificial landscape, touching the historical time of the city…neither cancelling not imitating it….”
Thus herein resides an argument for an architecture of dualism and of discontinuity, of a resilient and an opportunistic architecture that embraces “the uncontaminated magic of the obsolete”.
The ability for architecture to affiliate itself simultaneously with various readings of the context within which it is situated, that its readings, its meanings, and its occupations are continuously shifting as it affiliates and re-affiliates to these various contexts, creates a an unstable architecture. It is never fixed, it is always re-reading its context, it is always producing alternate readings of its context.
On Corso Italia, in Milano, Luigi Moretti’s 1951- 56 complex of five buildings is located within a dense urban fabric. Its programs and forms are developed in such a way so as to continuously re-affiliate itself with multiple readings of both its formal and programmatic contexts. Programmatically fluctuating between office building, parking garage, apartment building, and commercial, it formally and urbanistically oscillates between figure and field, between continuities and discontinuities, between flat and perspectival, between pubic and private, between figural space and urban sequence. In other words, it is the instability of strong form that permits these fluctuating programmatic and formal boundaries.
This is the architectural translation of the processes of collage, the rip, the splice, the scrape, the blur, the tear.
In a 1993 essay entitled “Towards a New Architecture” Jeff Kipnis uses the term ‘alignment’ to define a project’s relationship to the physical influences of its site/context, arguing that for a project to respond to or ‘align’ it self with these physical conditions that it is merely reinforcing ‘dominant architectural modes’. He supports this argument with his somewhat closed definition of collage – that it is merely a ‘recombinatorial strategy’ that resolves (or ‘valorises’) adjacent fragments into sometimes new, but always referential, form.
He goes on to suggest that Eisenman’s expanded notion of weak form is necessary for architecture to enter into ‘unexpected relationships’ that go beyond reinforcing these dominant modes. Kipnis argues that a project’s ‘affiliations’ move away from reinforcing pre-established formal and institutional standards (or fragments) and instead mine the provisional, the secondary, the fleeting moments of context.
Yet perhaps herein, in this apparent contradiction, resides an expanded, more complex definition of collage, one that in effect mines both the physical and the phenomenal conditions of context. And it is the definition and interpretation of context that offers insight into the ways in which a project can be both aligned and affiliated within its context.
The groundwork for this fluctuating relationship between these two conditions, of alignment and of affiliation, of the literal and of the implied, is fundamentally introduced in Colin Rowe’s, with Robert Slutzky, seminal 1955-56 essay “Transparency: Literal and Phenomenal” . Here they quote Gyorgy Kepes from his 1944 book Language of Vision:
“If one sees two or more figures overlapping one another, and each of them claims for itself the common overlapped part, then one is confronted with a contradiction of spatial dimensions. To resolve this contradiction one must assume the presence of a new optical reality. The figures are endowed with transparency: that is, they are able to interpenetrate without optical destruction of each other. Transparency however implies more than an optical characteristic, it implies a broader spatial order. Transparency means a simultaneous perception of different spatial locations. Space not only recedes but fluctuates in a continuous activity. The position of the transparent figures has equivocal meaning as one sees each figure now as the closer, now as the further one.”
Kepes’s definition of transparency not only offers a key to the understanding of the multiple and often seemingly contradictory readings of context – both formal and otherwise – but is fundamental to the processes of collage.
And it is these contradictions and discoveries that are embedded within the processes of collage, that I position offer a parallel and distinct form of architectural contextualization as an alternative to the more overt forms of reiterative contextualism that have devalued the concept. Collage argues instead that the found object, the existing fragment, can participate actively in the projection of future architectures via a range of actions—material, occupational, historical, cultural, and spatial in nature—as they rub up against proposed, imported, and alternative constructions and infrastructures.
This expanded definition suggests an appropriation of multiple artifacts as active participants in any new construction; that nothing can be complete—or should ever be complete—and that a richness lies in the inevitable messiness of a collection of architectures, of textures, of programs, and of histories. And it is in this messy irresolute world that the ephemeral aspects of the building and the city are perhaps given a primary generative value for the first time, and where processes of collage can offer productive insights.
The argument here is not for a city or a building to be constructed as a collage per se—as in a superimposition of disparate elements sampled from or literally referencing a particular context. Not at all. It is simply arguing for a parallel sensibility in the making of cities and buildings; that all new structures have the responsibility to borrow, mine, amplify, or even distort their meanings from their context, and that likewise, future contexts are latently embedded within these new existing structures, waiting to be mined and subsequently appropriated.
And it is these constantly shifting landscapes of multiple interpretations that have the ability to be appropriated by multiple audiences and through various lenses. Take, for example, Aldo Rossi’s Teatro del Mondo, constructed for the Venice Biennale in 1979. The embedding of a floating theater within the city of Venice, by temporarily modifying the Venetian skyscape, permanently alters the way we see Venice, as the theater’s presence (both in its representations and in its realities) collects and transforms adjacent towers into its world of extraordinary machines and carnival structures. Rossi’s tower permanently alters our perception of the existing context—its scale, its programs, its imagined landscapes.
Thus collage is not merely the grafting, or alignment, of previously unrostered material. This indeed would demonstrate a failed attempt at heterogeneity. Processes of collage instead require an expanded reading, and interpretation, of context – and it is these processes that inform the making of architecture – an architecture that is capable of blurring political, spatial, material, cultural, and temporal boundaries, all fundamental to any principle that might inform the production of ‘an architecture of balance and of character’.
I. de Solà-Morales Rubio, “Weak Architecture” in Differences: Topographies of Contemporary Architecture, Writing Architecture Series, trans. Graham Thompson (Cambridge MA:MIT Press, 1996), p.57
I. de Solà-Morales Rubio “Terrain Vague.” Anyplace. Ed. Cynthia Davidson. Cambridge: MIT Press, 1995. 118-23.
A. Simitch, “Re-collage”. The Cornell Journal of Architecture 8: RE, ed., Cornell AAP, Cornell AAP Publications (2011)
J. Kipnis, “Towards A New Architecture”, AD Folding in Architecture, Profile No. 102, John Wiley & Sons Ltd (London), 1993, pp 40-9.
C. Rowe, with R. Slutzky, Transparency: Literal and Phenomenal Written, 1955-6. First published in Perspecta, 1963. Reprinted as Transparenz, B. Hoesli, ed., Birkhäser, Basel, 1968
G. Kepes, Language of Vision, Chicago, 1944 p.77
With Barbara Hoidn, founder of Hoidn Wang Partner in Berlin. Since 2002, O’Neil Ford Centennial Professor in Architecture at the University of Texas at Austin. Born in Hamburg, studied architecture in London; partner with John Southall in SW Architects (1989–95). Founding co-editor of 9H Magazine (1979); co-director of the 9H Gallery (1985–90). Director of the German Architecture Museum (1995–2000). Taught at the Polytechnic of North London, University College London, ETH Zürich, Städelschule, Harvard University and the Universidad de Navarra. Author and editor of various architectural mono- and topographs. Co-editor of the O’Neil Ford Mono- and Duograph Series. Chairman of the Erich Schelling Architecture Foundation; adjunct member of the Federation of German Architects; foreign member of the Royal Swedish Academy of Fine Arts, Stockholm; member and deputy director of the architecture section of the Akademie der Künste, Berlin; honorary member of the Portuguese Chamber of Architects.
The recognition that there are limits to economic and therefore constructed growth can be traced back to economists such as Schumpeter (see for example his concept of “destructive productivity”, 1932) and most well-known subsequently by the Club of Rome Limits of Growth (1972). Economic and Industrial policies in the wealthier states have not changed in any way since these recognitions. The damage that cheap energy has wielded on the environment is now fully visible in every part of the world, its climatic effects have also become not only measurable but also physically evident. And yet, nothing has changed in the way we construct our reality. The value systems, the ideals, the dreams that individuals and entire societies are pursuing remain intact. Most individuals of wealthy countries believe in the idea that we have a right to chose the way we want to live; where we want to live; how and how often we want to move from one place to another; what we want to eat and drink; what we want to wear; how and what we want to communicate, read and listen to. Most individuals believe that technology is per se a good thing, that it will solve our problems, that it is our friend, at our service, that it enhances our freedom. Most individuals value the spectacle and innovation. Most individuals do not question the value system of fame and the fundamental collusion of all media in the construct of this fame and marketability of individuals and products.
All of this has its immediate and collateral effects in the built environment. Effectively it means the continuation of suburban culture with the individualized realizations of life in dream houses that only survive thanks to being connected to other parts of the world by cars, parallel to the turning of urban culture into an ever more autonomous spectacle of refinement and hype. A significant new form of destructive productivity in urban development has appeared in the last decade: buildings for the sheltering of money as opposed to people. It is the ultimate in the success of the logic of capital versus the logic of sustainability. It has a direct impact on the construction fabric and on the ideals and principles upon which early 20th century mass development took place.
This is a brief summary of contemporary culture of the wealthy countries. Parallel to this, there exists an entire reality that interests none of the media, very few of the decision makers and critical minds of the wealthy countries. The simple and direct needs of this parallel reality with their initial modest goals – a secure place to live, water, services and food – have to be satisfied by those living in these circumstances by themselves. In this parallel reality, there are no urban planners and architects. However, the longer-term goals of these individuals in the parallel reality are identical to those goals of individuals in wealthy countries. They are successfully diffused by the dominant media to the furthest corner of the world.
Some forty years after the Club of Rome criticized the capitalist ideal of growth, the insight today regarding the global development and construction industry is that construction and development continues to feed the industry itself through the replacement of buildings with deliberate in-built obsolescence, short amortization periods and therefore life-expectancy. This model of the construction industry ignores the construction of enduring fabric to satisfy direct needs.
1. continued high proportion of building waste in landfills (2010 level XXXX million tons per year, 50% of total landfill waste)
2. recycling recovery rate of reusable materials low: toxic materials not fully recovered long term effect on ground water quality
3. replacing often poor existing building materials with material of even lower life expectancy: construction of temporary waste dumps in form of buildings
4. replacing often more flexible typologies with less flexible typologies
5. replacing often more easily maintainable construction systems with less maintainable ones
1. level higher ground tax for any change built substance: tax to depend on the degree of change to built substance; exemptions for renovation of infrastructure such as structure, pipes, etc. that have come to the end of their life expectancy,
2. tax bonus/reduction for increasing occupational density through renovation within existing volume
3. raise cost of providing infrastructure services for new construction projects
4. tax CO2 emissions of construction and in use
5. require any building development to prove that it has a life-expectancy of all its components of at least 100 years
1. critique of the built environment
2. life cycle analysis including design quality assessment of all building processes as well as architectural qualities such as flexibility, adaptability, robustness, typology, esthetics, eidetic value, cultural value.
3. historiography of architecture as a process of transformation of existing fabric vs. historiography of architecture as a series of innovations and styles
4. studio design involving tasks to transform existing fabric with the focus on the question as to how to intervene: Venice Charter’s ideal of the palimpsest, visible layering vs. background continuity, seamless continuity, “self-effacing”- knowledgeable authorship
1. Außenministerium, Palast der Republik vs. reuse of Nazi/DDR ministries
2. Tempelhof Airport/ICC vs. Hamburger Bahnhof
3. Housing demolition vs. renovation
1. Paul Baumgarten: UdK Konzertsaal
2. Borchardt Haus
3. Spreehalle, Berlin
Anna & Eugeni Bach is an architectural partnership that operates within a broad spectrum of design, from the urban to the domestic scale and from interiors to the industrial realm. Through innovation and research it looks for new solutions and alternatives in every project, achieving a high quality by optimizing both natural and economic resources.
Works of the partners have been published in many magazines in Spain and abroad, including Domus, MARK Magazine, Arquitectura Viva, Interni, and A10, and been featured in the ‘Export’ exhibition at the ICO Museum in Madrid, 2015; in ‘Las afinidades electivas’, a monographic show on their practice at the COAC in Barcelona, 2015, and Gerona, 2014; in ‘Aproximacions’ at the COAC in Barcelona, 2014; in ‘Architecture Catalane 2004–2009 Portrait d’époque’ at the Cité de d’Architecture et du Patrimonie in Paris, 2009; in the Spanish Pavilion at the Venice Biennale of 2000; in ‘Bo01 Parasite – The City of Small Things’ in Copenhagen, Rotterdam, Oslo, London, 1999; in ‘HiCat’ at the Museum of contemporary Art of Barcelona, 1999; and in ‘Eme30’ at the Center of Contemporary Culture in Barcelona, 1999.
Recognitions they have received include a nomination for the Mies van der Rohe Award (2015); winning the FAD International Award (2014) and the FAD Opinion Awards in the Interiors and International sections (2014); being finalists in the FAD Awards (2013), Arquia-Próxima (2010), the FAD Opinion Awards (2008), and the 10th Spanish Architecture and Urbanism Biennial (2009); and being selected for the 7th Iberian-American Architecture and Urban Planning Biennial (2009) and the AJAC Young Architects Award (2004).
Anna Bach, Nummi, Finland, 1973.
Architecture degree, Helsinki University of Technology, 2001. Master in Theory and Practice of Architectural Design, ETSAB/UPC, Barcelona, 2014. PDI Professor of Final School Projects at EINA – Centro Universitario de Diseño y Arte de Barcelona, Universidad Autónoma de Bellaterra, Barcelona (2008–present).
Eugeni Bach, Barcelona, 1974.
Architecture degree, ETSAB/UPC, Barcelona, 1999. Advanced Studies Diploma (2003) and doing a doctorate at ETSAB/UPC. Professor of Projects at the La Salle School of Architecture, Universitat Ramon Llull, Barcelona (2005–present).
Como en otros momentos “estelares” de la humanidad, vivimos actualmente unos tiempos de sumo interés. Probablemente como todos los anteriores, pero por ser éste el nuestro, y además el último, también más importante que el resto. Es éste un tiempo especialmente particular por dos motivos. Por un lado, porque nuestras vidas están cada vez más intercomunicadas y desdobladas entre lo real y lo virtual –o digital- y el límite entre lo uno y lo otro es cada vez más difuso. Y por otra parte, porque estamos en un tiempo donde el impacto del hombre sobre los ecosistemas terrestres es tan fuerte, que ya no son éstos los que determinan nuestros comportamientos, sino al revés; es la actividad humana la que altera el ecosistema global. Son éstas dos características de la contemporaneidad, explicadas bajo los términos de “Sociedad red” y “Antropoceno” , términos de nuevo cuño que ejemplifican la necesidad del lenguaje para poder entender la realidad.
Este mundo altamente globalizado e intercomunicado, unido al poder del hombre para alterar su ecosistema, ha generado unas dinámicas económicas y unos cambios sociales que desde el punto de vista urbanístico tienen su máxima consecuencia en el acelerado aumento de las migraciones humanas del mundo rural al urbano. Un fenómeno altamente estudiado, y sobre el que, desde la arquitectura, mucho se ha escrito en los últimos veinte años.
El interés por lo urbano, y su rápida transformación, ha ido acompañado de nuevas reflexiones sobre el papel del espacio público en este nuevo escenario. Ensayos recientes de Richard Sennett o de Manuel Delgado advierten del peligro de una excesiva programación (el primero) y de una clara privatización (el segundo) de aquel espacio que tradicionalmente habíamos entendido como público, en el sentido más amplio de la palabra.
Estamos pues ante un nuevo escenario, donde por una parte, el espacio público de las ciudades se transforma o desaparece tal como lo habíamos entendido, y por otra, el mundo rural pierde su población, convirtiéndolo en un espacio falto de una economía de producción agrícola y por lo tanto, modificando su propio ecosistema, y consecuentemente, su paisaje. Un paisaje que, contrariamente a lo que había pasado hasta ahora, ya no permanece constante e inalterado, y no puede seguir siendo un lugar donde refugiarse de los cambios y los vaivenes de la historia.
Y en esta nueva situación, ¿es posible que este paisaje pueda entenderse como el nuevo espacio público que ya no encontramos en las ciudades? Su progresivo abandono lo hace especialmente susceptible a convertirse en la nueva víctima de una población que lo ha repudiado, pero que necesita de espacios de desahogo que complementen su vida altamente urbanita. A modo de ejemplo, entre 1987 y 2005, se construyó en la costa ibérica un promedio de 7,7 Ha diarias ; un paisaje natural ahora convertido en segundas residencias y espacios de ocio para una población falta de éste. El espacio rural es alterado y modificado para satisfacer un consumo de “lo auténtico” o lo “natural”, y en esta alteración, pierde su veracidad, convirtiéndose en un escenario, un decorado, para satisfacer las necesidades de una sociedad sumamente urbanizada.
Desde nuestra práctica profesional, difícilmente podremos incidir en las dinámicas globales que generan esta nueva situación. Podemos intervenir en los planes urbanísticos que definirán las líneas maestras del futuro crecimiento de las pequeñas ciudades y aldeas del espacio rural, aunque después de la burbuja inmobiliaria que literalmente ha destrozado gran parte de nuestro país, las intervenciones que realizaremos en los próximos años serán de mucha menor envergadura.
Podemos, sin embargo, reflexionar sobre qué papel deben jugar nuestras intervenciones aunque sean éstas de muy pequeña escala. ¿Qué posición debemos tomar en un espacio rural que ya no es productivo y que ha sido alterado para satisfacer las demandas de una población ocasional? ¿Cómo debemos actuar, desde la pequeña escala en la que trabajamos, en este post-paisaje ?
En muchas de las pequeñas aldeas rurales de nuestro país existe una normativa, muy sencilla, pero muy restrictiva, que acostumbra a referirse a los materiales, al tipo de cubierta o a la proporción de las aberturas. Se trata de una normativa que persigue evitar grandes males y preservar un supuesto aire “rústico” en las nuevas construcciones asimilándolas en su aspecto a las edificaciones existentes.
El resultado hasta la fecha no ha dado los frutos esperados; este tipo de normativas han generado una serie de “monstruos” en edificaciones que intentan reproducir una estética rural pero con unas técnicas constructivas, unos materiales y unas lógicas absolutamente alejadas de un aspecto que era fruto natural de otra manera de construir y de habitar.
Por otra parte, la repetición no parece jugar a favor de estas nuevas construcciones que, en muchos casos, intentan copiar unas edificaciones que tenían sentido cuando estaban aisladas, rodeadas únicamente de aquel espacio de producción agrícola al que pertenecían.
Esconder la nueva construcción puede ser una respuesta para no alterar un contexto que quiere ser preservado en su estado original. El problema con este tipo de soluciones no está en el resultado inmediato, sino en su lógica más intrínseca. ¿Construir camuflando no significa aceptar implícitamente una culpa que no debería ser tal? Al camuflar un edificio, ¿no estamos aceptando que, en realidad, la mejor opción sería no construirlo? ¿Puede ser que con este tipo de estrategias estemos enviando el mensaje de que la arquitectura es incapaz de solucionar el problema que se nos presenta, o que incluso, sea ella el problema?
Otra manera de actuar consiste en hacerlo por oposición respecto el entorno. Al actuar según este principio, buscamos justamente agudizar la diferencia, y hacerlo hasta tal punto que la nueva intervención adquiera una presencia tan singular que se desligue por sí sola de todo aquello que la rodea. El contraste puede funcionar como respuesta aislada, pero no cuando ésta se convierte en norma. La singularidad pasa por ser único, y un conjunto de singularidades acaba convirtiéndose sólo en ruido.
“Los procesos de diseño de la arquitectura despliegan un conjunto de respuestas ante el entorno construido. En todas ellas participa algún grado de imitación, bien sea del entorno inmediato, bien sea de modelos o tipologías que se utilizan como referencias ideológicas” Contraria a la estrategia del contraste, y alejada de las anteriores, la disolución, o mímesis, implica no sólo una apropiación estética del contexto, sino en algún grado, también de las lógicas que han conducido a esa estética. Disolver implica pasar a formar parte, desvaneciendo los límites entre lo nuevo y lo existente, y hacerlo en todos sus matices, tanto en la superficie, como en el fondo.
No existe una única estrategia, y cada caso, cada situación, exigirá valorar una serie de respuestas. Y éstas nos llevarán a ofrecer soluciones que probablemente no encajarán nítidamente en ninguna de las clasificaciones anteriores. Pero en cambio, sí podemos estar seguros de una única certeza; y es que la solución para actuar en este post-paisaje en constante evolución, sea la que sea, inevitablemente tendrá que pasar por la Arquitectura.
1 Stefan Zweig novelaba su selección de hechos históricos cruciales en Momentos estelares de la humanidad, Acantilado, Barcelona, 2002
2 Manuel Castells (Ed.) La sociedad red: una visión global, Alianza Editorial, Madrid, 2006.
3 Crutzen, P. J. y Stoermer, E. F. (2000). “The ‘Anthropocene’”. Global Change Newsletter 41, 17–18
4 Desde los estudios de Koolhaas y el Harvard Project on the City en Mutations, Ed. Actar, Barcelona, 2000, a los nuevos espacios de (no) relación que las nuevas ciudades generan: Marc, Augé Los no lugares, espacios del anonimato, Gedisa, Barcelona, 1993; o los más recientes de Francesc Muñoz, Urbanalización. Paisajes comunes, lugares globales, Gustavo Gili, Barcelona, 2008 y de Carlos García Vázquez, Antípolis. El desvanecimiento de lo urbano en el Cinturón del Sol, Gustavo Gili, Barcelona, 2011.
5 Richard Sennett, The public realm (borders and boundaries), Ponencia leída en la BMW Stiftung Herbert Quandt, 2008.
6 Delgado, Manuel, El espacio público como ideología, Ed. Catarata, Madrid, 2011.
7 Según el informe Destrucción a toda costa de la ONG Greenpeace, 2010.
8 Véase el trabajo documental y fotográfico de Julia Schulz-Dornburg en Ruinas Modernas, una topografía de lucro, Ambit Serveis Editorials, S.A, Barcelona, 2012.
9 El término “Post-paisaje” está tomado prestado del artículo de Martí Peran “After Landscape. Ciudades Copiadas” que introduce el catálogo de la exposición del mismo nombre. After Landscapes. Ciudades copiadas, Institut de Cultura de l´Ajuntament de Barcelona i Publicacions i Edicions de la Universitat de Barcelona, Barcelona, 2015.
10 Enric Llorach, “La estética de la mímesis / The Aesthetics of Mimesis”, Metalocus, Madrid, 10 de octubre de 2014.
Ricardo Carvalho graduated in 1995 from the Technical University of Lisbon, earning his Ph.D. there in 2012. He currently teaches in the Architecture Department of the Autonomous University of Lisbon. He was a professor in the ASG Internacional Master in Architecture program of the BTU in Cottbus, Germany (2009–2013), and a visiting professor at the University of Navarre (2013). He has written on architecture for several international magazines and curated exhibitions.
He is a founding partner at Ricardo Carvalho + Joana Vilhena Architects in Lisbon. The firm’s private and public commissions have been presented in lectures in Europe, Latin America, and China, and been published in magazines like Architectural Record, AIT, Casabella, Icon, Frame, Future, and others.
The partners were nominated for the Mies van der Rohe European Award in 2015. Their work has been included in collective exhibitions abroad, including ‘Overlapping: Six Portuguese Architecture Studios’, held at the Royal Institute of British Architects in London (2009), and ‘Tradition is Innovation’, at the zone Design Center in Tokyo (2011). They represented Portugal in the ‘Lisbon Ground’ show at the 13th Venice Biennale of Architecture (2012). ‘A Room for Mexico City’ showcased their own work at Espacio LIGA in Mexico City (2013), and ‘Process/An-Architecture’ put them in the company of the artist Daniel Malhão at BES Arte in Lisbon (2014).
Historically speaking, we work on the frontier between various disciplines. That frontier no longer has defined outlines or cartography. They expand or contract according to the purpose and context of the situation that may involve the act of construction. Sometimes this act is merely a strategy (open to a variety of implementations); other times it means construction in the more traditional sense. The oscillation between the two ways of working characterises our profession.
Architecture is rarely at the centre of construction. With the advent of modernity, Architecture moved further away from that centre, because the organisation of the market drifted obstinately towards to a lack of differentiation. Today, immersed in a culture of specialisation, a culture that strains to create major synthesis, this lack of differentiation has gone from a provisional state to an instituted one. Even so, Architecture is asked to demonstrate foundational strength, environmental-friendliness and cultural meaning.
There is a frontier between the unusual and the banal in contemporary architectural culture. This frontier gained unexpectedly defined features in the world of Architecture and the city. This at a time when the propagation of artistic ideas between the popular and erudite has become globally popular in contemporary culture – contemporary art proceeded to overcome this impasse some time ago. Charles Baudelaire, in the 19th century, made reference to the conflict between the perennial and the transitory on the basis of artistic creation. In contemporary western cities, the unusual commonly coincides with Architecture and the banal with non-monitored construction by meanings that transcend materials and programmes. The tension and imbalance between one and the other – between the spectacular and indifferent – seems to be rather impractical as a process for building a city.
The city and Architecture make up an inseparable whole and day to day experience is the basis of our work as architects. Architecture is the way of thinking that naturally arises from the synthesis between the banal and the extraordinary and from this derives its specificity and capacity to savour life. Many of the buildings that most interest us have that indeterminate character. The forces that constructed the city were also monitored by Architecture in its most varied of strategies – sometimes a single building emanates the symbolic strengths of a city, and, the other way round, a city is nearly always defined by an environment that is impossible to translate in a single work.
One way or another, it is always the experience of Architecture that allows the creation of identity. Architecture in its frontier position (and never as a specialisation) can be the way of attributing a civilising character to the structure and infrastructure, to programmes and technological questions, to market forces and the dominant social themes of each era.
The uncertainty we refer to in relation to our work, is to do with making the doubt operational, in the face of a panorama of scattered positions, concepts and systems. Extending the field of doubt as a tool continues to be a necessity in the organisation of the world of work. The uncertainty also refers to the statement of Architecture as a media theme. That condition doesn’t make us sure about the understanding of its place in society, of its role throughout history in shaping the public and the private, of work places and free time and its relationship with the landscape.
Instead of a centripetal force of a building, we are more interested in the unpredictable strength of an ensemble, with its density made of life, time, and unpredictability. If we dare risk a definition, Architecture is thinking and construction with a single body of knowledge – a knowledge that we believe to be transmissible and one that aims to achieve transformation beside the object itself. Today, the separation between the two within the context in which we operate, that of globalisation, is ever increasing. The positions become more intense. In terms of the Architecture produced on a cultural basis, the aesthetic experience does not always correspond to a desirable transforming force of places. Architecture can strive for a somewhat latent meaning or revelation. Doubt, the initial stage of uncertainty, can be an inductive principle in the construction of that same landscape, where the bureaucratic certainty of or disinterest in a more inclusive idea of Architecture dominates, which does not guarantee us a more humanised life support. “Doubt is a social hermeneutic. It is the process by which we test the conditions of truth and the practical and pragmatic consequences of our acts as players in the world” (1)
An architectural project is an act of research. It is this research that allows the architect to critically inhabit the world of construction, and, above all, that allows the constraints not to come into conflict with the project, but to be integrated into the process in such a way as to move in the same direction as the research.
We also like to think that we are not simply seeking an identifiable way of working places and programmes. We can be positively surprised by the constraints and deliberately move in other directions that are revealed in the construction process, spatial distribution and final expression of the project as project themes. One could say that we work with the problem and not against it.
According to Deleuze, “The logic of a thought is the total of the crises it endures; it is more similar to a volcanic chain than to a more balanced system” (2). An architecture project is not a balanced system. We know today that this succession of crises will not produce a universal validation of solutions but only a glimmer of happiness at the moment when an Architect felt they had created a support for life.
We believe that Architecture is not there to substitute but rather to add something. Substitution is only worthwhile if one believes one can add something. In Portugal, over recent decades, the substitution of substitution, of buildings or places, did not enhance the possibility of the new. Nowadays, people too often associate the new with something worth. Many associate substitution with loss, precisely because for a long time, with the exceptions that we are all aware of, Architecture does not guarantee the same naturalness, intensity and stability that people’s memory associated with those vanished places.
Architecture can and should act but is unable to free itself from the past. We do not work in conflict with the past, which we in fact were unable to choose, but rather in the sense of summoning up that past with a freedom which is only permitted by ideas – a past is not the place, it is a universal heritage.
We are interested in Architecture with a dimension of radicalism. Radicalism, etymologically speaking, means “close to the root”. But radicalism, understood as disciplinary positioning, does not mean that Architecture can’t have a natural position that it can’t belong to a place without friction, and that people can’t adhere to. Radicalism is tied up with shortening the distance that separates the idea of the work. It is still surprising that disruption and continuity, when associated with intervention in a city, does not mean the same for everybody.
The simplification of the statements continues to feed our work process and our interest in Architecture. Associated with a search for clarity we are interested in the choice of a theme that plays an important role in the development of the project. Our work is sustained by a look at the materials of the city and daily life. It is the city that, generally, sets the themes of almost all the statements of Architecture, with the physical density and a collective, permanently renewed horizon of expectation.
Our second studio was located on the last floor of a building in the Lapa neighbourhood in Lisbon. From the terrace you could see the River Tagus and the entire physical structure of the city. But the most surprising thing was the construction of houses (chalets as people called them) inside the blocks. Contrary to what one would think, the order of construction was not the building of the houses, followed by a later allotment of land to put up buildings. On the contrary, the eclectic houses were built in the interior of the blocks after the construction of the residence buildings. The result is a physical structure that is magnificent due to its density and to the complexity of the empty spaces “designed” by the construction and vegetation (gardens and vegetable patches) that invade those spaces.
All of this is hidden from the street, and causes great surprise t whoever discovers that backyard city, which is accessed by tunnel-like passages. This circumstance of making the collective and individual cohabit, the physical construction and the arboreal construction, of not revealing everything at first glance, of the possibility of discovery, to us seems to be an important element in Architecture.
Today, the studio is on Rua do Norte in Lisbon’s Bairro Alto neighbourhood. The commercial character of that street, the force of the environment and cultural openness were not monitored by Architecture. We can also learn from this – with what is outside the project but full of life. Architecture can weaken certain phenomena and strengthen others that can positively transform a place or a way of living. The method we propose transports the intensity of the place we know (and where we feel extraordinarily happy) in such a way as to aim to imbue these qualities in the projects that we, as architects, bequeath to the city.
(1) Bhabha, Homi K. “Ethics and Aesthetics of Globalism: A Post-Colonial Perspective” in “The Urgency of Theory” Tinta-da-China, Lisboa 2007. “Doubt is a social hermeneutic. It is the process by which we test the conditions of truth and the practical and pragmatic consequences of our acts as players in the world. The global doubt is crucial for our notion of what is involved when we assert ourselves as global actors. The doubt, in the practical sense, that precedes action and intervention, is a (…) powerful element on the dialectic of the transfer and transformation that creates the global metaphor” p. 40
(2) Deleuze, Gilles “Conversações”, Fim de Século, Lisboa 2003. p.118
Lorena del Río (Madrid, 1981) graduated from the Madrid School of Architecture in 2008 and is working on her doctoral thesis there. She has been a Visiting Assistant Professor at Cornell University since 2012, directing Design Studios at the graduate and postgraduate levels as well as seminars on Graphic Represenation, Theory of Architecture, and Construction.
She has participated in reviews and talks at schools including MIT, Buffalo University, New York City College, Houston University, and the University of Puerto Rico, where she was a panelist in the symposium ‘The Evolution of Pedagogy: Architecture in Spain’. She has received many awards in competitions in Spain and abroad, most recently for a new gymnasium in Dalseong, Korea, and in EUROPAN 12 in Kagran, Vienna. Work of hers have been featured in world magazines like GA, Bauwelt, and Arquitectura Viva.
From 2008 to 2012, working with the studio Selgascano, she took part in various phases of the design and construction of buildings like the Auditorium of Cartagena, the Auditorium of Plasencia, and the Factoría Joven in Mérida.
In 2014 she set up RICA* Studio with Iñaqui Carnicero, after years of collaboration in projects of very different scales and budgets.
“Seducir es morir como realidad y producirse como ilusión. …La estrategia de la seducción es la de la ilusión. Acecha a todo lo que tiende a confundirse con su propia realidad. Ahí hay un recurso de una fabulosa potencia. Pues si la producción sólo sabe producir objetos, signos reales, y obtiene de ello algún poder, la seducción no produce más que ilusión y obtiene de ella todos los poderes, entre los que se encuentra el de remitir la producción y la realidad a su ilusión fundamental. “
De la seducción, Jean Baudrillard
En una situación en la que todas las necesidades están cubiertas y donde es redundante generar nuevas estructuras debido a un exceso de patrimonio construido heredero de una falsa situación de opulencia cabe preguntarnos cual es el sentido o la función de la arquitectura en el desarrollo actual y futuro.
Lo primero en cuestionarse ante la obra arquitectónica es la necesidad produciendo un rechazo inmediato a lo que pueda entenderse como innecesario o alarde puramente estético y nos hace reflexionar, sobre la idea de lo imprescindible en arquitectura. ¿Cómo encajar la dimension más elevada de la arquitectura en unos tiempos donde solo se admite lo imprescindible?
Entiendo como imprescindible en arquitectura la capacidad de generar ilusión y establecer un dialogo con el observador o mejor dicho el usuario, a pesar de que estas cuestiones no respondan a la estricta necesidad de solucionar un programa o resolver un espacio constructivamente.
Me gustaría describir esta dimension de la arquitectura a través de dos términos que se complementan y que no podrían entenderse sin la interacción de aquel que la vive: complicidad y seducción.Y para intentar explicarlos voy a hacer alusión al trabajo de ciertos artistas que me sirven como referencia en mi trabajo. En la obra de Fred Sandback, Janet Echelman,Tara Donovan, Olafur Eliasson y James Turrel valoro especialmente la capacidad de sorprender y de involucrar al espectador demandando una interpretación personal, en muchas ocasiones con sutiles intervenciones o transformaciones de lo existente pero de gran impacto en el observador capaces de crear en él la ilusión de una realidad nueva.
En el caso de la reciente exposición de Turrel en el Guggenheim y su obra Aten Reign que transformó el icónico espacio de Wright la capacidad seductora se traduce en generar una forma de ilusión, de paisaje imaginario que se produce en la mente del espectador y que lo conduce en un viaje en el tiempo a través de la memoria de experiencias vividas. La instalación llena el espacio central del museo de luz, natural y artificial y color cambiante creando una experiencia dinámica de percepción. Entiendo aquí la seducción como proceso ilusorio.
En la obra The Weather Project, Olafur Eliasson llena el espacio de turbinas de la Tate Modern con una representación del sol y un cielo infinito. Genera un paisaje artificial distorsionado, un eterno amanecer o atardecer que con su intenso color transforma la escala cromática creando una realidad duotonal, solo amarillos y negros son visibles. El artista genera la ilusión de un sol encerrado en el espacio que no es real y los espectadores se hacen cómplices de esa mentira, y participan de ella.
En el marco de la arquitectura la seducción hace alusión a la dimensión más elevada de la disciplina y que trasciende a las contingencias del proyecto y que podría definirse como la capacidad de generar la ilusión de una realidad transformada y mejorada capaz de conectar con las aspiraciones del usuario y de manera última de la sociedad. La complicidad en cambio se refiere a los vínculos que se generan entre obra, usuario y contexto. Hacer arquitectura es transformar un lugar, establecer relaciones, conectar o desconectar, recuperar el carácter y la historia. Podría entenderse como la capacidad de atracción e interacción entre el objeto arquitectónico y el usuario. Ambos términos se complementan, la arquitectura no puede seducir sin la complicidad del sujeto que la vive.
En el proyecto realizado para la fundación juegaterapia nos piden que transformemos un espacio ya existente, la terraza sin utilizar de la cubierta del Hospital de La Fe en Valencia en un jardín y espacio de juegos. Juegaterapia trabaja para mejorar las condiciones de vida de los niños hospitalizados con cancer. Empezaron donando consolas para que los niños las utilizaran durante la quimio sabiendo que la realidad paralela que los videojuegos generan en los niños les ayuda a luchar contra la enfermedad. El programa que nos encargaron era muy sencillo, una zona de columpios protegida del sol y el presupuesto destinado para ello limitado. Lo que más nos interesaba de este proyecto era generar un espacio de ilusión, una nueva realidad para los niños que pudieran entender de maneras distintas y proyectar su imaginación. Buscamos un material con el que pudiéramos resolver casi todo, económico y que estableciese conexiones con la historia e imaginario del lugar. Las cuerdas presentes en las imágenes de los barcos y las redes en los puertos de valencia se utilizan en la propuesta de maneras diferentes, para generar sombra, como estructuras de juego, o creando espacios de descanso. Tratamos de seducir a través del material, las formas y los colores y buscamos la complicidad a través de la interpretación personal de los espacios y la interacción con ellos mediante el juego.
Pensando en el desarrollo y futuro de las ciudades creo que no deberíamos conformarnos con mantener el patrimonio edificado dada la falta de necesidad de estructuras nuevas, hay que confiar en una arquitectura equilibrada capaz de ilusionar y de recupera el optimismo perdido ante el futuro.
La capacidad de seducción y complicidad de la arquitectura, de generar ilusión de una realidad distinta, puede que parezca una cualidad innecesaria en tiempos de crisis, pero a mi me resulta imprescindible.
Val Warke currently teaches in Cornell University’s Department of Architecture, College of Architecture, Art, & Planning, where he has been a director of graduate studies and department chair. His focus in teaching and research has been on criticism and genre theory, including issues of fashion, formalism, populism, reception, and relations to literary theory, with a particular emphasis on the work of Mikhail Bakhtin. He has been published in a number of journals, including Assemblage, A+U, Cornell Journal of Architecture, the Harvard Design Magazine, and Log, with many essays and texts on the work of Morphosis, including the book Morphosis (Phaidon) co-authored with Thom Mayne. He recently published The Language of Architecture (Rockport), co-authored with Andrea Simitch. He teaches in the areas of design (architectural and urban) and architectural theory. Val practices with Andrea Simitch, as a partner in Simitch + Warke Architecture, and has engaged in a number of collaborative projects, including the Nalati National Park Resort (China; with Carnicero/del Rio of Ithaca and Madrid), and, with Labics of Rome, competitions for the Serbian Center for Science in Belgrade, the Benetton Headquarters Buildings in Tehran, and the Arbedo-Castione School Complex in Switzerland. In addition to the field of Architecture, he is a member of the graduate field of Fabric Science and Apparel Design. Warke graduated from Cornell with a B.Arch. and from Harvard University with an M.Arch.
There appears to be a slow, yet recognizable transformation in the usage of public space, especially as it relates to the appropriation and re-assignment of buildings within the city. Perhaps, underlying all of this is a tendency for social groups to conspicuously resist an urban environment that is at times intimidating and alienating, and at other times coddling and domineering. The presence of gargantuan infrastructure, aloof and inaccessible, as well as dead industries, derelict properties, and the concrete carapaces of dubious deserted intentions, is beginning to elicit in the citizenry throughout the world — and especially in the Western world — an urge to ‘make sense’ of these things, to incorporate them into their lives as they have been forced to incorporate them into their worlds.
In other words, there seems to be a shift — largely undersigned — from a more or less fixed and scenographic approach to urbanism to one that is looser, and more carnivalesque.
One indication of this is the proliferation of photographers who focus on the high-resolution depiction of industrial and political ruins, often within cities. This photographic genre of “ruin porn,” as it has come to be called, functions generically somewhere between morality plays and gothic horror. A high art with lowly subjects, they seem to be a modern version of the seventeenth-century bambocciade paintings. They are far removed from the traditional romantic presentations of ruins of a sublime or contemplative nature, like those of Rievaulx Abbey that were such an inspiration to Henry Moore.
In its constituent properties, the doctrines — though not necessarily the products — of modern architecture have exhibited a compelling affinity with the traditional concepts of set design, specifically: a degree of functional determinism (sets have very specific occupational requirements), the abstraction of forms, the dependence on available technologies, the desire to cooperate in issues of social programming. Fundamentally, a stage set is an extreme modernism. Le Corbusier’s urban drawings were frequently constructed in the manner of backdrops or stage sets, with small domestic events played or about to be played in the foreground. (See, for example, his images for the “City for Three Million People.” In the illustrated example, the last sentence even alludes to the presence of the urban theater: “Theaters, public halls, etc., are among the spaces between the skyscrapers, among the trees.”) The Constructivists in Russia, the Expressionists in Germany, and even the Futurists in Italy — who even designed costumes for the population — all understood this quite well. One might say that a modified notion of “urban scenography” has largely driven urban design since the 1950s.
But one must recognize that the differences between architecture and theatrical constructions are as important as their similarities. Specifically, there are no footlights between a viewer and a work of architecture. There are no house lights to be dimmed. There is no singular, framed view of a building that can be conjured forth, for viewers to watch simultaneously and with uniform focus of attention. There is no proscenium. In architecture, the audience is neither passive nor immobile. Despite arguments to the contrary, by Gordon Cullen and others, there is no linear unfolding of a building’s attributes.
One thinks of Walter Benjamin’s famous argument, that “Architecture has always represented the prototype of a work of art the reception of which is consummated by a collectivity in a state of distraction.” Ultimately, it is a building’s programmatic amenities that engage a public. It is then left to a building’s architectural attributes to draw a public further into a consideration — possibly even an appreciation — of the work. (Perhaps, though, even this is optimistic.)
In a sense, the ways in which architecture deviates from theater and theatrical construction are very much more related to the properties of theater’s antithesis: carnival. As Mikhail Bakhtin had frequently demonstrated, especially in his Problems of Dostoevsky’s Poetics and Rabelais and His World, carnival eradicates the boundaries between performer and spectator. A carnival is not simply observed, it is lived. During the carnival period, society — its structures and attributes — is appropriated and turned upside down.[2X] Bakhtin’s example of the traditional crowning of the town fool as a carnival king during medieval and some later European carnivals, illustrates the potentially dualistic transformative powers of carnival: it is not just the fool who is the king, but the king is, by implication, a fool. Additional alterities accumulate: the abusive ‘homages’ paid to the carnival king reflect attitudes toward those paid to the real king; the accouterments of prestige (crown and scepter, for instance) are displaced by the implements of labor (such as a beehive and a bread paddle); and the central market square replaces the inevitably inaccessible palace court. Similar reversals occur throughout carnival activities, especially in terms of the religious profanation pantomimes, the parodia sacra. In order to operate within this dualism, the carnivalesque action must operate within two times a past that is known and shared, and a present that unfolds as a challenge to that past.
Despite its liberating and even revolutionary aspects, a carnival is, paradoxically, sanctioned by precisely those authorities who may be implicated in its activities. Despite the fact that it appears to operate outside of time, with time and space being suspended during the carnival period, its time period is very clearly defined, with its ending both prescribed and enforced.
However, while a society may require the license of an authority to be permitted a carnival observance, a reader requires no such consent. As Bakhtin has argued, while carnival has largely disappeared in society, having been suppressed in most cultures, it continues its life within certain texts. Architecture, may be one of these texts.
Benjamin’s distracted reader of architecture wanders the streets or corridors, potentially developing a direct, and perhaps even personal engagement with a work. There is always in architecture the potential for carnival.
Public space is always ripe for carnivalesque inhabitation, especially those that pose a dialogical iconography of authority and commonality, of power and of powerlessness. And I believe that the public is currently slipping into a distrust of the theatrical, rigid and deterministic urbanisms of the late nineteenth through late twentieth centuries, and beginning to embrace a more carnivalesque understanding of the city.
‘Urbanism,’ or, better ‘urban design,’ or, even better ‘design within cities’ has always succeeded whenever there has been a loosely scenographic sensibility combined with a situation whereby the observers can be participants.
And this is becoming increasingly common. For example, music critic Michael White recently observed that, “A modern curiosity of opera is that we spend vast amounts on theaters customized with all the comforts and amenities the art form needs, only to get excited by the prospect of performances in train sheds. It is the thrill of living rough.” In other words, many populations, especially in the West, are undergoing an eruption of carnival.
Indeed, of all the reuse and modification projects, there seems to be a prevalent tendency for the reutilization of those buildings that were formerly industrial in their function. Perhaps this is a latent envy for the models of early modernity: structures that were optimized for durability and for their accommodation of a very specific program. Perhaps it is the result of a nostalgia over the loss of an industrial past (ignoring, of course, the child labor and environmental pollution such romanticisms tend to erase). This is generally a nostalgia for an idealized — not to say fictionalized — past. The current fascination for reinhabiting industrial ruins — see especially the intriguing work by Latz + Partners in Duisberg — is endemic of this carnivalesque tendency.
In a similar way, the occupation — even gentrification — of infrastructure, like Alexandre Chemetoff’s Bamboo Garden in La Villette (1987) or the more recent High Line project in New York point to an enthusiasm for publicizing previously private or inaccessible space (again, a carnivalization of space). In many of these situations we also see the public’s fascination with spaces that are subterranean or elevated: again, formerly inaccessible to all but a few of a city’s labor force.
But it would be incorrect to believe that there are necessarily financial benefits to be gained from the reutilization of abandoned constructions. Most often, the costs of adaptation far exceed those of original construction. This is a course quite often advocated by those who despair over what they view as an impoverishment of contemporary architectural design, and who are willing to spend large amounts in avoiding architecture at all costs. One of the worst trends among the preservation and modification of these structures is the accompanying unintentional parodies of stylization that they encourage, and that are often even necessitated by legal code constraints and design review restrictions.
One of the facts we have to face is that, among the abandoned and neglected structures that exist, most deserve abandonment and neglect: horrendous housing blocks and suburban shopping malls, real estate ventures gone awry, generally projects by governments attempting to expeditiously house suppressed populations, or by avaricious real estate developers attempting to expeditiously house moneyed populations, often with the collusion of politicians and banks. And most defy reuse: they may have been built badly, and with poorly performing, even dangerous materials; they may be absurdly inefficient from the standpoint of energy consumption; they may be singularly ‘optimized’ for a specific occupation that is now largely irrelevant. Most of these buildings perform their greatest social benefit in providing raw material for looters. This is especially the case with abandoned housing projects.
I think it might be a good idea to require all such orphaned projects to be either demolished after ten years if they remain unoccupied, or possibly painted a very dark blue — except for their roofs, for the sake of ambient heat gain — so that they become, in effect, liminally present silhouettes, like ghost buildings, or architectural manifestations of the Osborne bulls.)
One must avoid, at all costs, the construction of works in places with insufficient infrastructure. And avoid over-programming structures. It is the overly-specific program that is most resistant to adaptation and reuse.
Probably the most pressing necessity for constructive intervention is presented by urban infrastructures, especially highways, railroads, and so on. While many advocate the complete elimination of large scale urban infrastructural projects, there are numerous examples of such structures that do not impede urban culture, and possibly even augment the value of public space. What is necessary is that we no longer permit such projects to advance without some consideration for the accommodation of public space and public amenity. For example, the massively engineered highway overpass that is singular in its function should not be allowed to persist.
Since architecture exists as the record of a culture and a society, there is arguably an equal value to the recording of a society or culture’s stupidities and travesties. Preservation of those moments, however, should probably not be a priority (unless there is a suspected danger of repeating that stupidity or travesty). I would venture that the great majority of abandoned structures are the result of some cultural lunacy (quite frequently by its commercial institutions abetted by poor political decisions). In this sense, they already represent carnivalesque entities, but they generally do so without carnival’s subtlety.
We should instead prioritize for preservation elements of urban space (street edges, focal points, shadow lines, and so on): those elements that formulate the composition of urban scenography, but that do so without demanding a highly specified programmatic occupation, or occupation by a singular social or economic group. Perhaps these urban spatial elements — inadvertent monumentality, in a way — should have a priority over specific structures within the city when determining both demolition and reconstruction.
So, we are seeing an increasing number of eruptions of the carnival urge. Every incomplete building, every ruin, represents a moment in a culture’s vulnerability, some part of a war. It would be inappropriate to design exclusively for such moments, since carnival is, by nature, fleeting. But it would be irresponsible, even dangerous, to ignore society’s carnivalesque appropriations of our designs — especially in public spaces — since carnival is a necessary function of our occupation of cities. In carnival exists the public possibility of every structure. In building the built, we may inevitably always be crowning the fool as a king.
Ultimately, every building is a monument: to a god, to a regime, to a corporation, to corruption, to misfortune, to gullibility, to hopes of redemption, to despair — like the desperation of changing one’s class. Perhaps one of the questions that “build the built?” is really suggesting is the more dangerous question: “what should we remember?”
 For more on the relationship between theater and modernism, see my “Theater Stage, Carnival Square,” in The Cornell Journal of Architecture, No. 4, New York: Rizzoli, 1991.
 See, for example, Gordon Cullen’s Townscape movement, especially concepts such as his notion of “Serial Vision” as a form of revealing urban spatial sequences.
 Walter Benjamin, “The Work of Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction,” trans. Harry Zohn, in Illuminations, New York: Schocken Books, 1968, p. 239.
 Mikhail Bakhtin, Problems of Dostoevsky’s Poetics, Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1984; and Rabelais and His World, Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 2009.
 Michael White, “A new ‘Orfeo’ steps off the pedestal,” The International New York Times, January 17-18, 2015, p 19.
 Eruptions of carnival have taken many forms and scales, some of them obvious — such as bachelor parties, graffiti, and the 1989 protests in Tiananmen Square — and some of them less obvious: Allon White has compellingly described the evolution of the Freudian concept of hysteria as a direct result of the suppression of carnival. See Allon White, “Hysteria and the End of Carnival: Festivity and Bourgeois Neurosis,” in The Violence of Representation: Literature and the History of Violence, edited by Nancy Armstrong and Leonard Tennenhouse.
Juan Manuel Filice graduated from the University of Mendoza in 2000 and completed the Master of Architectural Design program of the University of Navarra in 2003. In 2004, he and Leonardo Codina set up A4estudio, and immediately they set out on an intense professional career, taking on diverse commissions.
Works of theirs have been featured in magazines in Argentina and elsewhere, especially in Summa+ and Plot. The honors they have received for their work include first place in the ARQ Awards given by Diario Clarín Arquitectura in 2013, for the Cuyo Region , and first place in the professional excellence ranking, in the emerging voices and intermediate generation sections.
Since 2012 Filice has been an associate professor in the Constructions IV chair of the Faculty of Architecture of the Universidad de Congreso. In 2014 he was an invited curator of the BIAAR-Bienal Argentina.
The urban scenes of Latin America seem to differ from those of Europe, but despite different realities, a close look can reveal things which are present, or better, absent, in both continents. In Europe, compact cities, regular and orderly, equipped with facilities and infrastructure, systematically consolidate the territories that they appropriate as they grow. There are places where overbuilding and excessive concern for the object per se have much distracted attention away from the human dimension of public space. The deceiving representation of prosperity, quality, and growth through the construction of unconnected, self-looking iconographies seems to have replaced sensible and sustainable management of the city. Asymmetrically, in Latin America vast urban centers undergoing dramatic population growth coexist in territories of scarce infrastructure, with the indiscriminate and arbitrary expansion of peripheries altering the natural and built landscape day by day, and leaving in its wake huge areas with no benefit of planned intervention on the public sphere. The immediate takes priority over what’s truly important, annulling all windows for reflection on transforming these realities.
In both contexts the distance between discourse and action is evidence of the loss of architecture’s social dimension, and results in the absence of more inclusive urban scenes.
How to operate with sensitivity and efficiency in these contexts? How to create spaces which are more inclusive, more humanized, better contributions to quality life?
In the mid-20th century, the city of Mendoza’s northward growth over national railway terrains invariably left voids within the urban fabric. These scars from old railway or industrial constructions in disuse are now the most important canvases for intervention on the city.
Mendoza’s Central Park project, launched at the peak of the Argentinian economic crisis of 2000, addressed this complex canvas and proposed a tone for action. To design from what already existed and intervene on it with precision and sensitivity, with attention on a significant operation but without losing sight of contemporary problems and institutions, is what had to gain ground, over and above urban interventions of the sumptuous and sterile kind. The proposal presented two stages. The first acted towards the void to the north of the site. Platforms and paths were connected to a series of green spaces and urban facilities. A suture at the perimeter, beginning with the placing of parking lots and a pedestrian path in relation to existing constructions, consolidated the edges of the site, visually marking out the territory. This system which gave traction to flows and organized spaces created the conditions for public engagement and multiple spontaneous activities. A second stage, to the south, worked on what was already built. A series of interventions was executed on two existing sheds to accommodate cultural programs open to the public. The original construction of metallic bays supports its use-flexibility and its tectonic essence is the frame for the new activities.
Notions of reconstruction and reuse are tackled not only from the angle of interpreting sustainable construction, but also from that of a reflexive interpretation of the nature of the new urban space needed. Reasonable and measured operations, efficiency in managing resources, and efficacy in the impact of transforming spaces seem to mark the tone of the project. Maximizing reflection and thought, minimizing the impact and consequences of the built, thinking more and doing less, seem to define what our best contribution can be.
Seán Harrington is an award-winning Irish architect and an expert in sustainable and energy-efficient design. His practice, Seán Harrington Architects, is renowned for its approach to designing public spaces for people, including Rosie Hackett Bridge, Dublin Millennium Bridge, and the Granby pop-up community park.
Recent projects include the giant opening umbrellas on Meeting House Square in Temple Bar, which was awarded the International Architecture Award 2013 by the Chicago Athenaeum and the European Centre for Art and Architecture, and most recently the 2014 ICONIC Design Award for Architecture from the German Design Council. Seán plays traditional Irish music and has spent many hours in outdoor public spaces all over Europe, playing jigs, reels, and airs on the wooden flute whilst observing human public behavior!
Ireland has been through a deep economic recession for the last 6 years, from which it is just emerging. It has been a time for survival and of reflection.
The Chinese word for “crisis” is composed of two sino-characters that represent “danger” and “opportunity”, and for us as architects in private practice the recession has offered an opportunity to rethink our methods, re-calibrate our philosophy and renew our capital city, in a different way, whilst trying to stay afloat.
With money for new projects scarce, we have had to develop new ways of thinking and working. This has included instigating projects ourselves initially without fees, persuading potential clients to commission us, and then helping
to find funding, often from unusual sources. Some projects have used voluntary workers, recycled and low-cost materials, utilising unwanted sites, and rethinking how public space can be used to the maximum benefit of citizens and visitors. We have also helped to persuade the city authorities to rethink their policies, especially how streets and squares are designed, used and managed.
Economic stagnation should not mean that nothing can happen. On the contrary it is a time for fresh thinking, fresh creativity and fresh and unusual projects
that help to enliven our cities and enrich our lives, as is illustrated here with 5 examples of our work in Dublin City centre.
Granby Park was a temporary park that was built on a vacant site in Dublin’s run-down north inner city in August 2013. It was open for 1 month. It was made from up-cycled, recycled, donated & found materials and was a collaboration between some of the city’s most talented artists, event coordinators, architects, performers and “creatives”.
Built & coordinated completely voluntarily, almost 400 volunteers and 1,100 supporters helped create Granby Park, which was visited by 40,000 people. This demonstrated not only an alternative model to the way that we use vacant sites but also an innovative platform for citizens, local government, local community, business, creative professionals and artists to work together. The city council played a valuable role in providing the site and negotiating legal and bureaucratic hurdles.
The park consisted of an educational hub space, 30 artist installations, a cafe, a children’s play area, a much used 300 person amphitheatre, grafitti wall & boules pitch, surrounded by planting and furniture. For one month, Granby Park played host to a multitude of exhibitions, installations, events and community activities.
As part of this, we designed the outdoor amphitheatre, made from recycled industrial wooden pallets, and then worked with teenagers from deprived parts of Belfast and Dublin to build it together over a period of a week.
Interestingly, this unusual project won the Award for the Best Public Space in Ireland Awards 2014 from the Royal Institute of Architects of Ireland.
If you wander through Temple Bar, you should always stumble across something interesting, but one of the things that Temple Bar has lost over recent years
is creative, anarchic non-conformity. There is now limited scope for new development in the Temple Bar as there are few gap sites remaining. However, there is a demand for more (low-rent) space for artists and musicians.
With this in mind, we proposed the creation of affordable, informal incubator units. They would be let out on short leases, with a condition that the creative process is exposed to view. The system we proposed is based on industrial container technology – standard size units which would be transportable and stackable. Each unit would be tailored to suit the occupant, and made as self-sufficient as possible. They could be easily dropped into place, removable, temporary, and reversible, positioned on gap sites or other suitable locations.
We were commissioned to design a pilot project on this basis, to explore the potential of a derelict site on a prominent corner in the west end of Temple Bar. The site has been derelict for many years, and in the context of the current economic crisis, is unlikely to be redeveloped for some time to come. a problem common to many derelict sites throughout the city centre of Dublin.
We designed a cost effective, temporary structure that is quick to build and is easily dismountable, with a cafe on the ground floor and artist’s studios above. The tower of container units and flamboyant external staircase (with a viewing platform on top) is a low-cost landmark building of a suitable scale to mark the gateway to the Old City, and an “eye-catcher” at the end of the long view from Essex Street East.
Temple Bar is the heart of Dublin. It embodies some of the best things about any city centre; complexity, vibrancy, interest, mixed use, great modern architecture, good human scale and a conserved historic street pattern. Temple Bar is internationally admired as a model of urban regeneration, part of which was the creation of a new small city place in 1994 called, Meeting House Square, designed specially for outdoor events.
However, there is a saying in Ireland that at any time of the year you can have ‘four seasons in one day’ – from warm spring sunshine to intense summer light, and from lively autumn gales to a sudden wintry shower. Following a public competition, we were commissioned to design an innovative solution to provide a convertible weather covering over Meeting House Square – Dublin’s most important public cultural square – as events were (Irish) weather dependent and often subject to cancellation.
The project was a retractable rain-screen roof comprising of 4 giant umbrellas, so that the space remained open air, but could be covered when necessary, thereby fulfilling the potential of his wonderful outdoor performance space, by increasing the certainty of performance and event programming.
This unusual “city-enhancement” project was awarded The Iconic Award for Architecture 2014 from the German Design Council and The International Architecture Award 2013 from the Chicago Atheneum Museum of Architecture and Design.
We have designed 2 bridges in Dublin city centre across the River Liffey, the Millennium pedestrian bridge in 2000, and the Rosie Hackett Bridge in 2014.
Our philosophy of bridge design is that they should be seamless and natural extensions to the public realm and the city streetscape, and not look like they have been dropped there from space, out of context, or be overly mannered. Fundamentally they should be comfortable for people to use, and not just be flashy objects of sculpture, primarily to look at. They also offer an opportunity for activities on the bridges, other than just crossing the river.
The Millennium Bridge was designed to be lightweight, transparent, visually low-key, structurally daring and to sit comfortably into a prominent urban setting of considerable historical significance, next to the iconic Ha’penny bridge built in 1815.
The 51m span was bridged using an arched portal frame, the large concrete haunches of which were contained within the hollow curved shell abutments. Using this solution, this enabled us to make a public gathering place at either end of the bridge, like a generous extension to the pavement, so that people could wait to cross the busy roads in safety. On the bridge, the aluminum bronze balustrade is ergonomically designed to encourage people to lean on it, and enjoy the river view. Recently, an informal “city-picnic” was held, on a long table right along the bridge – to reclaim public space for citizens – a great success!
Our latest bridge has just been completed; the Rosie Hackett Bridge – for public transport (trams, buses and taxis) as well as pedestrians and bicycles. Private cars are banned!
It is a single span reinforced post- tensioned concrete bridge. Designed as a low-key contemporary design, it is elegant in scale, graceful in span with devices to lighten visual impact and minimal obtrusion over balustrade level. Of particular interest are the upstanding concrete fins. These are multi-purpose; providing useful longitudinal stiffening to the upper part of the bridge, separating vehicular and pedestrian traffic, are flood defence walls, and very importantly, are a base for seating and planting. These simple wooden seats the whole length of the bridge on both east and west sides have already become a favourite place to sit in the city, away from the traffic, in peace, overlooking the river below. Although this is a tram railway bridge for heavy traffic, it appears as a pedestrian bridge, light at the edges and at a human scale; a seamless synthesis of good civic design, elegant engineering simplicity and carefully considered ergonomic detailing.
Both bridges are public places, to cross, or linger on, to rest away from the traffic, and to people- watch and fall in love with the city again.
Ariadna Perich Capdeferro (Girona, 1978) studied architecture and urban planning at the ETSAB (Technical University of Catalonia School of Architecture in Barcelona). ETSAB honors in 2006 and 3rd prize in the architecture section of the 26th Dragados Awards in 2008 for her graduation project. Master in Theory and Practice of the Architectural Project (PA-ETSABUPC, 2009–09). Associate professor in the ETSAB’s architectural projects department since 2005. Member of the research group FORM since 2011.
She has directed and coordinated various workshops at universities in Spain and abroad, and been a guest professor and given conferences at institutions like the IED in Barcelona, the Universitat Internacional de Catalunya, the University of Edinburgh School of Arts, Culture & Environment, the Università de Pisa Ingengneria Edile-Architettura, and the Georgia Institute of Technology School of Architecture in Atlanta.
She is currently living and working as an architect and cultural manager in Barcelona, undertaking projects for both the private and the public sectors. Since November 2012 she has also been serving as deputy director for the ETSAB’s cultural affairs. In 2013 she created the CULT platform at the ETSAB, from which she curates, organizes, and designs exhibitions, lecture series, seminars, and other such activities. In addition she is director and editor of the La Peixera collection of regular publications covering the cultural and artistic life being generated at the school through CULT. (www.facebook.com/culturaetsab).
In April this year in the MNAC (the Catalan National Museum of Art), a temporary exhibition called “Manoeuvre by Perejaume”, ended. It was the first in a new line of exhibitions in which contemporary artists and creators are invited to generate dialogue and critical revisions of the museum’s collection through interventions and presentations.Perejaume (Sant Pol de Mar, 1957) on this occasion took on the role of commissioner, a title that he immediately replaced with that of “manoeuvrerer”, presenting himself as one who uses existing works to make new works. In this sense Perejaume not only doesn’t stop being “author” but also manifests his enormous capabilities and specific interest in interpreting the world through the relationships between objects, and or the situations that are part of it.Although we cannot dwell on the specific content of the exhibition – the analysis of the 130 works and their pairing alone would be enough to deserve it’s own article- it is interesting to make note of the means and strategies used to group and display these works. Perejaume himself, when describing the value of this exhibition, puts a stronger emphasis on the way it was structured and conceived than on the works of art themselves, that had not been selected merely on economic or artistic value ( there are some anonymous works and many sketches) but because they are documents that are especially “fragile, small, and heterogeneous”. Perejaume, in this exhibition that continuous and broadens his earlier publication “Mareperlas i Ovaladors” (2013), tries to show these connections and similarities that in his opinion exist between certain artists and works of Catalan art of the 20th Century, pairing them amongst them and with work from the tradition. With “Maniobra“ the author makes a transversal section where the “oval shapes, of tubular origin, bulbous, astronomical or bodily“ are predominant. He establishes a common thread that pairs up photographs of clouds with baroque altarpieces, relics of busts of saints with narrative tales, sculptures with lunar studies, sketches of houses with altar projects or sculptures seen from behind with sketches for paintings, emphasizing in this way the value of continuous and interstitial space and the dialogue that follows from pairing them up. Perejaume experiments with the comparison between works, which is to say that he analyzes or studies them. His intervention consists of selecting, reorganizing and pairing them up, so they reveal their essential characteristics with greater intensity and at the same time bring to light other, lesser known attributes.A plastical sensory exercise that is at the same time a literary one, that unravels a superposition of meanings, a visual and textual poetry that alters completely the way we look at these objects from now on and at the same time makes us accomplices to the immanent sense of tradition and belonging that surrounds them.This way of working in relation to the objects has certain parallelisms with the notion of repair that Richard Sennett raises in is book “The Craftsman” . Believing that “sometimes when repairing things is when we fully come to understand how they work “, Sennet defends a broader understanding of the concept of repairing, which is not only limited to returning an object (or a concept or any kind of aspect of reality) to it’s original state but has the capacity to recompose it, to change it’s state, or even change it’s function.Like Perejaume´s “manoeuvrerer “, Sennet´s “artisan” works with the existing- which in this case is not functioning- without giving up the making/constructing of something new during the process of repair. “To manoeuvre“or “to repair“in this way isn’t just an attitude towards things but moreover a standpoint, which as we have seen requires both a vast knowledge of reality an a significant amount of intuition.In architecture, to work and to get involved with reality are actions that come with the territory, and form an intrinsic part of its modus operandi. Through the projects, an architect establishes an intense dialogue with this reality by interpreting and transforming it to finally construct a new place. If we start with the premise that in the current context this mostly means to build what has been built it is pertinent to reclaim the figure of the architect-repairer, capable of completing this “ambiguous task that is architecture, partly technical and partly mysterious“ , from a spatial interest to a focus on continuity, incorporating the problems in the solution, overlapping a “silent artificial landscape onto a historical narrative of the city without erasing it or denying it.“ In his famous text “Terrain vague” written in 1996 for the XIX Congress of the International Union of Architects (IUA) Ignasi de Solà-Morales opens with a reflection on the importance photography has had, from it’s beginnings, in the representation and comprehension of the metropolis and of modern architecture, and as well for the construction of ones own understanding/ imagination of both.When he gets to the seventies he stops to focus on one of the places that are beginning to capture the eye of photographers at the time; the terrain vagues. Abandoned, empty places without use or activity that are at the same time considered places of expectancy, promise and possibility. Places that according to Solà-Morales reflect the insecurities of the metropolitan citizen with its fears and at the same time condense their expectations and desires of freedom. This focus on and interest in this type of spaces and urban situations is still valid, if not to say very much alive and current. In the last few years we have seen how photography has returned to capture similar images although this time we are not presented only the “ industrial areas, train stations, harbours, unsafe residential areas and contaminated places“ but we are confronted as well with the results of the real estate bubble and the economic crisis.To see these as a terrain vague- even though the image they present are different from those earlier ones- means seeing them as places of opportunity, and therefore places that are waiting to be “manoeuvred“.This new playing field to repair and reinvent adopts a variety of forms and is to be found in unexpected places, from the most intimate and essential that is the room to the house, the street, the city up to the greater metropolitan area and the countryside.The architect as manouevrer-repairer designs with an involvement with reality and his goal is to delimit/outline spaces with meaning. Depending on his skills -and imagination- this architect , who operates with many different pre-existing levels, knows how to identify the level of intervention that is needed for each point of the project and if necessary limiting the scope of his intervention.The projects that result from these kind of manouevres and repairs are, once completed, an undeniable part of the place and at the same time they are a preparation for what is still to follow. Projects that have a tendency towards timelessness, that have not given in to the pressures of language -of tendencies- and have simply strived for a certain beauty, a certain truth. Following the statements made by the poet T. S. Eliot in his influential essay “ Tradition and the Individual Talent“ , these projects are loaded with historical sense and have been conceived to integrate simultaneously the present and the past of architectural work. Projects that cannot be seen and understood on their own, that will always have to be considered in relationship to works that have come before them for contrast and comparison. Some of these projects already exist and, therefore, so do their manouevrer-repairer. Identifying them and attempting to relate to them is, surely, the right approach to not loose the common thread of tradition.
Antonio J. Cidoncha Pérez (Madrid, 1989) earned his degree in architecture in 2013 on agrant at the School of Architecture of the University of Navarre, graduating with honors in his final academic project.
Since 2009 he has been working with the school’s publications and projects departments, initially as collaborating student in Architectural Drawing (2009–2011) and Elements of Composition (2012–2013). Since the school year 2013–2014 he has served as assistant professor of Architectural Drawing (6ECTS).
He completed his school’s Master in Theory and History of Architecture program in 2014, and is currently working on his dissertaion, on a grant from the Association of Friends of the UN, in the doctoral program History and Critical Analysis of 20th-Century Spanish Architecture.
In simultaneity with his research work, he serves as editorial coordinator of the magazine RA, and is part of the research group AS20, where he takes part in drawing up publishing projects like ‘GANSXX: Guía de Arquitectura de Navarra’ (Guide to Architecture of Navarre, Pamplona, 2011–2013) and organizing congresses and exhibitions like VFIERA (International Fair of Architecture Book Publishers and Magazines, Pamplona, 2014) or ‘EAHN PhD International Symposium: Tabula Rasa’ (Pamplona, 2015).
Besides his work in academe, he has begun professional practice by taking part in the preparation of entries to competitions in Spain and abroad, doing so with various offices: Alcolea+-Tárrago Arquitectos, Ochotorena Arquitectos, Tabuenca y Leache Arquitectos, Pérez Pereda Arquitectos, Javier Larraz Arquitectos, and Olite Arquitectos.
His individual work has been awarded and published in various contexts.
<p style=”text-align: justify;”></p><p style=”text-align: justify;”>“I will destroy all the Parthenons at night and raise them in the morning,” said Oíza, paraphrasing García Lorca. Paradoxically, history sometimes offers us unique episodes which, thanks to the soundness of minds and with the Navarrese architect’s same desire to be contemporary, exemplarily encourage us to postpone it.</p><p style=”text-align: justify;”>The apostle Peter was crucified in the Circus of Nero. According to tradition, his remains were buried in the vicinity of the Circus, on Vatican Hill. Over this tomb, under Constantine, Saint Peter’s Basilica was built. An adaptation of the Roman temple model, this first basilica of five naves and 110 meters in length was a pilgrimage place and center of Christianity for twelve centuries.</p><p style=”text-align: justify;”>At the close of the 15th century, damage in its structure made Pope Nicholas V assign Leon Battista Alberti and Bernardo Rossellino to execute restoration works in the basilica. After the pope’s death, his successor, Julius II, decided to stop the works, to the astonishment of the people, and erect an altogether new temple, ex novo. There are stories describing how horrified the clergy and the people were by the demolition of the original church. Bramante, chosen by the new pope to build the new temple, was nicknamed “the ruinous master,” and Andrea Guarna made fun of him in <em>Scimmia</em> (<em>The Monkey</em>), a satire published in Milan in 1517 which presents the demised architect facing Saint Peter and being scolded for the demolition while proposing the reconstruction of paradise. To these scandals we must add that of the sale of indulgences for the basilica’s construction, which would have a key role in the birth of Martin Luther, who saw the works going on when he traveled to Rome in 1510, after which he would write <em>95 Theses</em>.</p><p style=”text-align: justify;”>This decision to raze the prime symbol of the West, raised over the apostle’s tomb, and entrust the new construction to the most avant-garde artists of the time, is possibly one of the greatest cases of confidence in contemporary architecture that history has ever seen.</p><p style=”text-align: justify;”>Obviously the work we are talking about needs no further justification for us to accept it as a great milestone of the history of architecture. It is widely known that personalities of the caliber of Bramante, Raphael, Michelangelo, Maderno, and Bernini together designed a masterpiece over a 130-year period. Nevertheless, that building it involved the period’s most illustrious architects, or that they managed to erect one of the most extraordinary structures of classical culture, its sublime dome, is secondary when compared to the decidedly courageous, magnanimous attitude of Pope Julius II. The project, which underwent drastic variations in the course of its development, constituted a genuine addressing of society’s new spatial and intellectual needs. The relationship of this architecture with the built realm, with history, was that involving a brave self-affirmation as a step forward. The advance rests on history, is juxtaposed with or replaces reality.</p><p style=”text-align: justify;”>The project understands the place as a metaphysical entity, far from anchoring itself to the material of some pillars or a roof. A demonstration that the great architecture was built with the center of the discourse being not the ‘how’, the object, the sculpture, the form, but the where, the why, and the now.</p><p style=”text-align: justify;”>The title of the Ultzama gathering reminds us of the condition necessary for ‘building’ an architectural discourse. We talk about cities, buildings, stone, concrete, steel… Without an inhabitable physical support, our ideas lack substance. Nevertheless, if we look at our profession as an activity of great social importance, we must demand reflection on architecture within a much more ambitious framework. We must even give priority to the contextual analysis of decisions, which may be removed from construction questions, but do support an eminently social discipline.</p><p style=”text-align: justify;”>Because talking about “the built” in architecture – as a concept upon which to formulate a theoretical discourse – involves understanding the question on a plane that goes beyond physical reality. To be able to talk about “the built,” it is necessary to reflect on the culture, the art, the society of a specific place, developed in the course of the most determinant factor behind every civilization and every architecture: time. The city is not the result of a simple superposition of projects. The architect goes about his work aware of the capacity of architecture to transcend time, while possessing inevitably ephemeral attributes.</p><p style=”text-align: justify;”>We could reflect on a series of paradigmatic examples, of different scales and surroundings, that allow us to discern patterns that have been repeated in the course of time. Nevertheless, we find ourselves in a context where it seems of greater interest to go beyond the reflection around the actual built object, situating it as another layer of the physical and historical scene of the place. Distance the discourse from the form, in order to rescue the right moves, in the form of concerns and commitments to society and architecture, which distinguish what happens or does not happen to the annals of history.</p><p style=”text-align: justify;”>Mies van der Rohe used to say that architecture is the will of a period translated to space, so it’s hard to think of important novelties in architecture and urban planning that do not address demands or changes in society. The most notable constructions where this circumstance takes hold disassociate themselves as representative icons of such social novelties. Nevertheless, it is as necessary to build the spirit of a period as it is to bravely move forward in the representation of the contemporary.</p><p style=”text-align: justify;”>History is ancient. In our discourses we talk about putting things in order, as if we were actually guided by a need to put objects back in the natural positions they should occupy in space, when what we convey almost always is simply a desire to take command, to be obeyed, to prove the power of architecture. Out-and-out preservation of heritage can sometimes create similarly incongruous situations. Keeping the legacy of our ancestors intact must never be a hindrance to the progress, innovation, and optimism of a society in continuous growth.</p><p style=”text-align: justify;”>APRIL, 2015</p>
María Luisa de Miguel (Gran Canaria, 1987) is a young profesional with a clear focus, commitment, and motivation, and proven personal skills in managing people and communication and presentation tools. Excellent time management, planning, and organization. Positive attitude in solving problems with a creative and active focus. Her goals in life are guided by creativity, values, and passion.
In architecture, her greatest passion is arriving at the smallest details and giving concrete reality to buildings. Studied at the ETSAM of Madrid’s Technical University and at TU Delft, and did a Master in Management (MIM) program at the Instituto de Empresa in Madrid.
She currently works with the engineering firm ARUP, in construction and detail analysis, while serving as assistant professor, by invitation, in the final projects program of the ETSAM, with José María García del Monte and Fernando García Colorado.
We know the disastrous outcome of the massive construction of the recent years and its social consequences in these years of crisis. As architects, we face many comments that insinuate that we have been the perpetrators of such acts and our profession is affected by operations in which the majority of times we have been puppets manipulated by a “superior” power. But we must not forget that there has always been an architect signing a project in each of these interventions, so we have to be careful also to fall into a collective hypocrisy.
On the other hand, focusing on the problem from a local point of view is particularly short-sighted, because while it is true that we have gone through an unfortunate stage, it is not less true that we have not set ourselves on a disastrous path. Disaster that we can see, this time without palliatives, in so many mega cities; but not only there, just look at the model of uncontrolled growth of so many Latin American cities. After all, we have had rules, we have had technicians and we have built within a general order, something that has not happened in other places, where the growth without reflection, control or standards has led to a difficult return point.
When reflecting on what to do in this situation, we must strive to find a pattern, a criteria that will allow us to discern where we will put efforts to minimize or mitigate the impact caused. We should not believe, however, that the only problem has been the massive construction (in a brief period such as the case of Spain and already longer periods in other places), if anything the excess amount will be a housing problem, but it does not have to be an architectural problem. Now, there have been situations in which from the moment zero the construction has been a big mistake. The starting point, the conceptual idea, is the key to its success, in such a way that if we fail in that initial point all is lost. Many buildings are born in deteriorated approaches that regardless of how they are built, are already obsolete and require immediate intervention.
We could say that, regarding the classical notion of ruin as “building that becomes useless by its deterioration”, we should introduce a new very useful category to learn how to operate on the built city: that of intellectual ruin; the condition that inexorably affects those constructions that do not contain in their genes an apex of thought, nor therefore hope for their future.
Such buildings, such performances, are ruins from before birth, obsolete from the outset. Maybe not only for their opportunity (or rather by their lack of it), but also for the wrong constructive approach, ignorance of the city or contempt for history.
Examples? The tower built with a structural system and obsolete façade already in its time or result of a direct and unsustainable scale change. Or the building that repeats again and again constructive standards that have already been proven useless and harmful. Such authors must be either blind, deaf, mute, all of the above together or simply ignorant of reality.
Thus, in cities, there are two types of damage. On the one hand, that caused by the passage of time, which will require interventions (repeated over time) to keep the functionality of architecture. These buildings were executed in accordance with suitable principles and we must therefore ask ourselves how to keep them because there is no more sustainable action than trying to preserve as maximum as possible that which is recoverable. On the other hand, we have the intellectual ruins, those who, from the moment of conception are already damaged or obsolete. This second group is the one that should concern us because they are discrediting our profession and that from my point of view should be demolished to make way for new buildings and therefore to new opportunities or free spaces that oxygen the cities.
As architects we know that most of our collective work is preserving the already executed by others, to give a second chance to the buildings. In this task, it is very important to learn to detect and understand the essence of the constructed work, preserve it, and adapt it to the contemporary needs of society. In some cases we will discuss restoration, rehabilitation, consolidation and other figures which have developed by the legislation and culture. In others, perhaps we should not speak of demolition, but of a material and economic recovery: to date, almost all building under construction have a moment of glory when it evokes, unwittingly, the exciting figure of the model Dominó; perhaps it is an act of compassion to return the built errors to that initial stage were still everything is possible, giving a second chance, not a second life.
Kai Nikolaus Grüne is an architect living and working in Berlin. He has been teaching since 2011, serving as assistant professor first at TU Cottbus and then at TU Berlin, in the Chair for Architectectural Design and Construction. In 2012 he was a scholar at the German Academy Villa Massimo in Rome, and in 2013 he was an architect-in-residence at the Goethe Institut of Rotterdam. He is currently working on his Ph.D. on contemporary perception of ruins at the Bauhaus Universität in Weimar. It seeks to investigate current architectural approaches to buildings in a state of ruin, specifically in the urban context of Berlin. To this end it examines various ruins that have been transformed in the last ten years. Grüne’s professional work experience includes supervising the redesign of a conference room at United Nations FAO headquarters in Rome in 2006–2006, as well as activities as a stage designer—for example, for Sasha Waltz at Schaubühne Berlin. From 2009 to 2011 he planned and executed the conversion of a Berlin boatyard into studios and workshops for the artist Answelm Reyle. In 2014 he completed the transformation of offices for Axel Springer SE, also in Berlin, which involved reconstructing an entire floor of a high-rise office building to make the executive boardroom area a ‘co-working’ space.
I grew up in the city of Münster, the historic town center of which was 91% destroyed during the Second World War and whose reconstruction is of dominantly formally aesthetic nature. In 1956, Münster sees the first entirely modern theater building being newly constructed within the Federal Republic of Germany 1, whose fundamental design idea it is to maintain the ruins of its preceding structure within its courtyard. The ruin stands, accompanied by a large, old tree having survived the bombardment in the courtyard garden, within an atrium situated between the inner and outer foyers. I have always found it significant that a ruin’s fragment was integrated into this modern building – solely to be used as a backdrop. Akin to a memorial, the façade fragment is conserved and the characteristic nature of the ruin per se ignored: Here, nothing decays but is rather maintained at an artificial status quo. An image is rendered.
Genuine ruinous building structure however to me constitutes an integral component of the grown urban fabric composed of diverse layers and fragments. Following its procedural nature, urban development draws new power from the ruin’s fragment. This bidirectional potential, namely the identity-giving historical reference and the concurrent visionary hotbed for new development, are existential for urban developments. The fragmentary nature of the ruin is a trigger for an imagination of the absent and stands for the open, ambiguous and incomplete – all of which attributes connected to modernism, be it within the arts or architecture. The idea of the incomplete 2, as informed by Michelangelo Buonarroti since the Renaissance, addresses the relation between idea and form, which, in the scope of the structure as abstract imagination and built materiality, can be witnessed especially within the ruin. Decaying structures however are not solely imaginary spatial experiences fuelling the force of imagination, but tectonically tangible structure and mass. Architects such as Louis I. Kahn have been substantially impacted in their work by the study of ancient ruins generating the idea of shell construction.3 Kahn also deliberately speaks of the beauty of ruins as a structural element (and therefore detached from an image as a direct historical reference) which he transforms in his own designs: “I thought of the beauty of ruins … of things which nothing lives behind … and so I thought of wrapping ruins around buildings.”4 The uncovering of the primary structure within the ruin and with it the thematization of construction and cladding are what art historian and architectural theoretician Stanislaus von Moos denotes as the revealing of the “constructive and tectonic fracture” of the building: “The ruin as such becomes a didactic specimen, a demonstration object of architectural tectonics.”5 In addition, the ruin as a fragmented structure provides the imperfect image, which, through its imperfection, possesses an enormous interactive potential to stimulate the imagination of the observer. The recipient becomes, in his imagination, the spiritual designer as the image of the destroyed form provokes further thinking, an imaginary reconstruction or speculative completion.
On the one hand, monument protection intervenes at an ever faster pace within European societies – the timespan between erection and protection is shortening.6 On the other hand, everything imperfect and decaying is removed from the urban landscape for economical aspects and demands for urban densification. This causes a lack of disruptions and
contradictions within the urban texture, which should ultimately be characterized by its diversity. The ruin by contrast would constitute an element capable of supporting such diversity as it defies, a priori, the ideology of functionalism and generates a different image of urbanity, which however, in my mind, is essential for the entirety of a functioning city. If one takes the ruin seriously and does not reduce it to the image of a memorial and if one embraces the venture of allowing for decay to occur and to integrate it into new buildings, one, on the one hand, creates the prerequisites for an alternative (urban) spatial perception in form of a new aesthetic sustainability. On the other hand, through the ruin, society both as client and designer as well as user, is confronted with the dimension of time 7 and the fundamental phenomena of the city: decay, appropriation, transformation, imperfection, openness. Understanding these elements as part of the urban-spatial process and to accept and value the unfinished requires a humble conduct of thought in architecture and urban planning. Accordingly, a thesis for the handling of our built inheritance is as follows: Against the exhaustive conventional conservation and repair, but in favor of the venture of conducing controlled decay and integrating it into new architecture. For the benfit of a spatially and socially more diverse and complex urban landscape.
By reference to building examples from the Berlin context which I have known for years, I would like to illustrate the urban potential of ruins. Within the course of a talk I would like to examine these references both analytically spatially and formally aesthetically, as well as encourage a discussion in order to reflect on strategies related to an alternative approach towards our built inheritance.
1 The architects are Harald Deilmann, Max von Hausen, Ortwin Rave and Werner Ruhnau.
2 Non-finito refers to a not completed sculpture. The term derives from the Italian language and connotes “incomplete”. Exemplary sculptures are the “Boboli Slaves” of Michelangelo Buonarroti at the Galleria dell’Accademia, Florence. The sculptures were created for the tomb of Pope Julius II around 1519.
3 cf. Kries, Mateo/Eisenbrand, Jochen/von Moos, Stanislaus (2013): Louis Kahn: The power of architecture. Vitra Design Museum. p. 318: “Als Architect in Residence an der Amerikanischen Akademie in Rom (1959/51) erkannte Kahn in den Ruinen des kaiserlichen Roms die Grundformen des Bauens überhaupt. In den Ruinen aufgelassener Bauten, von denen aller Stuck und alle Ornamente abgefallen waren, sah er architektonische Konstruktionen in ihrer reinsten Form. Diese Einstellung kennzeichnet auch die Strenge und elementare Wucht vieler Bauwerke Kahns und verleiht ihnen ihre zeitlose, sakrale Aura. (…) Vergleicht man sie mit den Backsteinbauten der Antike, zeigen viele Bauten Kahns in Indien und Bangladesch das Pathos einer Baustelle, die mitten im Prozess der Fertigstellung stehen geblieben ist. Es sind ‘umgekehrte Ruinen’.”
4 ib. p. 317
5 von Moos, Stanislaus (22.9.2007): Rhetorik der Baustelle. Die Entdeckung der Stadt als Prozess. Neue Züricher Zeitung.
6 This phenomenon was thematized by Rem Koolhaas during the VENICE BIENNALE 2010 within the CRONOCAOS exhibition.
7 The philosopher and sociologist Georg Simmel describes the ruin as the “ultimate escalation and realization of the past’s present tense” Simmel, Georg (1919): Die Ruinen. In: Philosophische Kultur, Leipzig: A. Körner.
Alberto Pireddu graduated from the Faculty of Architecture of the Università degli Studi di Firenzi in 2005. In 2010 he completed the Master in Architectural Design program of the University of Navarre School of Architecture in Pamplona, and earned a PhD at the Scuola di Dottorato
in Architettura, Progetto e Storia delle Arti of the Università degli Studi di Firenze. He collaborated with Maria Grazia Eccheli in her architectural design studio, and is now adjunct professor at the architecture school of DIDA in Florence, teaching ‘Caratteri distributive degli edifice’. In 2014 he joined the editorial staff of the magazine Firenze Architettura. The book In Abstracto. Sull’architettura di Giuseppe Terragni, with a foreword by Alberto Campo Baeza, sums up Pireddu’s research on the subject of abstraction in architecture, while The Solitude of Places: Journeys and Architecture on the Edges presents some his projects in Sardinia, in a journey within a landscape of apparent shades and solitudes. He lives and works in Florence and Cagliari.
SPOLIA. BUILD (WITH) THE BUILT
The reuse of building materials in new constructions has been a constant in the history of architecture.
In the western world, this practice is documented as far back as the Classical Age and was applied systematically and with unprecedented consistency in Roman times. In the Orient, and more precisely in China, a rapid, inexpensive building technique (called wa pan) has been used for centuries by peasants in the poorest areas to rebuild their villages using materials recovered after the devastation of typhoons or other natural calamities.
In both cultures, though, the reasons for the reuse of building materials have never been merely economic, but also aesthetic and symbolic, since the reutilized elements have often made it possible to set up new relations, in some cases a true “hypertextuality”, with the preceding architecture.
Some contemporary works bear witness to the continuity and validity of these recovery operations: the Palazzo di Lorenzo by Francesco Venezia in Gibellina Nuova (1981-1987) and the Ningbo Historic Museum by Wang Shu and Lu Wenyu (Amateur Architecture Studio, 2003-2008) .
In 1968 an earthquake leveled entire towns to the ground in the Belice valley in Sicily. The ‘new’ Gibellina was rebuilt at a distance from the ruins of the destroyed town. And while this old town was ‘petrified’ under the immense concrete pour of Cretto by Alberto Burri, it is in Francesco Venezia’s Palazzo di Lorenzo in Gibellina Nuova that the nature of the reappropriation operations described above (spolia in re) takes form and is renewed. In the courtyard of his new building, Venezia reconstructed a façade that is real and metaphorical at the same time. The Palazzo cannot be lived in: it belongs to memory and the alienation of the place that invents a history for itself.
The Ningbo Museum is perhaps the most famous example, the one that brought the theme of recycling building materials to the forefront of international debate. This building is constructed by the stratification of more than two million recovered pieces: bricks, stones, tiles, ceramics. The importance of Shu’s project lies in its capacity to sublimate a building process that we could call “sustainable”, because of its reuse of elements otherwise destined to become piles of refuse, but also in its extraordinary evocative force, its linking of these fragments to the identity and history of the landscape from which they came. And all of this runs counter to the most radical referents of the urban projects of contemporary China, realized in accordance with paradigms of knowledge and value systems that are absolutely heteronomous, tied to the phenomenon of globalization. The investigations carried out by Wang Shu’s firm into collective memory, compositional syntax, and craftsmen’s procedures are also an opportunity to recover and hand down to future generations longstanding and enduring skills and practices.
Only the local craftsmen – Wang Shu states – know how to do wa pan, but if we do not use it in contemporary architecture I believe that soon they too will forget it. When we started, a number of stonemasons did not remember how to proceed, so we had to use pictures and retrain them.
An ancient, magical place, marked by the presence of a nuraghe, a giant’s tomb, a sacred well and a small country church.
Inhabited since the second millennium B.C., and certainly reused by the Romans, in the Middle Ages the area became an important religious centre, from which the traces and the memory of a Benedictine abbey still remain.
The church, dedicated to the worship of Santa Sabina, dominates the surrounding countryside with the solid stereotomy of its construction. Its origins are clouded in mystery due to a lack of historical documents but also, more pertinently, due to the unusual layout of the building: it is as though Paleochristian or Late Antiquity shapes, in that time outside time of Sardinia’s long history, survived the spread of universal languages and the consolidated typologies following the fall of the Western Roman Empire.
The walls themselves suggest a thousand-year stratification: the great blocks of basalt, probably taken from the nearby nuraghe, under the ashlar masonry of limestone and andesite, rest probably on the remains of a circular Nuragic structure which forms the formal, static foundation of the building.
The sacred enclosure around the church was the site of religious events in which faith and magic, the holy and the profane, blended in an archaic and solemn ritual. Processions, festivals and novenari gave life, as in the majority of rural churches across the island, to a temporary community that joined together to worship the saints. And it was precisely to provide for the faithful and the pilgrims that, above all in the 17th and 18th Centuries, small villages known as cumbessias or muristenes rose up around these countryside sanctuaries. Collective buildings of a temporary nature, often consisting of a row of small, low houses arranged on the perimeter of the sacred area or, sometimes, extremely simple porticos, were essential retreats from the rain and the sun, but also places for negotiation and for the activities of traders and sellers of all kinds.
At Santa Sabina the original muristenes no longer exist, and an inadequate recent building provides the original functions of receiving guests and supporting the religious events.
The project seeks a combination of ‘anonymous construction’ and contemporary architecture through a formal-typological comparison of the muristenes at some local sanctuaries.
The design requires, therefore, a level of abstraction that is able to interpret the characteristics of those buildings and bring them in line with contemporary architecture.
Inside the sacred area – where two thousand years and around forty metres separate the only signs that, one after the other and with the very same stone, two completely different religious and sociocultural systems emerged – a fragment of muristenes once again gives the traveller the chance to live in this place.
Seven small cells offer respite to as many pilgrims: each is equipped with all the necessary amenities and connects to a garden, actually an open-air room of identical size (3.5×3.5m), whose back wall runs along the sacred perimeter.
In keeping with the tradition of reuse of materials suggested by already existing architecture, and in particular the church, this building is conceived of concrete made with recycled aggregates resulting from the demolition of buildings belonging to the same Sardinian landscape, in an evident search for “sustainability” during the planning phase.
And just this reflection on the recovery of building materials – on its enormous, and largely unexplored, technical, formal, and aesthetic potential – is the main contribution this short essay aims to make to the broader topic of the “Build the Built” Campus.
 This essay was produced as part of the research project entitled “Il riciclo dei materiali come opportunità per una ri-costruzione sostenibile del paesaggio in Sardegna” (“The Recycling of Materials as an Opportunity for Sustainable Construction of the Landscape in Sardinia”) carried out at UNICALCESTRUZZI s.p.a. using a research fellowship financed by the resources made available by the P.O.R. SARDEGNA F.S.E. 2007-2013 – Obiettivo competitività regionale e occupazione, Asse IV Capitale umano, Linee di Attività l.1.1. e l.3.1.
 Many of the reused materials came from the spoliation of preceding buildings; these materials are generically called spolia, a term which originally referred to the spoils of war but has now been adopted by architecture. There is a distinct difference between spolia in re, which can be likened to a literary quotation and enable the establishment of a hypertextuality with the preceding architecture, and spolia in se, actual spoils, which consist in the reuse in more recent constructions of elements taken from structures of the past and utilized simply as building materials.
 See Fabrizio Arrigoni, “Le chinois, ça s’apprend,” in Firenze Architettura n. 2/2013 , pp. 22-33.
Born in Bilbao in 1987. Finished architectural studies in 2012, having participated in teaching activities of his school’s projects department under the direction of Miguel Ángel Alonso del Val (2010–2011).
Since 2012 he has been in practice on his own, and carried out several restoration projects. He has also taken part in public competitions in collaboration with other architects, among them Francisco Mangado, Ignacio Olite, Antonio Cidoncha, and IMPAR studio.
To reconcile professional practice and academic research, in 2013–2014 he took the Master of Theory and History program of the University of Navarre School of Architecture while continuing to teach in the projects department and directing and organizing the start-up of the school’s digital laboratory. For the 9th International Congress of Spanish Architecture, under the curatorship of Jorge Tárrago, he was in charge of the exhibition ‘The Spanish Pavilion: 1964/65 New York World’s Fair’, which after opening in Pamplona traveled to the Loewe galleries in Barcelona and Madrid.
To broaden his research horizons, in 2014 he enrolled for an MA in Architectural History at the Bartlett School of Architecture in London, and he is currently finishing the program there. Being in London has enabled him to extend his professional practice through a new frontier like the co-founding of Community Action, an interdisciplinary group that aims to carry out collaborative and participatory projects in less fortunate communities by rechanneling mechanisms for developing architectural projects and seeking out ties between the individual and the community as well as technical, creative, and economic processes that give rise to new built forms.
In the past couple of years, his research interests have led him to delve into themes like identity and tradition in the architecture of mid-20th-century Spain; the development and evolution of social housing in Latin America, in particular Venezuela; and the search for the keys to abstract form in the landscape of the Iberian Peninsula. The latter theme was the core of his master thesis (2014), titled ‘Architectures of Water: Hydraulic Constructions in Spain of the Second Half of the 20th Century’, for which he was given the highest grade possible.
In his capacity as a collaborator of the UNAV School of Architecture he has attended international congresses organized by the Fundación Arquitectura y Sociedad.
31st July 2014: the beginning of the eviction of the Torre David , a forty-eight story tower that had been occupied by squatters since 2007. Through the process of eviction, a significant chapter of the remarkable story of the tallest urban squat came to a halt. Further chapters are still being written through the rich documentation of the tower´s past and present, and a number of ambiguities/uncertainties about its future. Its position in the heart of Caracas and its height have made it a highly visible symbol of unfulfilled aspirations of prosperity. This symbolism has simultaneously been produced by accounts of the Torre David and laid the ground for further representations in relation to a range of important political questions. It is due to the very diverse depictions of the squat that it reached the international public –mainly after the Golden Lyon award in the Venice Biennale in 2012– and became a matter of public scrutiny through which the housing problem is explored, the notion of the slum is contested, and ultimately the effects of governmental intervention and the political and economic situation of Venezuela and Caracas are evaluated.
From the widely watched documentary Torre David by Urban Think Tank –together with the publication under the same title–, to the BBC documentary Venezuela’s Tower of Dreams part of the series Our World, or the 3rd episode of the 3rd season of the American TV series Homeland, this very particular case of urban squatting has generated a range of competing narratives. These competing narratives are taken here as a provocation to think through a number of questions: how informal squatting is invoked in both utopian and dystopian depictions of the urban; how, why and by whom is knowledge produced about the city in general and its informal or ´non-planned´ elements in particular. While these narratives may be overlapping and are nuanced, for the purpose of argument these words are restricted to comparing broadly affirming and disaffirming representations.
Here I address the complexities that lie between these contrasting representations of Torre David and use this as a platform to think beyond them, in order to situate it within broader debates about revisiting the existing city and rethinking the role of the architect in that process. I situate this case study within the history of non-planning. From John Turner, Bernard Rudofsky or Christopher Alexander to the present case-study, this writing aims to examine the politics of the non-plan, as a field of practice that is proposed as an alternative to planning and which frequently enters into political discourse at a number of different levels. Far from taking a stance towards one or another political attitude, this paper searches beyond the surface of the narratives that structure accounts of the Torre David and also beyond the eviction of its squatters. In so doing it hopes to touch upon a broad range of poignant questions around the redefinition1 of the architect’s role, including the proposal for a more balanced relationship between the lay consumers of architecture and the design and construction of the buildings and cities around them.2
By taking into account the complexity that lies beyond Torre David , we can understand the disparity of such different versions. Although it is impossible to produce objective knowledge about the tower and inhabitants as subject matter, many of the vivid representations, from the Urban Think Tank book and documentary to the Gran Horizonte exhibition in Venice Biennale of 2012, can give us a sense of both the internal politics and social phenomena and their relation to outside the tower. This is partly a success of narrative and aesthetic decisions taken by writers and producers, for instance the absence of a narrator in the UTT film. In fact, if we abstract ourselves and forget for a moment our desire to find a new paradigm, we will find at once a vertical slum, a squatted building, or a self-ruled no-police space. The battle against the slums has many faces and possible solutions, and undoubtedly the Urban Think Tank’s small urban surgery strategies are as valid as the probably more extended practice –regarding slums clearance– of the tabula rasa . While it is important for architects to remain faithful to the practice of self-critique this does not invalidate the UTT’s recognizing the spontaneous/informal city. They aren’t and won’t be the first neither the last of studying the spontaneous and informal city in search of answers for the redefinition of the architecture and urbanism disciplines. Despite the fact the they always tried not to position themselves in the political field –something they learnt is better not to do in Venezuela– Urban Think Tank couldn’t avoid being accused of having a political agenda. The moment they started publicizing their research on Torre David was one month before the Venezuelan elections; they were accused of endorsing slums and squatters, and of reinforcing Chavez policy of government appropriation of private property. In fact, their work was a strong critique of failed government housing policy3 . Nevertheless, dealing with the issue of the informal city and its facilities4 made Urban Think Tank an easy target for criticism on a national and international scale, where apparently everyone is worried about the openly anti-capitalist traditions in Venezuelan politics.
The profound analysis of Torre David and its representations, allow us to understand not only the squatted tower itself but also lead us to discover the questions beyond the social phenomena witnessed in the tower. In this sense, the “historiographical” method is revealed as a successful tool to understand that the questions lying in the basis of this narratives go further than the concrete case-studies. Located at the foundations of these narratives is the simple but fundamental question of how people can take control of their environments, and how the existing cities –primarily in the emergent countries– can and should be adapted responding to the current reality. A new condition in which a huge housing shortage and rapid population growth marks the way to a rethinking of the present housing policies being applied so far, towards a re-adjusting –maybe re-occupying– the already existing city. However, a deeper question that can be identified beyond is a thriving need to redraw a sense of agency on the lay customers of architecture in the design and construction process, and address the imbalance of power that use to work in favor of developers and officials, and leave architects and planners at a secondary role 5. This task, needs profound social and political changes, but above all it needs the evolution of the architect. Specially the recent trend, where we undoubtedly include Urban Think Tank, there is a clear claim for the redefinition of the discipline. An activist, editor and transgressive architect, who conscious of its new social agenda, could represent the bridge between the rich and poor, the formal and the informal.6
1 Alfredo Brillembourg in Lydia Kallipoliti, “Torre David / Gran Horizonte”, Journal of Architectural Education,67: 1 (2013), pp. 159-161
2 Jonathan Hughes and Simon Sadler (eds.), Non-Plan. Essays on Freedom Participation and Change in Modern Architecture and Urbanism (Oxford: Architectural Press, 2000).
3 Lydia Kallipoliti, “Torre David / Gran Horizonte”, Journal of Architectural Education , v. 67: 1 (2013), pp.159-161.
4 UTT has been working on different kind of projects to improve the living conditions in the slums. One of the
most remarkable one is the Telecable…..2008, part of the Andres Lepik’s exhibition and book for the New York, MOMA in 2010.
5 Introduction in Jonathan Hughes and Simon Sadler (eds.), Non-Plan. Essays on Freedom Participation and
Change in Modern Architecture and Urbanism (Oxford: Architectural Press, 2000).
6 Charlotte Skene-Catling, “The Naked Truth: Architecture or Revolution”, The Architectural Review , v. 236, Issue 1412 (October 2014), pp. 95-101.