SMALL FORMAT ARCHITECTURE
Contemporary architecture is going through a crisis, no doubt. It is enough to glance over a couple magazines to feel that everybody is making the same project. At most, the subject of architecture is summarized on a new skin or a new geometry, the product of consumer behavior that swallows everything. The desire for disposable projects hand-in-hand with fetishism has led architects to work on a utterly unreal scenario, in a desperate attempt to climb to the hyper-consumer chart. The most blatant example of what I am saying can be seen in China, where an endless variety of vulgar and over-ornate towers keep advancing, like an army that stops at nothing. We have lost " the signs on the route " and in their replacement, new formulas appear that repeat themselves shamelessly, in the most diverse landscapes, the most diverse climates, but in the same way.
This phenomena does not make any distinction on any range or scale, since on the one hand many of the great names have developed an image and are selling it as postcards to naive mayors looking for re-election, while on the other hand, a variety of less successful professionals ruthlessly copy each new proposal that may look interesting to them.
We are in the era of the "copy-paste" or auto-copy projects.
For how long will Calatrava keep installing hanging bridges that do not hang?
For how long will Gehry keep doing urban scenes, or the Arabs keep constructing those absurd artificial islands in the shape of palm trees?
For how long will the decoration magazines keep showing different empty works, with no signs of life whatsoever, among dry gardens decorated with couple of rocks, as we had all become Japanese overnight?
Personally, I have no idea of how we will sort this out. I even have serious doubts if architecture , as we traditionally know it, will survive more than a few years..
I think this is due to the overgrowing demand that hand-in-hand with ready information, has produced fast architecture, like fast-food.
Fortunately, projects still appear and these are mostly small scale projects with restricted budgets that shed light in order to re-think a proper architecture for the 21st century. Maybe we might find the core of architecture in the silence of distance and precarious materials.
S0me weeks ago I casually found an image of work from the Paraguayan architect Solano Benitez that captivated me. There were some picture that showed a small intervention among-st exuberant vegetation, and with a text explaining this work that I reproduce herein:
4 BEAMS PROJECT
... ( fragments of a letter )
I am building a project that I took 10 years to develop, here I send the instructions for you to be able to visualize it and hopefully also draw it with the help of these references.
Imagine a square of 9 m each side, inserted into a very particular landscape, two of the sides are irregularly bordered by a small waterfalls of 30 cm;
and another smaller course runs diagonally through the square , shaping a small island that disappears shortly after, where the waters re-converge.
This square is formed by four beams, of 7.5 length x 20 cm width x 80 cm height, the visible edges bevelled, which start in a corner and continue until 1.5 m before the next corner of the perimeter, the ground remaining untouched. They oscillate at different levels from a horizontal background of beams, between 5 cm to 50 cm and more. Each of these is held by one pillar, of variable height and of 25 cm width x 80 cm length, that places its longer side perpendicularly, and shorter side in tangent to the external face of each beam, without any support beneath. Each pillar thus generates two projecting beams on either side, one of 1.5 m towards the corner of the square and the other of 6m in the opposite direction.
Thus the place is named from the outside with this entwined structure of reinforced concrete. On the outer face of each of the beams, on the frame, amambay leaves ( a very particular fern of these streams ) have been introduced, stamping this way its imprint on the concrete. This work was done with the help of Maese " Solanito" my passionate elder son.
The inner faces of the beams are covered by mirrors, in such a way that the space outside disappears inside. Inside the square, avoiding the roots, by the shadow of trees and the sound of the stream waters, there is a pit also in reinforced concrete, that will be from now on, my fathers grave.
This project was undertaken systematically and periodically over the 10 years gone by since his death; and I left it with the same certainty as the need to develop it, when it arose, complying with his request to be buried i our country house in Piribebuy, 84 kn from Asuncion, in the Department of Cordillera, at the place he himself christened " los pilinshos". a branch of Heaven.
This circumstance of approaching the subject of death, and in particular the death of a dearly beloved person, made me cross, throughout all this time, all imaginable stages of melancholy- the only justification for my inability as an architect.
The entrance, by the 4 interrupted spaces of the perimeter, makes the place disappear or thickens the air with a very special strength, where all the present remains integrated, waiting for the moment of sitting next to the grave, the moment at which all presence is assimilated by the mirrors.
Remember that the height of the beams is normal height for veranda, approximately 1.10 m , then when standing in this space, the normal view runs further than the area of 81 m2. I know that it is recurrent to associate the idea of mirrors with selfish love par excellence, narcissism; but there is one thing that always fascinated me about reflections, that internal " self" and the external " other " that appears in this area; I inhabit myself, and I am the limit that separates me from the whole. The exception which I desperately embrace is the mirror.
In the mirror I am " there " in front of me, outside myself, inhabiting another dimension that equals me to all others, or that allows me to inhabit another word that is not my inner self, on an equal and simultaneous level; maybe in the mirror we have the machine that allows us to live in another way with our beings...the absent loved ones , because the obscenity of death uprooted them from us,...those who are the impossible love, because we never find either the space or time that allows them to exist...
This small work, I think, has particular character of exorcism for me, and I hope it will have a most positive effect on the question of managing with all my ghosts.
Dear friend, everything here is going all right, I hope to send you pictures of our advancing works, among them most particularly the pregnancy of Pili ( a mia mulher ) that, despite some scares, goes by wonderfully.
I would love to know what you think of this project, knowing that in your imagination it will look much better than I could actually build, and letting you know that " Morel's invention " , the genius book by Adolfo Bioy Casares , is still fruitful- even though very influenced by my dear Brazilian brothers, I am also tempted to explain this work as follows...4 beams...4 pillars...4 mirrors...and a grave- even though concrete poetry is refreshing news for me.
Photos discovered via
THIS IS WHAT IS MISSING. TIME AND SILENCE FOR ARCHITECTURE TO STOP FOR A MOMENT FROM ITS SEARCH OF EFFECT, OR THINKING OF PHOTOGRAPHY. GOOD ARCHITECTURE MOVES US, EVEN IF NOT KNOWN.
ARHITEKTURA U MALOM FORMATU
Nema sumnje da suvremena arhitektura prolazi kroz krizu. Dovoljno je baciti pogled na nekoliko časopisa da zaključite kako svi rade isti projekt. Najčešće se predmet arhitekture svodi na novu kožu ili novu geometriju, kao proizvod ponašanja potrošaća koje koje guta sve. Želja za potrošnim predmetima, ruku pod ruku s fetišizmom, navela je arhitekte da rade na posve nestvarnom scenariju, u očajničkom pokušaju da se uspnu po hiperpotrošačkoj ljestvici. Najočitiji primjer onoga o čemu govorim može se vidjeti u Kini, gdje beskrajna raznolikost vulgarnih i kićenih tornjeva napreduje poput vojske koju ništa ne može zaustaviti. Izgubili smo putokaze, a zamjenjuju ih nove formule koje se besramno ponavljaju, u najrazličitijim krajolicima, u najrazličitijim klimama, ali na isti način.
Ta pojava ne pravi nikakvu razliku neovisno o području ili mjerilu, budući da su s jedne strane mnoga slavna imena razradila imidž i prodaju ga kao razglednice naivnim gradonačelnicima koji žele biti ponovno izabrani, dok s druge strane razni manje uspješni profesionalci nemilosrdno oponašaju svaki novi prijedlog koji im izgleda zanimljivo.
Živimo u doba "copy-paste", doba projekata koji se sami kopiraju.
Dokle će Calatrava postavljati viseće mostove koji ne vise? Dokle će Gehry stvarati urbane prizore, a Arapi graditi one apsurdne umjetne otoke u obliku palme? Dokle će dekoraterski časopisi prikazivati različite prazne projekte, bez ikakvih znakova života, među suhim vrtovima koje krasi nekoliko stijena, kao da smo preko noći svi postali Japanci?
Što se mene tiče, nemam pojma kako ćemo to riješiti. Čak ozbiljno sumnjam hoće li arhitektura kakvu poznajemo preživjeti više od nekoliko godina.
Mislim da je tome uzrok pretjerana potražnja koja je zajedno s lako dostupnim informacijama stvorila brzu arhitekturu, nalik fast foodu.
Srećom, još ima projekata, a to su uglavnom projekti malog mjerila s ograničenim proračunom koji unose svijetlo radi promišljanja prikladne arhitekture za 21.stoljeće. Možda u tišini daljine i osjetljivih materijala pronađemo srž arhitekture.
Prije nekoliko tjedana slučajno sam našao prikaz jednog rada paragvajskog arhitekta Solana Beniteza koji me očarao. Nekoliko je slika prikazivalo malu intervenciju usred bujnog zelenila, a ovdje cu navesti popratni tekst koji je objašnjavao to djelo:
PROJEKT 4 GREDE
Ta okolnost pristupanja temi smrti, pogotovo smrti osobe koju sam jako volio, navela me da u cijelom tom razdoblju prijeđem sve zamislive stupnjeve melankonije, što je jedino opravdanje za moju arhitektonsku nesposobnost.
U zrcalu sam " tamo " pred sobom, izvan sebe, živim u drugoj dimenziji koja me izjednačava sa svim ostalim, ili koja mi omogućava da živim u drugom svijetu koji nije moje unutarnje ja, na razini jednakosti i istovremenosti; mozda je zrcalo stroj koji nam dopušta da živimo na drugi način s nasim bićima...odsutnim voljenim osobama, zato što ih je smrt nedolično otrgnula od nas...onima koji su nemoguća ljubav zato što nikad ne nalazimo ni prostor ni vrijeme koji im dopuštaju da postoje...
ETO ŠTO NEDOSTAJE. VRIJEME I TIŠINA DA ARHITEKTURA NAČAS ZASTANE U SVOJOJ POTRAZI ZA EFEKTOM ILI RAZMIŠLJANJU O UČINKU FOTOGRAFIJE. DOBRA ARHITEKTURA NAS DIRA, ČAK I AKO NIJE POZNATA.
discovered via ORIS ( MAGAZINE FOR ARCHITECTURE AND CULTURE )
VOLUME VIII, NUMBER 41, 2006
VOLUME VIII, NUMBER 41, 2006