For those who are not familiar with the city of Lima, it is kind of a South American London. The sky is always dull, grey, sad. The only difference lies in the fact that in London it rains much stronger. It is not Lima´s fault being grey and boring though. It was never predetermined to be, but most importantly stay grey. Lima is as it is because we have chosen to let it be colorless. What’s up with the obsession with white? Why are most buildings in Lima made in exposed concrete or painted white? We seem to live in a lie, in which we decide based upon everything but context.
For the past month I’ve been reviewing the book Architecture and Disjunction. It is a compilation of essays written by Bernard Tschumi from 1975 to 1990, and explores the architect’s eagerness to define “space”, and the contradictions and dualities that thinking about said definition creates. (Specially the paradox between built and ideal architecture that I mention often in older posts.) This week, an essay called “Spaces and Events caught my attention.
My Father was a lawyer. Nevertheless, he communicated me, his architect son, every small but interesting thoughts on space. I, however, never paid real attention to said ideas; Not to explore them, at least. I remember once he told me about a door-less house he had imagined: “I have always thought about a door-less house; One where you could find privacy without closing a door and find family without opening one”. Impossible, I thought right away. “How could I go to the Bathroom?”, was the first naïve question that eliminated the possibility of such a home from my mind. I was a first-year student, and I couldn’t be thinking about such nonsense.
Is there a way to satisfy different needs with a single architectural approach?
Some time ago I had the opportunity to present an entry for a 5-home design contest. The task consisted in designing the group of single-family houses, according to specific necessities and users. A common approach would be to plan each project separately. Another, thinking about each house as a unique element of a whole that has aesthetic language as a connecting theme. These lead to the question: Is there a step further? Is there a way to satisfy different needs with a single architectural approach? The formal solution to the problem was the creation of a basic module that contained all “rigid” program of a house: kitchen, bathroom, stairs. The result was a rigid, but compact package; Something like an architectonic swiss army knife.
“Naïve in a way that it doesn’t pretend that it is capable to represent built architecture completely, but that understands its limitless power in going beyond: Transmitting explicitly the experience of space rather than space itself.”
It is a fun time for architectural representation. Extreme realism, destined to deceive clients, is dead. A rendering, as good as it is, is never going to represent reality completely. There is always space for lie, for error. Maybe architectural concept shouldn’t be materialized at all. The paradox lies in the fact that built architecture never fully represents the effort in conceptualizing space that precedes it. Then, let’s ask: Why bother making realist renderings? I think we’re better off using an aesthetic that allows conceptualization at its maximum. One that allows imagination to thrive, one that makes content infinitely richer. Making content equivalent in weight as the final product; Making concept as a separate, independent characteristic of architecture and not using it only as a mere representation tool.