Architecture-Art (III) | Óscar Tenreiro Degwitz

Any work of art, it does not import his major or minor relative value, aspires to be kept intact across the time in wait to be a sight, reading, executed, represented. And precisely because of it, to preserve them and to protect them from the step of the years is for what the Museums and the Libraries exist.

Dos secciones de la Cité Frugés de Le Corbusier, una modificada, otra rescatada
Two sections of of the Cité Frugés by Le Corbusier, the modified one, other one rescued

But with the architecture the situation is different. There is supposed in her the aptitude to resist to the time, when actually the use, the wear, they affect her in a very important way, and in spite of the fact that a long life is supposed in her, not always it has the aptitude to resist with dignity the passage of time1. Often the way like constructs can end up by facilitating his deterioration and with him the inability to expire with the ends for which it was created. And institutions do not exist dedicated to preserving the architecture because what is supposed is that the company, conscious of the patrimonial value of the constructed, will do the necessary thing in order that it remains with the freshness of his first times. Or in order that he adapts with advantage to new uses, matter often impossibly because the cost of the conservation overcomes often the investment to construct it. There abound in the world the most important architectures left his destination, exposed to the wear and to the action of the elements. So it can be said, though it seems to be paradoxical, that the architecture is more exposed to the aging and to the abandon that any work of art.

Pero con la arquitectura la situación es diferente. Se supone en ella la capacidad de resistir al tiempo, cuando en realidad el uso, el desgaste, la afectan de un modo muy importante, y a pesar de que se supone en ella una vida larga, no siempre tiene la capacidad de resistir con dignidad el paso del tiempo1. Con frecuencia el modo como se construye puede terminar facilitando su deterioro y con él la imposibilidad para cumplir con los fines para los cuales fue creada. Y no existen instituciones dedicadas a conservar la arquitectura porque lo que se supone es que la sociedad, consciente del valor patrimonial de lo construido, hará lo necesario para que permanezca con la frescura de sus primeros tiempos. O para que se adapte con ventaja a nuevos usos, asunto con frecuencia imposible porque el costo de la conservación supera muchas veces la inversión para construirla. Abundan en el mundo importantísimas arquitecturas abandonadas a su destino, expuestas al desgaste y a la acción de los elementos. Así que puede decirse, aunque parezca paradójico, que la arquitectura está más expuesta al envejecimiento y al abandono que cualquier obra de arte.

If it is a question of the architecture of the institutions (religious, military, cultural, educational, political, ritual) there can be more opportunities for his conservation, especially in culturally mature companies, but in the domestic area the situation is much more problematic. Because a house, for example, is lived by different owners and each of them feels fullly authorized to modify it since him is convenient. They can be counted by thousands or dozens of thousands in the world, the houses that in spite of his value as architectural experience, have been modified up to making them unrecognizable, as I commented last week about Craig Ellwood.

We run then here against the paradox of which the permanency in the time that is supposed own of the architecture, is not accompanied of a resistance opposite to the abuse and the modification.

All the architects we have happened for the experience of seeing our work, though it is relatively recent, punished up to absurd limits for the evil I use, the bad management or the pure and simple irrespeto. And not always it is a question of finding culprits but to understanding better this dimension of our art: that suffers the sways of a life that can be difficult immediately after which it gets old beyond the predictable thing.

It begins in addition, close to the decrease of the interest for the building an intensive process of obsolescence, if not in terms of use yes in those of his transcendency, or, since we have said often, his patrimonial vocation, his aptitude to be seen as object that us belongs to all. It transforms in one more piece of the urban continuum.

This disappearance in the urbs is typical of the architecture. It concerns the successful and admired thing, even more if it is a mode passenger, since it happened with posmodernism3 and today with the architecture of the spectacle; also to the most conventional thing, which suffers the natural trend of the building to subsumirse in the city. And if it was said that this absorption in the city is precisely what is looked, since it happens with the architect that it is employed at historical delicate contexts or when for ideological reasons one evades any authorship and the anonymity is looked, both intentions are nevertheless anxieties of an individuality that will end up by being forgotten. Or that no intention of the architect overcomes the weight of the time. In short, any architecture loses individuality, sleeps in the city, digests the life.

Since consequence of everything above mentioned remains clear that the architects in certain way we fight against the oblivion. Recognizing, since we it are forced to recognize, that what we do in some moment will escape from us of the hands and will be an object of an uncertain destination, are forced to behave as if us the soul went away in every experience. And I say this knowing that in many cases this exigency turns out to be impossible when he competes with the need to survive that it imposes his rules and conquers higher expectativas. But if we persist we will learn in key more wise that we have been formed in a difficult discipline in which fullly ungrateful aspects are not absent. In a company like the Venezuelan, for example, if on one hand we will be conscious that our intentions face almost insuperable obstacles, it corresponds to us to understand our work as a test of tenacity.

It is a question of making us conscious that the progressive capture of possession of the architecture by the urban normality, it forms a of oblivion (or of transcendency in the most wide thing), only it can be overcome by the exceptional thing, the symbolic thing, the monumental thing (though it it is only for his size and not for his artistic value, another paradox), the venerated popularly. The rest remains secret, dark, until, the economic, social and cultural development of a company, it decides to recognize him a value thanks to the appearance of points of view that want to be more inclusive, more complete, conscious than to the first sight had not been born in mind. It happens in case of culturally mature companies, economically endowed to turn a respectful look towards the architecture4.

Dos secciones de la Cité Frugés de Le Corbusier, una modificada, otra rescatada
Two sections of of the Cité Frugés by Le Corbusier, the modified one, other one rescued

It is necessary to understand it, we live in the pursuit of an art that becomes shy. It is, as was saying Le Corbusier, a bottle with a message thrown to the sea.

Óscar Tenreiro Degwitz, Architect.
Venezuela, october 2013,
Entre lo Cierto y lo Verdadero


1. It is not only Venezuelan but universal, though here it is particularly strong, the trend that the people have of modifying the architecture of his houses, they make him attachés, to appropriate of the spaces that the original building was making intact. It is logical to suppose that the reason of this zeal modificatorio, that gives itself in all the economic levels, is her of a way of living affirms that it is required of a set of characteristics that in certain way they form a part of the personality of the owner. They are things of very different type, from details up to more general characteristics in which the person wants to leave his fingerprint. To show what one is, to fix a territory.

This trend to modify and leave fingerprint becomes stronger as there is more money to do it, managing in this case to become dangerous for aggressive. In the most wealthy sectors, in effect, it is almost inconceivable to leave a recently acquired house as she was originally and only it happens this way when it is a question of a patrimonial building, in whose case the new owners are assuming a commitment. This way it happens in a relatively frequent way in the United States when it is a question of works of very recognized architects, but in our countries there would have to treat about a “protected” building which is rare that happens in the private sector. In a way like the Venezuelan the common thing is a more or less challenging nuevoriquismo that seeks to appear at any expense modifying to will the architecture.

2. If we go towards beyond, it is necessary to recount for his emblematic character, to the form like they transformed the houses of Cité Frugés, of Le Corbusier, near Bordeaux, done to notice in publications of years ago, and that impresses today anyhow when one, since it is my case, estimates her in recent photos. Me they were sent By Jose Manuel Da Silva, Venezuelan resident colleague in this city, including some of certain sections of the set that they were rescued in his original aesthetics on the part of more conscious owners, of a higher cultural standard.

Since in the today note I think about the transformation of the architecture, this example puts very to the hand because it shows the force that has the trend of the urban life of, in certain way, “to swallow” to the architecture, though it treats itself of the the best and the the exemplariest.

On one hand one can think that if it happens to him to a work of Le Corbusier in a country so culturally advanced like to be capable of giving him to the architecture the whole value that has, it is so that might be waited in a context as ours.

But also there is place, and it was it what the ideologists of the postmodernism did, to say that the transformation of the housings of I mentioned Frugés it was an irrefutable test of the “modern” effort for making live through the people inside architectures that were not respecting the “natural” aspirations of the people. And they said it when there was also space, as it continues being today, to think that what happened there was not but an example of the general difficulty for estimating the most transcendent dimension of the architecture, the artistic one certainly, that is required to come closer her, to use it, respecting or valuing (still in the modification) the premises that gave to him form. One of them in this case was that of the flat ceiling, which watertightness and thermal isolation, with the available resources at the time and still later, including the period of the war, was a technical problematic aspect. The flat ceilings of Cité Frugés, in short, having arisen from an aesthetic affirmation also they supposed a technological bet. It was a question of a challenge that in France it stumbled during decades and up to entered well the postwar period with the inadequacy of the industry of French construction. To it it was necessary to especially, more than to a topic of aesthetic preferences, the fact that the people were roofing in the flat terraces with picturesque ceilings of tiles that still survive, even renewed.

3. In any case, if it is possible to accuse to the critique posmodernista of having been left to go for a “light” spirit yielding to the pressure of the mode and this way to accuse to the modern point of view of all the males, also we can be grateful to him that the sloping ceiling and especially the ceiling to two waters has gone on of being considered to be an anathema, from the perspective of the Modern Movement (excluding the ceilings of Alvar Aalto’s slope), to being seen by benevolence. The architects’ insistence like Aldo Rossi, for example, of doing of the ceiling of two waters a species of symbolic icon that was spread by the world by extraordinary success, had much that to see with his revaluation, in spite of that, for example in our tropical way marked by the tradition of the eaves and the protection of the shaded corridor, the sloping covered ceiling of “Roman tiles” or “Spanish tiles” it was never an evil I dress, since they testify it in the Venezuelan case, the architectures of Diego Carbonell and Tomás Sanabria, Gustavo Legórburu, Fruto Vivas, Klaus Heufer, Oscar Carpio and different many, conscious well who of the modern inheritance of the flat ceiling, neither handled it nevertheless with character of aesthetic canon did not even do ideology with it, but they took it as an option. In America in general it was like that, and in North America especially Frank Lloyd Wright, who was speaking in scornful tone of “Mrs. Flatroof” was always a fierce and effective defender of the sloping ceiling.

4. I can be accused of culprit of modifying the architecture that us belongs, because my house projected by me and constructed in 1965-66 it has suffered important changes, up to the point of which I have spoken about her saying that it has suffered a metamorphosis. Why do I deny right of modification to others if I itself have exercised it in a radical way? And the response is in that for me the process of change has been something similar to a constant review for overlapping and addition, of what the house was in the initial times, supporting the keys of his potential transcendency. This it has been the base of an action that I believe free of sin. The modifications were done in an analogous spirit to that of the original offer.

It might be said that it is guaranteed if it is a question of the same architect, but also it happens and has been like that in many cases when it is a question of another attentive architect to the conservation and the involution of the original virtues.

It looks like a game of chance the one that determines the destination of the architecture. If his singularity will preserve as artistic experience or will meet absorbed, anonymous, in the urban commonness. It corresponds to us to be consistent with this indetermination to prevent them from affecting theirs inflated intentions, false expectations, idols without foundation. It is not the apparent sheen of the success what gives the guideline (not everything successful is what deserves to come out), but a better comprehension of what we are. Task that discovers the precariousness, the common insufficiency of our intentions. And the most important thing: he undresses the myths on which our formation and our experience is founded often.

Óscar Tenreiro Degwitz

Es un arquitecto venezolano, nacido en 1939, Premio Nacional de Arquitectura de su país en 2002-2003, profesor de Diseño Arquitectónico por más de treinta años en la Universidad Central de Venezuela, quien paralelamente con su ejercicio ha mantenido ya por años presencia en la prensa de su país en un esfuerzo de comunicación hacia la gente en general de los puntos de vista del arquitecto acerca de los más diversos temas, entre los cuales figuran los agudos problemas políticos de una sociedad como la venezolana. Tenreiro practica así lo que el llama el “pensamiento desde y hacia la arquitectura”, insistiendo en que lo hace como arquitecto en ejercicio, para escapar de los estereotipos y cautelas propios de la “crítica arquitectónica”. Respecto a la cual no oculta su desconfianza, que explica recurriendo al aforismo de Nietzsche sobre el crítico de arte “que ve el arte desde cerca sin llegar a tocarlo nunca”.

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