Automoribundia | Borja López Cotelo

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We can look at the Death of face; but knowing, since some of us know today, which is the human life, the one who did may without trembling to look abreast the hour of his birth?

Thomas de Quincey

The first time. The holiday that it was smelling napalm.

There my father was, looking with approval. His only son had decided to study architecture and it was calming him. They had been ended for me these evenings in which it was expanding the hours between books, magazines and tebeos. Finally it had decided to apply the common sense and to listen to his advices. He was a good student and, as such, it had to choose a career that was offering myself a future: he would be an architect.

I remember my first day in the faculty. I saw this building, this enormous mass of gray concrete as that morning of October, and thought that nobody could be happy there. But soon I discovered that I was wrong; it had come rightly in time to join the holiday that they were celebrating. It was a 1998 and nobody was asking how much himself the partyng could last. Maybe it was the correct attitude because, actually, the holidays always finish before one realizes, or before at least of that accepts it. Because of it they are holidays.

To be formed as architect in the middle of this hedonistic paroxysm leaves sequels. In the first years of the new century, nothing was comparable to studying architecture in Spain, the country of the economic miracle. The oligarches were photographing each other with his architects, who were travelling in planes deprived to move to another top of the world the following day. Rem was making sound the flute and the masters were following him without questioning at least adónde were being led. There was not very different Zaha’s life, that of Jacques and Pierre, that of Rafa, that of Juan or that of those Dutch boys. We all wanted to be like they, though it was pestering us to recognize it. The major architect was a shaman in the last stertors of the fierce neoliberalism; it was the Heisenberg capable of cooking this lofty blue crystal that they they all, political and civil, were coveting.

El laboratorio móvil de Heisenberg. Breaking Bad (V.Gilligan, 2008)
Heisenberg’s mobile laboratory. Breaking Bad (V.Gilligan, 2008)

The figure of the architect was enlarged. In the end, the one who could do without these author’s pieces? Bilbao could not, Valencia could not. Madrid, certainly, could not; Barcelona, London or Not even Berlin. Not even New York.  As good of consumption, the architecture fell down in the trap of exalting the youth as absolute value to exploit a virgin market. Throw a glimpse to the publications of the epoch: Fresh blood, Near generation, The architecture that comes. Pasajes, Arquitectura Viva, El Croquis. Few ones thought then that maybe this was going too fast, that some liquors demand a tedious distillation. The architect turned into star of the rock star, was dreaming of overthrowing Jagger. It could walk along the streets as Alex and his droogos, as this Reservoir Dogs that, impeccably dressed, discuss banalities at the moment of the breakfast because they know that everything is under control. But someone have should to have warned: always it can trump something.

The major architect had compromised with Mephistopheles to conquer Gretchen. It was evident, therefore, that there would come this day in which his soul should produce accounts1. But it is difficult to stop to think in the middle of a tempest or a great battle. The reason clouds over, the mind dulled only thinks of going a step beyond. The architects seemed to adore the smell of the napalm in the morning, and the satiny hills seemed to detach an indescribable aroma to victory. But, since Kilgore had predicted, one day this war finished. The things changed and the illustrious ones of the architecture had to change his speech. Before the manifest collapse of an economic system that had promised an exponential and infinite growth, the politicians – till then principal investors at the time, partners and friends of the major architects – renounced them. It was necessary to flee of the ostentation, the world had to be austere and sustainable. To dress of Armani was turning out to be obscene.

It was at the time when I ended the career. I had turned into architect, but the life had not changed very much. Certain it is that it was looking in a different way at the buildings that were surrounding me, long ago simply a mute set that was accompanying my steps, and that had left my persons’ drawings to realize notes to hand lifted of houses, villas or cities. Nevertheless, nothing seemed to distinguish myself as the chosen one, as the man destined to alter to develop of the contemporary metropolis. Nothing in me was remembering the life of these demiurgos of Period between the wars that I was ensañado to adoring. I was, for this way saying it, ejected to a strange world that nothing had to see with the scene that they had painted to me in the faculty. It was, in addition, confused before the leather mutation that had experienced the speech of those figures that five years before were indicating the way with firm gesture. Already there had not divided of rookies in the all star, the young architects already we were not more popular than the vocalists of alternative groups. It had time for the ire; I remembered Aguirre´s unforgettable delirum in the Kinsi´s muth and promised to be, as him, the God’s rage. I thought of leaving, in giving the reason to the great Castelao when he was assuring that the Galician does not protest, it emigrates. Then I calmed down and thought that much was absent for doing, that some alternative had to exist. Always I have liked to walk towards he marries only and slowly after the holiday, because by night the recollection disguises of exploit the anecdote.

The second time. Dies irae

Many cried. At the foot of a tree, they remembered last times of crushing victories, of the conquered capitals and vast empires. It was not my case. It is absurd to cry for paradise that were never mine2. I do not wait to be indicated as one of the just persons in the Dies Irae, on this last Day of the Ire. But I do not accept the tirades of those who are sorry either that someone has extinguished the music when they were on the verge of obtaining it, of taking the most handsome to him; because I did not even come in time of entering the holiday.

El paraíso perdido. La expulsión del paraíso, W. Blake, 1807
The lost paradise. The expulsion of the paradise, W. Blake, 1807

But, once again, the wind has changed and the architects speak now with an alone voice. Since in the history of so many nations, it has been necessary to find an enemy who was using as mortar and was turning out to be, at the same time, a fertile substratum for a common creed. This enemy has been a new law that alters the limits of our competitions. Now we are close: all to one, those that defended for years the values inherent in this discipline and the servile ones that grew thanks to the politicians’ connivance corrupt person. It turns out to be paradoxical, and maybe artificial, to look for a homogeneous speech and to defend the good practice in view of the scars that the years of holiday have left in our landscape. On the other hand, I wonder if the fight (necessary, undoubtedly) against this new legal frame does not hide under his carpet a more complex and painful reality; I wonder if it is not a major problem the reform of the university system, or the fact that the number of qualified architects anually is sensitively major that the defendant for the company at this moment; I wonder if there will not be this the shot of grace to a public moribund university become infected with nepotism, left the interests of his chiefs and unable to compete in productivity ballasted by the questionable efficiency of his system of scholarships. It encourages me, nevertheless, to see how the colleges join this one the crusade, since in the years of opulence they gave up fixing a few ideal conditions for the professional contracts of newly titled (have never they wondered for what this abysmal difference between the number of pedantic architects and of become a member of  association?) and – in some cases – they protected contests that were damaging the most elementary integrity of this profession.

Last Sunday, a day of the Sun, I went to eat with my father. It was doing time that we were not meeting. We speak how it had been the act of reading of my thesis, to that he prefirió not to represent. He asked me about my work, about my expectations for the immediate future; he asked me what was thinking to do now that, for the first time in three decades, did not have possibility of continuing my career education. I looked at it and, after a strange silence, gave a long drink to my beer. It observed me seriously during a moment, gave to me the congratulation for the doctorate and, before changing topic, said to me that it had a gift for me. It was a tebeo3.

Borja López Cotelo. Doctor architect
La Coruña. July 2013


1 Sometimes I think that, from now on, the reading of the first part of the Faust of Goethe should be a reading forced in the schools of architecture.

2 The idea of the lost paradise always has attracted me. Not only the most famous between all, that of Milton, but also more ordinary others as the one that sings Ferreiro. Because of it it fascinates the figure of Cortés being and defeated, crying for his earthly paradise lost on the verge of Tenochtitlan in the Noche Triste.

3 It was, in I make concrete, The years Satellite, of Baru. An advisable reading for whom they think that any last time was better.

Borja López Cotelo

Borja López Cotelo, arquitecto por la ETSAC desde 2007, y doctor por la UdC desde 2013.

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