In general, and except for honorable exceptions, the architects write regular. In fact, the fact of approaching with such passion a task for which we have not been specifically trained has merit. To support our ideas and convictions we often use a recurring tool: the appointment, a brief endorsement of our argument thanks to the timely support of an authoritative voice. However:
Do we quote architects well when we quote?
At first glance we could conclude that no, and this is that dating is a complicated task. In many occasions the truth of the phrase is unknown, or even the authenticity on the real author of the same, and we must trust the reference of a third party. Obtaining the first source (in its original language) would lead to an immense research work for each appointment, a mandatory step in the preparation of a doctoral thesis.
On the other hand, and taking for granted the veracity of what was written by a certain author in time and form, we should know very well not only the text but the context in which it is formulated: the Germany of the Bauhaus has little to do with Chicago in the 50s or Spain in the 60s; however, we simultaneously use quotes from disparate authors, isolated in space and time, without taking into account that perhaps, in its context, it was intended to argue precisely the opposite of what we now propose.
The architects are little “scientists” in this of the appointments, and our writings tend more to the test than to the treaty. In general, we tend to avoid the categorical and, instead, we cultivate the sensitive exploration of architecture as one of the most revealing sources of culture. Hence, many of the quotations that we have collectively converted into “aphorisms” are sometimes only catch phrases that represent only partially the ideas of the author. In this sense, it has always seemed a tragedy to recall the figure of Le Corbusier
“architecture is the wise, correct and magnificent game of volumes under the light”,
a phrase taken from an article in 1921 written to praise the pure volumes, the geometry or the objectivity of the calculation
“Of the silos and the North American factories”
in front of the decorative language of the Quai d’Orsay or the Gran-Palais. Or as Brijuni remembered in his text “Less is Less” for La Ciudad Viva, the “Less is more” by Mies van der Rohe would be (according to Pier Vittorio Aureli) just a phrase pronounced by the German architect in a 1959 interview.
Although the use of the former has justified all kinds of contemporary formalisms, the interested transformation of the second by the Danish architect Bjarke Ingels draws attention, giving rise to his own phrase “Yes is More” to which he has already dedicated an entry under our own mutation: “Yes Needs More”.
To finish the issue of unfocused quotes we will put another pair of examples. Following the aforementioned “Less is Less” by Brijuni an interesting debate arose in the comments on the not less famous “give hare by cat” attributed to Alejandro de la Sota and that, as it was said there, proceeds, as far as we know, of Víctor D’Ors, director of the ETSAM between 1969-72 coinciding with Sota as professor. Much we fear that the current meaning of this appointment has little to do with the use that was made of it in the ETSAM in the 60s.
But let’s not believe that the dark labyrinth of the appointment is a new phenomenon. As part of the development of the thesis “The Domínguez house. Alejandro de la Sota: construct – inhabit”, it was shown that some of the citations that Sota himself used to justify some of his works, specifically Casa Dominguez, was not all opportune or exact, and that had to do more with the construction of an own story than with the existence of the antecedent to which it referred.
Faced with such uncomfortable evidence for some scholars (who had considered Sota’s appointment for many years in numerous books and articles), two eminent professors were consulted separately; Curiously, both agreed on the need to further defocus the issue. The first advised leaving the door open to doubt:
“it should not be stated that the appointment does not exist, but that it has been impossible to find”;
the second, less committed to the subject, told us:
“You have to tell it, but do not break the magic”.
Miguel Ángel Díaz Camacho. PhD Architect
Madrid. February 2014.
Author of Parráfos de arquitectura. #arquiParrafos
Doctor en Arquitectura, Decano de la Facultad de Tecnología y Ciencia UCJC. Presidente de la Asociación Sostenibilidad y Arquitectura, perteneciente al Consejo Superior de los Colegios de Arquitectos de España. Director de MADC Arquitectos, estudio profesional con premios en concursos nacionales e internacionales, en la actualidad desarrolla proyectos en España y Noruega. Escritor y crítico de arquitectura, es autor de los libros “Párrafos de Arquitectura. Core(oh)grafías” (2016) y “Arquitectura y Cambio Climático” (2018).