From (des)normalize the bodies | Pedro Hernández

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Art of projecting in Architecture (1936), Ernst Neufert

he book The art of projecting in architecture designed and developed in the decade of the 30s of last century by the German architect Ernst Neufert is an illustrated inventory of dimensional and spatial solutions with that to establish a system of foundations, procedure and prescriptions on enclosures, buildings, requirements of program and spatial relations, dimensions of buildings, places, stays, facilities and utensils with the human being as measure and target. The architecture exposed in the book has a strong component antropometric – if we exempt the chapters dedicated to aspects as animals or cars – and constitutes, for this reason, a complete normalization not already of the dimension of the objects and of the space but also, and for extension, of the body that he her lives.

Neufert realized it from the meticulous observation of the reality and of the knowledge that he had been acquiring with the years during the professional practice. So meticulous and precise it is his content that there will be few architects or students who have not turned the pages of his pages any more of once to start projecting. But we know – or we can manage to imagine – that not everything what there appears is everything what exists. His author, conscious of it, had warned it in the prologue of the first edition:

“If the reader was throwing in lack some important information for the projection, I request that one communicates it to bear it in mind in future reissues”.

This way, the last end of the text would be in turning into the maximum to know of the projection in architecture, so that some of them have managed to warn that:  “if it does not go out in the Neufert, it does not exist”, or it is not an information the sufficiently important thing to be attended.

If it is maximum – doing a simplistic exercise – it was true, we would be establishing as “truth” not only the design in the distribution of the spaces or the relation between the proportions of the body and the architecture – since also prominent figures had developed as Vitruvio, Da Vinci, Leon Battista Alberti or Le Corbusier. In addition, which settles down – or he refuses for omission – they are the actions and certain protocols that appear – or not – in his interior. That is to say, the document can be described as a catalogue of the possible actions of the architecture. A reading thoroughly illustrates drawings that show and establish certain guidelines and social conducts, ¿ or perhaps it is not showy that in any editions of the book is only a woman the one that appears realizing domestic actions as washing, to cook or to iron?

As positioning before this, and maybe with certain humor, we might take the project Enchantiers’s Disturbing Neufert uses the same language in order desnormalizar the pre-established uses and raises that there are more ways of sitting down or of ironing, drawing – and redimensionando – situations with certain point comical, lewd and perverse where what can a body in the space is far beyond of the imagined for the German architect. The architecture cannot be reduced to simple actions since the body always can imagine new to overcome and to pervert the uses that the architect had thought following closely Bruno Munari’s works on since sitting down comfortably in an inconvinient chair. So much same thing that with the actions happens with the body, the changes happened in the ways of life or in the nutrition, the use of new technologies produce changes in the distribution of the corporal dimensions and of the relations between a body and the space. The need arises from to checking it and to renew it constant.

It is clear that it is not possible to impute or blame to the book not to his (s) author (s) for this lack of “forecast”. But it is that the book is a manual not a collection of saberes. The problem would be to remain alone in the surface of what he proposes. It neither is learned nor designs architecture re-drawing exclusively what there appears.

Neufert does not give the solution but his lesson is beyond: the body is and can be the perfect instrument for the comprehension and measure of the space in architecture. With him we perceive and relate to the world. With him we pervert and force it. It would be a question of not giving him anything a priori, so in the bottom, as noticed the philosopher Spinoza, “nobody till now has determined what can a body”.

Bruno Munari, search of comfort in an inconvinient armchair, ca. 1950.

Pedro Hernández · architect

ciudad de méxico. october 2014

Previous note: This text forms a part of a quartet published in Arquine (2013/10/08) that were treating on the topic of the (grotesque) body in relation to the architecture. They all can be read here

Soy arquitecto por la Universidad de Alicante, pero mi interés sobre esta disciplina se encuentra alejado de su papel tradicional de diseño de espacios. Más bien, me interesa entender cómo las representaciones de la arquitectura, el paisaje, el diseño o el territorio construyen y materializan determinados discursos ideológicos, imponiendo posturas, subjetividades y formas de acción sobre los cuerpos que la habitan.

En mi trabajo edito estos discursos –sus imágenes, sus historias o sus restos materiales– y reelaboro comentarios críticos que ponen en evidencia sus controversias y contradicciones, formalizándolos en diversos formatos como textos, fotografías, vídeos, objetos o instalaciones, muchas veces entrecruzados entre sí.

He publicado artículos y ensayos en diversos medios de Estados Unidos, Italia, Croacia, España, Chile y México. Desde enero de 2013-2018 residí en la Ciudad de México donde trabajaba como coordinador de contenidos en Arquine. Actualmente resido en Madrid.

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