From the architecture to the museum. Absences | María González-Juanjo López de la Cruz

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“I remember that there was a picture there, but it might not describe what it was representing. I remember that it had decorative golden frame, very broadly, worn out”.

The watchman of the Museum Isabella Stewart Gardner of Boston recalls this way The concert, an oil on linen of 72.5 cm of height for 64.7 of width identical with 1664 for Johannes Vermeer. The picture had been stolen days before. In the dawn of March 18, 1990, two men acceded to the museum simulating to be policemen who were attending to an emergency call and after reducing the safety police officers, they took the booty to themselves. Close to the Vermeer there were removed five Degas’s drawings, a glass, a Napoleonic eagle and five more pictures, this time of Flinck, Manet and Rembrandt. In the evocation of that watchman there sublies the essence of the relation of a museum with the pieces that in him are exposed, without them it does not stay but a phantasmagoric frame, a spatial limit that does not include anything, the surrounding one that needs to be occupied as few ones in order that we understand his raison d’être. The different testimonies from those that had relation with the robbed pieces differ:

“he was thinking that it was a magnificent object, but that here was not placed well”

one of the workers assures of the museum on the usurped glass,

“I had never puzzled”

dirá otro. Each of those kidnapped objects left a notch in the explanatory sequence of the museum, only the sum of the recollections of those who knew the different works in the place that they were occupying could stop that absence. This way the artist Sophie Calle should have understood it when in 1991 it decided to compile all these testimonies; conservatives, police officers, personnel of administration, cleaners, everything that one that was supporting a daily, almost domestic relation, with that space and those pieces, would take part, across the statement of his memory, in a luck of feigned restitution. The series that shape the work of the French artist The Absence, are composed each of them by a photography of the vacant space, removed by the loss of the exposed work, and a text printed on a bottom the one that stands out the silhouette of the missing objects, in him we can read, since in a police certificate, how each of the workers reminded of the museum the lost works.

Sophie Calle, La Ausencia, 1991. Los cinco dibujos robados de Degas
Sophie Calle, The Absence, 1991. Five drawings stolen of Degas

The Isabella Stewart Gardner museum was constructed in 1903 by Willard T. Sears, the architect took up office each of the directives that the lady Stewart indicated him according to which that building had to inspire by the Renaissance Italian buildings; the museum, in his effort for being alike a palace toscano, is like that frame of gold, very broad, worn out and decorative that the watchman was evoking recalling the lost piece. Almost all the testimonies speak about the pictures, eagles and glasses in relation with the building, sometimes doubting the coexistence between the object and the space:

“I would have happened ahead. Surely it would not have seen it if the woman of my life had not done me to concentrate on him”,

others warning the quiet that the objects acquire when they coexist without friction with the architecture:

“It was not a thing at that I was looking very much. Probably because it was aside … small and modestly … with a frame of wood”.

The success of the artist Sophie Calle on having confronted his work is to portray the absence across the emptiness left in the architecture and the occupation of this vacant place across the recollection, as if the memory ended up by acquiring the form of the hollow. His pairs of photos and testimonies show the image of the reduced place and the record of the memory, which for moments takes the silhouette of the loss and completes the architecture. The museum, this way contemplated, is not but the place where the recollections turn into space. The stolen pieces have not been found a today, we imagine that now they form a part of some other outlawed evocations.

It had once in that someone imagined an inverse history to Sophie Calle’s work. 70 years ago, the German architect Mies van der Rohe projected a museum where the architecture would disappear and they would be the exposed works those that would turn into space, objects suspended in the air, constituting funds and paraments without architecture that was framing them. In 1942, Mies designed his Museum for a small city for order of the American publication Architectural Record, in the drawings that we never know about that constructed project, the architecture is not and only his silhouette stays, as if it had been stolen. Everything began with the collage that Grain would elaborate in 1938 for one of his famous projects of Houses with court, in him the architecture is planned desmaterializada but it is necessary, every line defines the contour of a constructive element; annotating the space as a parenthesis there appear Maillol‘s statue and Kandinsky’s linen that with his photographic loyalty complete the recreation of that domestic place. One year later, Mies represents the interior of the Stanley Resor House with a similar technology but soil and I roof already they are not drawn. The overlapping of the image of a luck of commode of wood to Bunte Mahlzeit‘s photography, Paul Klee’s work of 1928, is the one that generates the illusion of the perspective without need of the lines absconded from the pavement, from bottom, the landscape of Wyoming demonstrates the limit of the architecture. But it is in the project of the Museum for a small city where the German architect turns a technology of representation into the conceptual support of the project. In him, the architecture has been removed and already only there stay the exposed pieces that form the space on having be superposed to the landscape that gives bottom to the drawing, scarcely there stays the fingerprint of the props printed as a cut in the curtain of reflections and water that closes the scene. The frame has disappeared, only the work stays, in this case, both Maillol’s sculptures and Picasso’s Guernica already are not a part of the representation of the space but his own construction.

The exposed pieces devoid of his constructive wrapper define for yes same the scale and the spatial relations, Grain seems to want to say that the architecture might manage to disappear and that they would be the works those that testify the value of the space. As if this project out the negative of Sophie Calle’s work, in this occasion the terms are invested and it is the architecture the one that is formed across his absence, giving to understand that in order that a museum exists probably this one is not completely necessary.

Mies van der Rohe, Proyecto de Museo para una pequeña ciudad, 1942
Mies van der Rohe, Project of Museum for a small city, 1942

María González-Juanjo López de la Cruz
architects and teachers
Sevilla, october 2015

Note: From the architecture to the museum. Absences, it is the first one of three parts of a text published originally in nº6 of the magazine of contemporary art The green stripe in April, 2013, graduate De the architecture to the museum. Absences, chests and fingerprints.

María González – Juanjo López de la Cruz

María (Huelva, 1975) y Juanjo (Sevilla, 1974) son arquitectos por la Escuela Técnica Superior de Arquitectura de Sevilla en 2000, números 10 y 3 de su promoción de un total de 348 egresados, con la calificación de sobresaliente en sus Proyectos Fin de Carrera y ambos premiados en la 13ª edición del Premio Dragados Fin de Carrera. Después de un año de estudios becados en L´École d´Architecture de Paris-la Seine en Francia, trabajan con los arquitectos Javier Terrados y Guillermo Vázquez Consuegra, tras lo cual fundan SOL89, un estudio desde el que intentan conciliar investigación, docencia y profesión.

Durante estos años han podido desarrollar y construir proyectos desde los que indagar en los espacios intermedios de la ciudad y la reutilización de estructuras obsoletas, trabajo habitualmente difundido por publicaciones especializadas de ámbito nacional e internacional y que ha obtenido múltiples premios, como el Primer Premio de Arquitectura de los Colegios de Arquitectos de Sevilla y Huelva en diversas categorías (2006, 2015 y 2016), la Medalla de Plata del Premio Fassa Bortolo (Italia, 2013), Primer Premio Wiener Berger (Austria, 2014), Medalla de plata del Premio Fritz-Höger (Alemania, 2014), Primer Grand Prix Européen d´architecture Philippe Rotthier (Bélgica, 2014), Primer Premio Enor de Arquitectura Joven (España, 2014) y el Premio 40under40 para jóvenes arquitectos europeos del Chicago Athenaeum (EEUU, 2015). Son finalistas de los premios FAD en 2013 y 2015, finalistas de la Bienal Española de Arquitectura y Urbanismo en 2014 y premiados en la de 2016, nominados al premio europeo Mies van der Rohe en 2015 y elegidos para formar parte del Pabellón español en la XV Bienal de Venecia en 2016, galardonado con el León de Oro.

Son profesores asociados del Departamento de Proyectos de la Escuela de Arquitectura de Sevilla desde 2005 y másters en Arquitectura y ciudades sostenibles por la misma Universidad en 2008. Su labor profesional y docente se extiende a la difusión del pensamiento arquitectónico mediante la colaboración habitual con escritos en publicaciones especializadas y la organización y dirección de diversos encuentros y seminarios junto a Ángel Martínez García-Posada (Sevilla, 1976), como el Congreso Internacional dedicado a Jørn Utzon en la Universidad Internacional de Andalucía en 2009 y el seminario Acciones Comunes sobre arte y arquitectura de la Universidad Internacional Menéndez Pelayo en las ediciones de 2013, 2016 y 2017. Son editores de Cuaderno Rojo (Universidad de Sevilla, 2010) y Acciones Comunes (Universidad Internacional Menéndez Pelayo, 2014), y autores de Proyectos Encontrados (Recolectores Urbanos, 2012) y El dibujo del mundo (Lampreave, 2014), libros en los que reflexionan en torno a la reutilización en la cultura arquitectónica y sobre los dibujos y la obra del arquitecto noruego Sverre Fehn.

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