In defense of time | Jorge Meijide

Cuádruple esclusa, Frómista | Fotografía: Jorge Meijide
Quad lock, Frómista | Photography: Jorge Meijide

“Sed fugit interea, fugit irreparabile tempus”.1

A tour of the Canal de Castilla puts background to these reflections on time. A time of slow discourse between the sound of water.

The Canal de Castilla is the great effort of Spanish hydraulic engineering at the end of the 18th century. The late son of the Enlightenment and early victim of the industrial revolution is already almost obsolete and reflects well the concept of time that I want to refer to. The Canal unites man with his industry and both with the territory. Water and time baste and highlight the relationships between all of them.

In the Canal, that interdependence that unites time and water in a constant passage becomes patent, tangible and visible. A slow and timeless passage as only the union of this land without horizon and the flow of water can do. The artificial geometry of its layout leads to water in a constant movement that contrasts with the apparent immobility of the field through which it runs. The plateau and the cereal fields, the rivers and the channel that the trees delimit, the silence and the horizon, the light and the murmur of the water, all tell us about time.

Someone once said, paraphrasing the title of Giedion‘s book, that

“Architecture takes a long time”,

and it is true, a great and irrefutable truth. Time conditions the architecture and accompanies and conducts its perception and enjoyment. But architecture also needs time for reflection, to allow the necessary sediment for its decantation and for the work that entails its elaboration. Everything is a matter of time and everything is your own.

It is not my intention now to demand for architecture the exaggerated geological time that leads to the stone to crystallize or to the channel of the river to be formed, but if the time equivalent to that used by a carpenter to work the wood, to a stonemason to shape the stone or a blacksmith in forging the metal. The time of learning and the time of work. Time needed to think and do. But to reclaim the time of a life and to claim the time of craftsmanship that allows us to think and not that of the machine that avoids us is, nowadays, an obsolete utopia. The good guy from Bauman talked to us about “liquid times”, but I’m afraid that we have changed our state and liquids have become “gaseous”. Unstoppable chemical process. But I do not resign.

Today everything is fast, speed and immediacy are the motto. But not that futuristic speed that Marinetti and company exhibited in their manifesto, no, we talk about novelty because of novelty. Being different and new are already values in themselves regardless of their quality. The terms are shortened and everything happens without digestion or sediment. Everything is ephemeral and passenger in Olympic record time, what is said “gaseous”.

The time that interests me is that of water, the time that is measured by its passing, the one that runs fast or slow, the one that jumps or rests, the one that moves or stagnates. The time of the architecture that I like is like the time that is measured by the flow of water through the Canal de Castilla.

The temporal dimension and the flow of water establish a perfect interdependence in a constant dynamic game, whose effects are made visible by means of their resonance in the water. The memory of the Canal, its history and its architecture, is continually evoked in this game of relationships and the time that the Canal evokes reminds us of its value, immutable and changing at the same time.

Time, along with gravity and light, is one of those immutable values that allow us the necessary anchoring in this contemporaneity of programmed obsolescence and commodified values of immediacy and constant replenishment. The Canal evokes a necessary paused memory in front of the frenetic forgetfulness of constant novelty.

The time of the architecture is the time of the water.

Jorge Meijide . Architect
Palencia. July 2019


1 Virgilio, Geórgicas. Catedra. Colección: Letras Universales, 2012.

Arquitecto por la ETSA de A Coruña desde 1991. Colabora en el estudio de Juan Navarro Baldeweg entre 1991 y 1992. Máster de proyectos integrados por la fundación camuñas, madrid 1992. A la vuelta A Coruña se incorpora al estudio de su padre, Carlos E. Meijide Calvo con el que trabaja hasta 2001. Desde 2004 hasta 2009 colabora con los arquitectos Patricia de Marichalar y Fernando Martínez. En el año 2009 forma, junto con Patricia de Marichalar meijidedemarichalar arquitectos.

Desde 2014 trabaja en solitario colaborando con estudios y arquitectos amigos. Es profesor de proyectos arquitectónicos en la Escuela Técnica superior de Arquitectura de A Coruña desde 1997; es tutor de proyecto fin de carrera y ha sido presidente del tribunal de PFC. Colabora con blogs y publicaciones de arquitectura.

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