Towards a new contextuality | Miquel Lacasta Codorniu

Set of graphs of Peter Eisenman’s Bibliothèque de l’Huei extracted of the book Diagram Diaries p. 205

One of the possible origins of a certain revival contextualista might relapse, as affirms Eduard Bru, in the fact that the place1 has happened to be more interesting something, more active and propositivo, while city and geography, they have been mixed ineluctablemente, offering an environment much more inciting than the strictly urban one which we were having a decade behind.2

In the shade of such a suggestive observation, there grows the first question that, like depth charge, comes to recall the methodology of the geographer Carl Sauer according to which the cultural landscapes are created from forms superposed to the natural landscape,3 and, therefore, and reinterpreting, the urban landscapes, they will be tied also more intimately to the geography than to the urbanism in strict sense. In other words, a today, they give themselves the necessary conditions to raise, perhaps to enunciate, strategies for a new geo-urbanity,4 to raise new tracings I half-close to the project to interclimb, city, landscape and architecture.

The consequences of Bru’s idea, they are reflected today still and it will not be here and now that we will tackle the question. In any case yes that give course for a reflection that tries to go beyond a certain academic stagnation with regard to the topic (it would be interesting to verify all the schools of architecture incorporate in the departments of urbanism geographers into talent) or of an affray between geographers versus town planners (as that there proposed like specially cutting critique the geographer Oriol Nel · it in the article qualified El Urbanism of the Crisis.5)

In the root of this new urban – geographical merger, this new interaction with the episodic – contextual thing, or already put, this one to develop neo-situacionista, is the concept of joint.

The idea of joint names both the basic processes of the production of the reality, of the production of contexts and of the production of power, and the analytical practice that structures any story tied to the architectural thing. It is the practice transformativa or the work of doing, undoing and re-doing relations and contexts, of establishing new relations from old relations or of planning lines and mapear connections. But the joint is not the only or singular practice. The different connections will have different forces in particular contexts and they must measure up; not all the connections are equal or equally important. In fact, there are so many different practices from joint as forms are of relation.

It should not be allowed that the use of the notion of articulated context, it does not distinguish every territory, as if to speak on contexts, necessarily it was making every system of relations equivalent, or to put every territory in the same plane or the same scale. The sense of “context that is articulated” is always a complex, indeterminate unit and quota. If a context can be understood as the relations that have been established for to operate architectural, the fight to change the context involves the fight for understanding these relations and, when it is possible, re-articularlas. In other words, with the idea of re-articulating contexts we are not mentioning a magic methodology capable of entering of direct form the urban core of the question / geographical / architectural. At best re-articulating is a strategy of enormously effective approximation to manage the complexity of proyectual simultaneously that to interrelate multiple scales and realities.

The joint demands deconstrucción and reconstruction; first debit turns that what totalities seem to be or harmonic units without seams or cracks have been forged on diverse and divergent parts. That is to say, the same processes of joint have been erased and now they have to redescubrirse in the possibility of breaking up. The joint starts by discovering the heterogeneity, the differences, the fractures, in the totalities. Ultimately heteróclito always is re-articulated in the form of other totalities; this it is the function itself of the social power of the architecture. And if one does not enter this fight, in the attempt of thinking across the possibilities of rejoint, the fundamental body of the architectural project leaves the sense itself of the political, social, cultural, economic and technological possibility that stimulates it.

The above mentioned, the compulsive re-joint like tactical proyectual is pertinent while the reality is in constant transformation, is opened and unforseeably informally. The operative beginning that the architecture can being capable of taking up office in this tour de force with the reality is that the form and the structure of the reality are not inevitable. By it it should be rejected so those who deny with too many facility any stable reality in the relations that define the area of game. In other words, though the context is given us and seemingly it is one, also it is subject to a multi-interpretation that turns it immediately in multi-dimensional. Everything is what is, simultaneously that everything can be another thing, this it is the paradox.

Traditionally the idea of context in architecture has come preceded from false interpretations on the vernacular thing. This is evident in the first years of the postmodernity, where in a mean and stingy way the vernacular thing was related to the symbolic / popular thing, with the aim to abolish the “high culture” in favor of the popular culture and innocent one and enormously simplistic vision of the company, of his preferences and his capacities as consumer mass. It is not necessary to say that as fresh meat, the forces of the capital saw in it an abysmal opportunity to introduce the custom of a voracious consumption devoid of cultural effort and therefore of easy digestion and little I feed.

Curiously while Peter Eisenman was arising in the 70s the postmodern movement, some, between them, they were developing a methodology of the highest conceptual octane rating to land in what vulgarly we might call the soil, par excellence local symbol and own space of the contingency of the architectural project. An idea, that of place, that on the other hand the modern movement had tried to eliminate with the false idea of an architecture pure and become emancipated from the level zero.

Eisenman, of the contextual thing for induction.

The return to the place in the shape of contextual joint, though in the antipodes of the genius loci, he acquires form probably for the first time in the projects included in the book Cities of Artificial Excavation6, on Peter Eisenman’s work, previously presented in the article written by the own Eisenman The City of Artificial Excavation7.

Re-following the origins of this revival contextualista to that before we were referring, we run up with an intellectual methodology capable of centring the idea of joint on relation to the idea of context as central element. That is to say, in the methodology “columnist” that Eisenman proposes, we find an extreme logic in the form as the idea of context it overcomes the postmodern simplicity of the strictly allegoric thing and his amnesic interpretations on the history. It is more, one of the most original components of Eisenman’s theoretical body is the introduction of an inductive intelligence in the project, a type of reasoning where the real condition of the premises, in this case the place as quintessence of the context, offers support to the conclusions, but it does not guarantee them. In other words the “objet” place will induce a type of architecture, but it will not determine all the parameters of this one.

Cities of Artificial Excavation presents four representative projects where there appears the idea of artificial excavation and therefore of direct return to the place and to the context as concept from which the project starts being articulated; these are the urban design for Cannaregio’s East in Venice of 1978, the housings near to the Ckeckpoint Charlie in Berlin of 1980-1981, the University Art Museum of the California State University in Long Beach of 1986 and the Park of the Villette of Paris in collaboration with Jaques Derrida.

Cities of Artificial Excavation presenta cuatro proyectos representativos donde se muestra la idea de excavación artificial y por tanto de retorno directo al lugar y al contexto como concepto a partir del cual el proyecto empieza a articularse; estos son el diseño urbano para el Este de Cannaregio en Venecia de 1978, las viviendas cercanas al Ckeckpoint Charlie en Berlin de 1980-1981, el University Art Museum de la California State University en Long Beach de 1986 y el Parque de la Villette de París en colaboración con Jaques Derrida.

Eisenman uses operatively the place as genealogy of the geometric complexity of his projects, by means of a process of joint and constant re-joint, which allows him to come to the central paper of the idea of place. In fact Eisenman before has constructed a methodology, an authentic conceptual framework for the study and the development of the formal structures that arise from the articulated contextual thing.

It gives the sensation that only from the rigor of his theoretical expositions, developing the whole methodology to extract from the form his essences, comes Eisenman to the consideration of the context as fundamental origin of the theoretical logics of his projects, that is to say, the conceptual space where there resides the genuine origin of the complex geometry Eisenmaniana is the contextual thing, the site where the architecture settles, definitively, the place.

In this meeting with the soil Eisenman, he thinks that the topography of a city is not a neutral surface, but only the top cap of a dense overlapping of caps of the most varied tracks, historical tracks that it is necessary to recover and reseguir. The raw material proyectual, that one that will give direction to the way since is going to manipulate the architectural geometry, as it it has come doing in the Houses it is this consideration conceptualized across the history of the soil.

herefore we see here a way much less figurative that the postmodern version of context and in any case much freer and opened to treat with rigor, but without ties, the idea of context and to raise a beginning of denial of an incapable architecture from his high and moral position of “going down to the sand”, as the Modern Movement had done it till then.

Stories and joints.

There are two interesting aspects in Eisenman’s ideas that found a conception more opened of the idea of context that the orthodox and vernacular imagination of the official postmodernity. On the one hand the idea is of that the area of the architecture is kept still tied to a certain intellectual production that needs keenness, references and processes of transformation, both of the things and of the ideas. This carries to elaborating a narrative space, tells the history of a of the history tied to the both physical and emotional and intellectual mutability of the place, that is to say, in the moment in which we realize of a place, we have the scene of a necessary history, the bottom like narrative space that he will accompany on the architectural space.

Another interesting aspect is the idea of re-joint, that is to say, the field on the one that so much ideally like physically moves the architecture himself is of such a complexity and magnitude, which constant the architect meets exposed to articulating again and again the force of a project from the multifocal incursions that it does on the raw material of the reality, the place.

The architecture, therefore, should be compromised by the reality by means of the study of the area of relations that has determinant effects from the context, but refuse also the fact that to assume that such relations and effects have to be necessary and determinadamente what they are of unidirectional form. Actually the architecture should be compromised in the re-production of a new narrative, of a codified space in which place and architectural object interact without a predetermined end, that is to say, an open session of re-joint.

It is here where Eisenman is so brutally contemporary. To his way and with some debatable results, Eisenman announces 40 years before the core of the architectural contemporary project, the capacity of the architecture to structure a complex story of the reality from an open session of joint with the context.

Miquel Lacasta. Doctor architect

Barcelona, juny 2012


1 Place be read as quintessence of the idea of context.

2 BRU, Eduard, revista Annals d’Arquitectura 07 (2ª época), ETSAB, UPC, Barcelona, July 2001.

3 This idea is Carl SAUER’s principal base The Morphology of Landscape, University of California Publications in Geography. Vol. 2, No. 2, pp. 19-53. October 12, 1925.

4 Suggestive, innovative and ejemplificador of a way of approaching the idea of the contextual thing it is the exercise of GAUSA, Manuel, Multi-Barcelona, Hiper-Catalunya, estrategias para una nueva geo-urbanidad, List Laboratorio, Barcelona/Trento, 2009.

5 NEL·LO, Oriol, El Urbanismo de la Crisis, El Periódico, 19 de Octubre 2011.

6 BEDARD, Jean Francoise, Cities of Artificial Excavation: The Work of Peter Eisenman, 1978-1988, Rizzoli International, Nueva York, 1994

7 EISENMAN, Peter, The City of Artificial Excavation en Architectural Design nº53 Enero 1983. pp. 91-93.

Es cofundador en ARCHIKUBIK y también en @kubik – espacio multidisciplinario. Obtuvo un Ph.D. con honores (cum laude) en ESARQ Universitat Internacional de Catalunya UIC y también fue galardonado con el premio especial Ph.D (UIC 2012), M.arch en ESARQ Universitat Internacional de Catalunya, y se graduó como arquitecto en ETSAB Universitat Politècnica de Catalunya . Miquel es profesor asociado en ESARQ desde 1996. Anteriormente, fue profesor en Elisava y Escola LAI, y también en programas de postgrado en ETSAB y La Salle. Fue arquitecto en la oficina de Manuel Brullet desde 1989 desde 1995.


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