José María Echarte Ramos · Architecture and critique | N+1

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Up to the date we have crossed of the hand of diverse architects, some of the most diverse and varied activities that they recover, well of complementary form to the activity more tradition of the architect or as principal activity.

Today we enter the wide world of the “critique”, and that better way of it doing that of José María Echarte’s hand, one of the publishers together with María Granados and Juan Pablo Yakubiuk, de N+1. A blog of architecture and critique which authors define as:

“A place, sometimes enterteining but always serious, where there can be read what nobody would count in an Architects’ College.”

We might present Jose Maria of a formal form, but in this occasion and attending to the style that it uses in his blog, the most appropriate thing is to use the his one

“I devote myself … in end, the truth, I have devoted myself to many things throughout the years; some sound more of the Lannister (Yes, I have been employed with engineers at works of roads, transfers etc … I have been a municipal architect) and some more of the Stark (Contests, investigation, teaching) though I think that I have never belonged to the Guard of the Night (Scholar sufriente)”.

Ado delay we leave you with the interview that Jose Maria granted to us, hope that they enjoy it, so much as us.

José María Echarte
José María Echarte

Explain to us, how and why does it arise “N+1”?

N+1 Maria Granados initiates it in 2004 when it was in order career. Partly of natural form, the blogs were sticking loudly then, partly as route of leak of this a bit rare situation that is the PFC and partly because he was not finding sites that were writing what liked to read her on architecture and that much had that to see with an approximation different from the professional reality, to writing for the whole world and that was… Understandable!

I was reading and a commentator and one day Maria wrote to me to say to me that already it was nice of that the comments were longer than the posts and this way I started writing, Juan Paul also joined with the time. The curious thing is that Juan and I were living in the same site, in Almeria, and we knew ourselves before across Maria -who was in Madrid- that in analogical… Internet things.

Yo era lector y comentador y un día María me escribió para decirme que ya estaba bien de que los comentarios fueran más largos que los posts y así empecé a escribir, Juan Pablo también se unió con el tiempo. Lo curioso es que Juan y yo vivíamos en el mismo sitio, en Almería, y nos conocimos antes a través de María –que estaba en Madrid- que en analógico… cosas de internet.

I think that the initial spirit of what Maria was claiming continues there. To write of architecture, of what it happens, about analyzing everything without closed positions, about doing it without tabúes, without servitudes and in order that our mothers could read, for example, that always does illusion and demythologizes very much. Always we use a phrase,

“the opposite of enterteining is not serious, is boring”.

A bit it is it.

Did you meet many difficulties? Which were the most problematic?

In general not. Always we had written … the difference it is to guard it in a folder in the computer or to put it jointly. The second thing is much more wealth-producing, evidently. At some time there has been some problemilla … with a contest of the meeting of Andalusia in which some competitors asked us to denounce that the winner was the most shameless plagiarism and that it found it hard to us to change housing for some dangerous comment … but little more. Probably the most enterteining was that of certain very media architect who declared (in Facebook) the famous phrase

“there will come to you a letter of my attorneys”

Because something did not agree with what we write on certain his offer of work … peculiar. The curious thing is that this news was coming from the weekly one of the ABC … we do not know still if also postal mail was going to come to them. It already we it can correct of the list, they are of these phrases that it is necessary to say or listen at least once in the life, since

“Continue to this taxi” or “I take refuge in the fifth amendment”.

But removing these things, in general not. WordPress, where we are now, does the easy life to us, we do not have a very clear periodicity because N+1 continues being, of any form, amateur … is a conscious choice. It is required a certain level of attention to what it goes on to ours around, but in it the social networks help enough and allow a dip in an informative favorable environment that can be in use very profitably (Or very badly also, clear).

What references does Jose Maria handle for his articles?

Many … and very rare I imagine. onty Python, Black Adder, The Young ones, The Simpsons, the music of the 70, the sonorous bands of James Bond, series of classic and new TV with special passion for The Soprano, video games – from the Spectrum ZX81 up to the Play 4-, comics, of Neil Gaiman to Dan Motter and the Hernández Brothers or some Miller’s things. I am interested in Tafuri’s political vision, Pevsner’s entomology, the understanding of Panayotis Turnikiotis’s necessary critique, the humor of Pedacicos Arquitectónicos or of Mi Mesa Cojea, of El Mundo Today and of Masters of Concrete, La Fiera Literaria for his disrespect… Eevidently of the combativeness and clarity of Fredy Massad and Alicia Guerrero Yeste (Of Alicia also his reviews on books, spectacular), the power and the strict truth of Antonio Miranda, the educational capacity of my mother, the honesty of my father, the sceptical innocence of my daughter … many things learned of the fantastic teachers that I had and as the horrifying ones also – at least less they were using for something, to give badly example-. I do not remember the one who was saying that a project is done by everything … and suspect that for me writing is equal. You do it with everything, probably of unconscious form.

What purpose have they your articles?

I think that always it is the same. To undress the emperor. Or about shouting that actually already nude of house was coming, and that was evident that it was teaching the shames and even dancing the conga in plan I command. I try to do it always justifying my criteria – that can or not compartirse – and I try myself to approach the questions with certain level of humor and irony, though sometimes it is impossible not to become slightly more serious. There are times that you read articles or interview architects and think: if a muggle was reading this – or it is one not – arquitecto-, someone without mediatizing but with a good educational level and that does not have why to know of the architecture paramétrica not of continuous differentiated not puñetera is absent that it does to him … this was finishing in meat of meme. I want to do this meme. Though in writing. And of analytical form.

Actually it is what he was saying to you, I think that the spirit of N+1 is in what I write. Probably it is a reaction to a formation that except exceptions was very slightly critical and not self-critical at all. To this borreguismo loaded with fanaticism that sometimes is like a slab for the profession.

Artículo de José María en N+1
José María´s article in N+1

In many of them you think about different topics, might we say that you realize critique of architecture?

I don’t know. It is a question that always is present, and that I itself do to myself. I think that Antonio Miranda would say that I do critique paranoica … and partly I think that it would take reason. Always I agree myself that the sadly missing Luis Moreno Mansilla – that it was together with Álvaro Soto one of my better teachers – was saying that the projects are done by obsessions and turn into stone with the technology. There is something of it.

In the bottom I think that yes I do critique of architecture … though I do not do what traditionally is understood by critique of architecture. I am not interested too much in the brainy analysis of a project, for example, though it seems to me that it is a labor complejísima that exists the one who does fantasticly and me much likes to read them. I have done it at some time, but I am interested more in the functioning of the system, of the ecosystem if you prefer. The labor, social historical and ethical dynamics that form the profession … And I am interested in the falsehood, the speech impostado, already you know:

“the customary events that happen in the street”

that Mairena would say … and to laugh at my same one, which I think that it is the healthier thing that one can do in this life. When you start yourself taking too seriously or giving conferences in third person as Emilio Ambasz, danger.

Asked the previous thing, it is almost unavoidable the following one to appear, do you think that the critique of architecture has died?

I think that he is a patient with an eternal bad health of iron. It is true that there is an interesting change, and an improvement that coincides with a certain generational relief. It is summarized in that Iñaki Ábalos’s phrase

“Before the critique they were making her to you your friends and now you do not know the one who does it”.

Do not be if it is necessary to add much more to imagine – except exceptions – the condition of the critique – or of what was called a critique – in the prodigious decade of this country. The capacity of autopublication in network has been a fantastic revulsive for the discipline. But not everything is jauja, clearly: As result of the facility now the exigency of leaked and of selection there is more in the reader … which is not completely bad. In my times everything was for the article 33, amen Jesus and if it was publishing it had to be that it was a manna of the gods. Nowadays this is not like that, which is required to generate probably an own code. I think that the university and the years of formation have great that to contribute there. Before you were going out with the learned list and nowadays I think that you should go out with the way of doing to you your list or the criteria of your list, better. With the sufficient knowledge to establish of analytical form your own criteria and to arrange your reasonings.

Because of it I cannot stand specially when someone tries to establish that there is a “good” critique and “bad” one. That the useful one is the one that discovers talents and the useless one the one that does questions to herself and is in occasions belligerent. In this sense what I cannot stand is the condescension with the power, or with certain type of power which only aim is the perpetuation, already you know … Gehry saying that actually he was a green architect (super-green it was necessary to him to say, in plan “The Fifth Element”) or Zaha that had an epoch in the one that was telling us that it was the most interested for the sustainability. Pure and hard Gatopardismo, as good explains Fredy Massad in many articles or as he would say Elevated place, something too much stuck to the inorganic, positivist critique.

In my opinion this one to re-arise from a critique more difficult to control or that is not ruled by the means and the known dependences has happened unnoticed for the habitual centers of power. Lobbyists, soccer – architectural agents, conseguidores of prizes, professional jurors and a length etc of figures vampíricas. In fact this emergence of the “critique curatorial” as format it looks like to me a derivative for opposition. Eye, there are fantastic commissioners in this country, and look like to me a labor encomiable … but I think that in order that something is “critical”, the author cannot be an interested party, thing that happens in this case.

For summarizing, I think that it is nice. That supposes an evident change in many aspects, or that should suppose it … and being an optimist, for once, I think that it can be better.

A few weeks ago, Molina’s Santiago was writing on living without teachers”, might you X-ray the current panorama of the Spanish architecture? And international?

As Horst Buchwoltz was saying in “One, two, three”…

“It is serious but not worrying”.

I think that in Spain the problem is not the capacity of the architects, but rather have thought themselves many of his tontunas that they were not but atavisms empobrecedores … as her of which there is the way of the Jedi and the dark back, this is: that a thing was to make architecture and another age “be in the street” doing what was. For my this division it is a stupidity snob and class. There is good architecture and there is the bad one and she is everywhere. Partly this idiocy permission of a formation that was granting season-tickets of well and badly architect, being the good one only the fact that towards contests – and it was gaining them, clearly – and it was giving lessons in a university … and the villains all the rest. I think that the young generations have realized this deceit and nowadays they are much more opened to developing the profession in the field infinity that it can cover, and it – for force – I hope that it is wealth-producing. Since you know, I support the theory of which this sectarian formation had his adjournment to a labor absurd market and llenito of exploiters and that was (and lamentably it is) in the highest percentage black economy. I believe that this it is one of the challenges that faces the profession in this country, of having just understood once and for all that if we are companies of services the personnel is the most important thing and that – for example – to charge for working with the excuse of the formation is BAD. We go, badly, that it is of expulsion of the profession, of bring the tar and the pens and even of “release the Kraken”.

If you ask me on the part more … creative? I do not like the word … but for lack of better other one. I think that in it we have never had problems. The Spanish architect is very well prepared. We have nevertheless even a chink of acriticismo (I include myself, eye) that we take very inside. It turns out to me curious that one speaks so much and so badly of small critique that questions something that in general receives congratulations all over. I believe that if JJ Abrahams gets up on the 19th and they say to him that it hears, JJ, that quite plaudits less three, the uncle opens the champagne. Since a bit equal … it finds it hard to us, and with this to cost us sometimes we swallow a few tontunas sicalípticas. Also because I think that we are very of giving jolts … this is something tremendously Spanish, more than the brothers-in-law, more than to be going at the edge of the jail to shout “handsome” Isabel Pantoja and more than Santiago Calatrava … when he is interested in it, that when it is not more Swiss than the cow that he laughs. For example you will remember that during a time everything had to be spectacular and bigger than life… and now without solution of continuity everything has to be participative and new practices and of adobe. I am generalizing and ridiculing enough but I think that you understand me. In this speed for putting again where the Sun warms there slip past things that do not have any value and we stop others happen that if they have it. Sometimes this so absurd thing happens to us of not declaring ourselves because we are afraid to remain out of “the last thing” … a position that seems to me to be the most absurd.

In the international thing I think that I envy the managerial concept so clear that is had in many occasions out. Here this part forgets us always and this way we end up by having studies model sweatshop that sustain in an absurd thing, between the heroic one badly understood and the unviable thing. It hears gun-sight, everything needs a time to grow, but it is necessary to have a perspective of how it does, a certain level of organization, a labor legal order … these things that are the first thing that they are going to ask you in an international bidding.

José María Echarte
José María Echarte

The architecture, it has opened many fronts of battle (LSP, Bologna, unemployment, labor precariousness, Spades, ETSAs, emigration, communication, etc), will not they be too much for the existing polarization inside the same one?

If they it are. And especially because we are always, like profession, defending ourselves in format “El Álamo”. To the last ones, surrounded and with a wall to the back. Ultimately – seemingly – we are saving ourselves from some things – from the most serious – but always leaving hair us in the cathole and always spending more fear of the due one. Always late, always descoordinados, always as the army of Pancho Villa after nationalizing a factory of tequila.

I think that it is a question of organization, evidently. We cannot continue supporting a structure that to all lights (And in spite of the will of those who form her, that in general I am not in the habit of doubting) is unsuccessful, descoordinada and chaotic. I think that there are a few minimums that are absolutely unquestionable and that we must start approaching without fear and with clarity because it will be the only way of which we construct something solid.

I put an example: now it looks like that we have a supercommissioner of biennial shows, Patxi Mangado. Without entering how there has been named, that I imagine that it is to finger … in Scalae’s article in which he was speaking about his appointment, it was emphasizing of the lack of industrial level or of professional projection in the Spanish studies and it they was impeding as it to work out, but it was not naming ever the mainspring of this situation: The absolute labor precariousness of a few companies that want to be what they are not or worse still to work in black economy with the consequent problem for the workers and for the rest of professionals. Already we know about what I speak, these offices that 6 workers have in list and 30 scholars. How does one eat it? It is called a disloyal competition and calls to be an exploiter. It is like that of easily. Was it difficult to say it very much? It seems that yes, or that we are going to follow with the circumlocutions and with other questions that we like more or that give better in photo without approaching any of the problems that exists behind.

I understand that this question of working with what exists to arrange it looks like the logical vision … but I start doubting that it it is. The institutional mess that we have – and that we pay – is like to think about a very necessary refoundation. It demands generosity, demands commitment and demands capacity of self-criticism. That I think that they are, but that have never just worked. Eye, I do not want that it seems that this is something foreign to we or for indicating, to me. I have been a member of Meeting and I will have made it surely fatal. To what I refer it is to that the COA for example have assemblies. And they have choices, votes … etc. Before we were doing this I have been reading it of the College of Seville, which I regret saying that for that we know people of there that takes these things seriously and us they were counting what they saw … it is not anything that plunders us of new. To begin … do you go and vote for a gentleman who modifies the bylaws to remain in the post when the trend is to limiting the mandates? Since it hears, now do not be surprised that the thing has the bad looks who has. I have a friend who says always it, that we complain very much but that we do not use few means which we have, and him lacking reason. Now, if it is confirmed that the COAS is in bankruptcy and they start not being able to pay … what does happen? It is a regime asambleario, all the collegiate ones are responsible and solidary owners of the College. It me does not enter the head that a little so serious could happen with “I do not go to the assemblies because it is a roll”. So at all. Already you know.

The same thing with other questions. With the LSCP it was to begin to tremble. There had the one who did not know – after of ONE YEAR – of which the topic was going. Disheartening.

I think that there are minimums, repeat, with that we all are going to coincide to 99 %, and on it I think that it is necessary to work without fears and without red lines. At least it is necessary to have ready the plan B, because To already we see that in some sites way of the disaster goes.

How do you see the future of the architecture?

So, in spite of the sheet that I you have just put … that seems to be very pessimistic, I see it with certain hope. I use very much in class the definition of Miranda’s architecture, paraphrase but am thinking about remembering that he says that the good architecture (or the architecture when it can call this way) is when it can put without being unworthy close to the universal vote, the women’s rights, the childbirth without pain, the social safety etc. Etc … little more it is possible to add. This the aim is – I believe-. I hope that something have learned of an epoch so rococo like that we have happened and hope that this interest for the social aspect of the discipline does not get lost.

And also that we are like Pinky and Brain and do it of “take over the world”… or in other words: That we accept without clasismos that this is not a profession “artist” but it it is mostly technical (different Technologies, if you prefer) and that it us will go much better if we assume the enormous variety of performances that the architects we can have: From that – why not? – it does contests, which it appraises or to the one that calculates facilities or is expert.

The future for my is the excellence. Eye, not the genius, that it is not enseñable, not estructurable. The excellence if it it is. Excellent experts, calculistas excellent, excellent politicians (It Would Be nice …). And of there, excellent companies, contratadores excellent … it is enough to go out neither in the magazines nor in exhibitions that go to the MoMA because it – being good – is not going to arrange other problems, therefore we cannot use it as barometer – not as the only barometer-. At last, which I understand is that the sector has to be select and working nice.

On the other hand, I think that it is necessary to say this, on this excellence and normalization many things depend. Between them, about stopping the bleeding talent that we are giving on the outside. I think about Alpaca Houses and Bea Villanueva, about Julen Asua and Snow Merayo, in Juan Roldán … that are all for these worlds, where to go beyond already is to give the return, and seems to me providing that to have so brilliant people far says very little of how we have organized the things.

What do you think of the architects who undertake in new fields?

It seems to me to be fantastic. It is what was commenting on you before, there are many things that we can do, and it seems to me to be fantastic that we do. Eye, also I say to you that in this country we use the label “entrepreneur” with an amazing facility and sometimes what hides itself behind certain entrepreneuris a species of “I do not think to pay because I am super cool and have a whip but it is in colors cake”. It they are the same dogs with different necklaces. Worse, if you purify me, because above they try to replace the labor normal relation with a species of friendship and sense of the belonging understood evil. And it, evidently, does not cost. It is necessary to undertake, seems to me to be necessary, but it is necessary to do it with the creativity in a hand and the order and the knowledge in other one. And the ethics in other one (Yes, it is necessary to have three arms).

It is what he was saying to you before: plans of business, budgets, expansions … to know that a worker costs so much money and that it is necessary to pay him rains snow or be sunny … these so basic things.

Décimo aniversario de N+1
Tenth anniversary of N+1

What projects of future do wait for Jose Maria? And to “N+1”?

Since I am compiling some things of N+1 for a next publication (I keep You informed). I suppose that N+1 will continue since it is … probably with some small change, inserting slightly more short articles sometimes in order that too much time does not happen between some and others … I promise that they will turn the certifications interviewed false to architects. With regard to me, actually I am slightly complicated … to see Hour of Adventures with my daughter while we raise our swords to the air in the lounge, to play the lay person, to write … hope that there continues being something of work, do not have an enormous study, conform to little but I like to do it carefully (I) (wait). I will continue competing, I imagine, because it is a fantastic gymnastics. I would like to continue giving lessons many years … I am with the doctorate … cannot complain. My brother – another most brilliant person – is in Colombia with the family, working, and next to being so far away … I sit down the privileged one.

To finish, what do you advise the current students and future professionals of architecture?

So that enjoy. And that are always attentive to everything. That this is not easy, but it does not have because not to be enterteining. That must question everything, to begin everything what I have said here, and to end even them themselves and to develop an armament to face the facets of this profession order and honesty. He would say to them that they were honest, that already I know that it is a word some kind of viejuna, but that it is necessary.

Honest and generous, I believe that alone with it, already they have the made half of the way. The rest is to be attentive and to be careful. And to know the telephone of the one that it knows, clearly.

José María Echarte Ramos · architecture and critique | N+1
November 2015

Interview realized by Ana Barreiro Blanco and Alberto Alonso Oro. Jose Maria is grateful to for his patience, time and predisposition with this space.

Alberto Alonso Oro

Arquitecto y editor en veredes, arquitectura y divulgación. Invernalia es un buen lugar. A veces escribo en Fundacion Arquia.

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