The time of the laments is in the habit of opening way to a serene and sometimes bold reflection. The vision and the reading of the field after the battle, removes reflections, and of form more convulsed that programmed, it activates new hopes. The current situation, not only in local terms, but worldwide, should promote a rigorous debate on the social use of the architecture and the medium’s paper of the architects. Some stutters in the matter start considering a new re-projection of the architectural fact, in order to return to tune with a social mass that seems to have given ourselves the back, in some occasions, thanks to us themselves. From normally peripheral instances, today, it can be said that new logics of reference seem to want to re-tie the architect with his time and his company. In other words, today one gives a situation of occasional character, in the sense to which there refers Josep Lluís Mateo in his book Ocasiones
where it indicates that our works are always opportunities to deal and to establish active relations with the world.1
Reactivate and question these opportunities is one of the challenges that are on the table, and from here we want to contribute and share some ideas that both in our offices and in the university we are slowly visualizing.
In line with this initial consideration, and making a purely instrumental analysis, one of the key points lies in the obsolescence of the standard tools of the act of projecting architecture. We are not referring, evidently, to the passage from the pencil to the computer, but rather to the intellectual tools with which the architects usually resolve the architectural reflection, which will later be accommodated in their projects in a more or less specific way. We also refer to the aspiration that, with a new intellectual instrument, we will again establish a bridge of dialogue with our society, we will listen to the situations proposed by the place and we will undertake the critical journey that every project should have incorporated into its genetic code.
Therefore, it is not a question of operating in terms of categorical positions, but rather of knitting markers, conceptual nodes, points of reflection that invite an inflection in the theoretical bases of architecture and in the value propositions of the projects of the future, both in teachers and professionals.
At least three areas of disciplinary reflection can be determined, which have at their root the reformulation of our vocation of service to society. In the next 3 articles we will announce these anchor points that we consider structural.
Common spaces. The idea of the common, that is, in abstract terms, that which agglutinates, that is part of all, that which surely does not have a specific owner, because it is a resource put at the service of all, seems to center some of the last reflections. In this space some mention was already made, read the article Thoughts on the Everyday.2 Both the title of the Venice Biennale inaugurated last August, Common Ground, and the International Congress of the Architecture and Society Foundation held last June in Pamplona, whose enunciation Architecture: The Common, could suggest that the focus moves towards a new idea of community, or rather, towards a community logic. Another debate, that we are not going to start here, is the depth and relevance of the reflections around the Biennale, for example, or the opportunistic nature of some of the proposals curated by David Chipperfield. Others3 know how to unmask certain attitudes better than what we could do here.
We prefer to think that behind the idea of Common Spaces, there is the possibility of rethinking, for example, the rigid boundaries between public space and private space, opening up the discussion about, for example, social responsibility over private spaces, or the possibility of managing from the efficiency of the private, public spaces. One might also think, under the idea of the common, about the multi-scale nature of any project as a guarantee of its social value, that is, to understand that each architectural project must find its accommodation in the metropolitan scale, the urban scale and the human scale. We could say that all scales participate in the idea of the common. Finally, another idea that plans around the concept of Common Spaces, is the management of urban behavior models. Technology and what is called the internet of things,4 is causing the network to extend not only to people, who already begin to make use of the urban different from the initially programmed, but also to things , with the possibility of emitting and receiving information among them, and between things and people. This authentic instrumental revolution will change the design thinking patterns of cities and, above all, of common spaces. In other words, it directly affects the essence of the common. It also belongs to the logics of what we call here Common Spaces the conception of the ordinary in opposition to the extraordinary and the idea of the everyday as opposed to the unusual.
Common Spaces: The community
Beyond that, there is a deep reflection on the model of behavior of cities, which for too long have been using logics more linked to corporations than to communities, which is what they really are. The competition to extract from the city resources for the supposed satisfaction of an offer, read mass tourism, oversized brand equipment, megalomaniac structures aimed at positioning the citybrand, leaving the citizen in the background, begin to show their high degree of obsolescence.
On the contrary, a re-reading of the idea of a community city, whose root is the common, begins to take shape again. This new logic of the community has demonstrated throughout history its ability to take advantage of a shared resource in a flexible way. In essence, a community shares resources and each member is concerned that these resources are renewed. In a community, the care of the common is part of its logic of action. The strategy of a community is organized through ecosystems, based on open and emerging standards. In short, the behavior of a structured social body based on the idea of community promotes innovation, the effective resolution of conflicts and seeks to share the role of transfer of past experiences, liberating knowledge and fostering collective intelligence.5
Common Spaces: The ordinary
Another outstanding aspect of the epigraph of the common is the relationship with the ordinary. The ordinary, in the words of Enrique Walker
includes the architecture that the architecture itself excludes.6
In essence, the common thing related to the idea of the ordinary supposes
by definition a condition of otherness. That is, it consists of those objects that the discipline of architecture proclaims outside its territory and against which it defines its limits.
In other words, and taking the ideas to the extreme, the ordinary, comes to express the distance that architects and certain architectures have opened regarding what society does value, at least use value, and what aesthetic positions or simply an eagerness to sophisticate the taste, has caused that the figure of the architect is far from the social aspirations. Another way of understanding the ordinary, we find it in the exaltation of the art of the transitory, the fugitive and the contingent and that it has in Baudelaire or in the Count of Lautréamont, who exalts
the beauty of the fortuitous encounter between a sewing machine and an umbrella on a dissection table,
a point of reference, where the practically vulgar, as a category, can give rise to a reading of the extraordinary. Something of that was already done by the Situationists in the distant 50s.
The consistency of the ordinary, within the scope of the common, resides in closer words, in taking also as own of the reflective instrumental of the architect what could be considered obvious, and that due to an endemic lack of attention, has become something precious and recoverable. Potentially we attend phenomena of the ordinary, such as the proliferation of urban gardens, which, when researched and conveniently interpreted, are capable of formulating concepts and strategies, which ultimately allow us to learn from the existing human and urban landscape. In other words,
an urban condition, which has not been preceded by a theory, but that contains enough evidence to sustain one.7
Common Spaces: The everyday
It seems therefore that the territory of the common, is imbricated in the logics of each day, in daily realities, as an angular piece of a city and from there to promote a closer, more real architecture, as ambitious as others, and above all, repositions people in the urban-architectural reflection center. Something that, without a doubt, has been left lately neglected in the eagerness to stylize and epatar, with proposals that are born crooked. It is necessary to re-understand what is the specific time and space for everyday life, where each project is affirmed to offer exactly what society will demand in the near future, which favors connection and exchange, which pivots on spaces of friction, of daily life, and not hide the shortcomings behind the disguise of the extraordinary, of the over-all.
Let’s be clear, apart from certain extreme situations, the great ambition of architecture should be to provide maximum spatial, functional and technical quality to most current buildings, with current programs and current situations that reach architecture offices, that is, give the maximum of architecture for the minimum projects. Or in other words, do not pretend to disguise as a museum a social housing building, a primary care center or a school. That does not mean that we should renounce architectural ambition, but quite the opposite, means to concentrate the maximum ambition in the daily projects without denaturing them.
Point and followed
It should be reasonable, that after a clear obfuscation by the style exercises overwhelming in their formalism, but frighteningly empty of content on many occasions, the Commons, re-mapify a complex reality, as contradictory, and open as indeterminate. At the same time, it would seem pertinent to reconsider also reflections based on a certain sense of the common, or of the community, understood in the Kantian way, as the reciprocal action between the agent and the patient. According to Kant, this is one of the three categories of the relationship, together with inherence and chance, which leads to the third analogy of experience, also called the principle of community. Quoting directly from the philosopher,
all substances are, to the extent that they are simultaneous, in complete community, that is, in reciprocal action.
In short, applied to a group of individuals, the idea of community is a social body that communicates at least in something, that is, that relates to things or other people. That they share, interact, exchange, etc. A kind of established good sense, with less power to judge, than with the ability to offer a socially available and recognized result.8
Nothing better than to assume these ideas as an aspiration of what should incorporate an urban space understood within the scope of the Common Spaces..
Miquel Lacasta. PhD architect
Barcelona, january 2013
*This post and the following two, with which I share the authorship, are the product of an open dialogue with Marta García-Orte, professor of the Final Degree Workshop of the ESARQ, of the International University of Catalonia. In the workshop we are focused on research and the introduction of these issues in parallel to the development of student projects. Our aspiration is that at the end of the Workshop, these ideas are recognizable, not so much in the form of a given object, but in the contents and construction of the story of each project. We hope to see some results at the end of July of this year.
4 Interesting reading The Internet of Things
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.