“There is no architecture without confidence in the matter.”
Luis Moreno Mansilla1
If we understand the idea of matter in his philosophical form, namely, everything what exists out of the spirit and independently of the thought, or in other words, the not spiritual and not ideal part of the royal thing, we will have a purely negative definition. We can remain with this definition and to outline the paper of the materiality in the architecture as a place of destination. We can fix any decision of matérico as by-product not thought about previous decisions, as pure consequence. Matérico, if we continue stretching of the previous thread, comes to be all that that does not have conscience, everything what he does not think, everything what is devoid of memory, of intelligence, of will and affectibility.
Probably this costs for the economic traditional thought or sense makes for the metaphysics, but we do not think that this rule is valid for the architecture. And even less for the theory of the architecture, since it it is not for the contemporary physics, which provides to the matter of thinking capacities, in the same moment that incorporates the vector time, that is to say of memory, in his formulation from the quantum physics. Or for making it much simpler, of the strict material condition of the architecture, we all have extracted lessons that they have to see with the memory, the intelligence, the will and / or the affectibility. Probably about terms aristotélicos the matter does not think, but undoubtedly the matter makes think, contributes not already a marginal part of the spatial experience, but a central and structurally constitutive part.
Let’s move forward a little more. The definition of materialism refers to
any doctrine or attitude that privileges, in one way or another, the subject.2
Here, architecture can begin to feel reflected. To a certain extent any architectural reflection of value has something, or much, of materialism, while being materialistic does not consist in denying the existence of thought, it consists rather in denying the absolute character and ontological independence of thinking, its transcendent condition, that in the case of continuing with this reasoning, they would only take us to God.
Materiality and Contemporaneity
On the contrary, the contemporary version of materialism allows to relate matter and thought in an intricate and indiscernible way. To make it easier to digest, in the same way that it is absurd to say that as I take a walk, I am a ride, in an extreme caricature of a ferocious idealism, it is also absurd to say that only my atoms, my primordial physical constitution, and the set of reflections, affections and observations of the act of walking, are given in another sphere, that of the walk itself. In short, doing and thinking, thinking and being in themselves, come to be so interrelated that they are one, in the same way that thinking about architecture and architecture itself are inseparable.
Once this basic framework is assumed, it seems crucial to give an account of several aspects of the relationship between the brain and the hand, that is, of the inseparable relationship between thinking and doing, between the idealist and the materialist, which ultimately are one. The material fact of the architecture entails an ethical preposition, which can be assimilated to the pragmatic will of the craftsman to do things well. And understand that while this material condition of architecture focuses specifically on a technical sphere, what is actually occurring in a cultural structure.
In any reflection on the materiality of architecture we should incorporate the connection between the hand and the head, in the same way that every good craftsman
maintains a dialogue between concrete practices and thought.3
In this sense, it seems to us central to establish the primitive relation of the material and the material significance of architecture as a space at the same time of reflection and action, which starts from what Richard Sennett calls the development of the skill, or what formerly we called office. To develop a body of cultural thought, but also technological, social, economic and political, from the idea of materiality we must first assume that
all skills, even the most abstract, begin as bodily practices, and second, that technical understanding develops through the power of the imagination. The first argument focuses on the knowledge that is obtained in the hand through touch and movement. The argument about the imagination begins with the exploration of the language that attempts to direct and guide the corporal ability. This language reaches its maximum functionality when it shows in an imaginative way how to do something.4
It is from this double perspective, that of a conceptual materialism, and that of the involvement and improvement of skills, that we want to understand the idea of HyperMateriality as a reference project tool of architecture. That is, the material of architecture is a materiality full of properties, capabilities and potentialities that transcend the conception of what the material is, and throws the material in architecture to a central dimension for the constitution of meanings. The HyperMaterial as a tool of both the hand and the brain, of the architectural fact in itself, as of the construction of the narrative associated with all spatial experience.
If we understand that the essential fabric of all architecture, but also of every city, is that with which it is physically constituted, the idea of HyperMateriality aims to give a twist to this obviousness. Actually, we are talking here not only of skin and layers of a certain epithelial consideration of architecture, very popular in the last 10 or 15 years, but more deeply, of the constructed, the produced and the real.
But there is more, materials with properties, not only tactile, evocative and light, we must add performative, relational and emotional aspects. In fact, this stream of reflection is not new. In the 60s, the consideration of nature as a central actor in the design process of the architectural object, and therefore its materiality, burst forth with force. The relationship between background and figure are merged into a much more open logic, where the figure is also background, and the background is transmuted into a figure.
Architectural work is therefore not conceived as a finished material object, but rather as an artifact capable of generating processes and exchanges with the medium in which it is located, blurring its limits by allowing the environment itself to act on it. Therefore, the uncertainty and the permanent change present in the conditions of the environment are incorporated as fundamental elements of its conception.5
At this point we can talk about materials with shape memory, biomimetics, or biodigitals. The door thus opens to a reactive technological materiality, capable of exchanging information from the environmental conditions and immediately changing some of its characteristics.
But there is also a position, if not opposite, if at least, away from the latest technology and equally valid. That is to say, of genuine materiality, a term much more accurate than that of honest materiality. We refer to the use of materials and traditional construction techniques based on the material condition in crude, meticulous handling, natural appearance, where the specific weight of the material, be it light or heavy and the proximity are its constituent values. We could talk like this of a material hypercontextuality. The use of what we associate with the traditional should not be confused with a conservationist position in the worst sense of the word. What is intended is on the one hand to project from the near, but project contemporaneously. The success of this materiality lies in the minimal alteration of the spirit of the place, of preserving a reading that is linear, rightly related to that place, always fixed, where architecture is implemented.
Finally, we would like to highlight another dimension of hypermateriality. If we assume that industrial processes are an inherent part of material production, constructive solutions should be made from a cycle raw material. We refer here to materials that transform surplus or waste products from other processes in the industry and that, after an important manipulation, are transformed into recycled materials. In this sense, the time vector and the opportunity to access raw material rejection, seems a right dimension to take into account this new materiality.
Also with a similar logic, but away from components that are sometimes falsely environmentalist, is the deviated materiality, that is, the use of materials and / or construction techniques from other areas, such as civil works or art, which quite direct they transform without hardly manipulation in front materials or pavements, or any application not initially planned. This strategy usually takes advantage of the opportunity cost of using constructive techniques or already consolidated systems, which however are not used as material for the architecture.
Point and followed
The hypermateriality would be in all the strategies announced here, a project resource, while it is conceived that which is material and constructive, as the engine to make a story to be developed by the architectural project. That is to say, the materiality of the architecture is not given at the end by a project discarding process structured by a certain coherence, or as the final product of a chain of decisions, but the material is used as a strategic element to make that coherence, precisely . In short, the idea of HyperMateriality is an activator of the architectural, and provides the act of projecting a solid tool.
In short, and positive the interesting text by José Ballesteros,6We have, we should produce buildings that admit the possibilities that the industry offers, take our advances in our architecture and avoid appearing as gobs. Contextualize in the urban fabric and architectural space everything that materiality, from the hand of its producers, can offer as substantial improvements in its construction.
En suma, y positivando el interesante texto de José Ballesteros,6 Esas Tenemos, deberíamos producir edificios que admitan las posibilidades que la industria ofrece, asumir en nuestra arquitectura sus avances y evitar que aparezcan como pegotes. Contextualizar en el entramado urbano y en el espacio arquitectónico todo aquello que la materialidad, de la mano de sus productores, pueda ofrecer como mejoras sustanciales en su construcción.
And in fact there are many architects involved in research on new materials, inside and outside the university, in research groups or associated with companies. These new adaptations of materials that we already use, new production processes that improve them, make them durable and more effective are also destined to modify our spaces sensibly.
There are architects working on minimum construction elements, calling attention to the possibility of enabling processes for users. Architects as process designers, not objects.7
As it seems, or at least for what is left here outlined, we have an exciting time ahead in which to get involved. A complete catalog of new project tools to be developed and put at the service of our peers.
Miquel Lacasta. PhD architect
Barcelona, january 2013
*With this post, we closed the trilogy that we have baptized as New Reference Project Tools. Like the previous ones, the reflected reflections are the product of an open dialogue with Marta García-Orte, professor of the Taller Final de Grado of the ESARQ, of the International University of Catalonia and co-author of these texts. 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.
5 COSTOYA, Manuel, Una nueva materialidad contemporánea.
6 BALLESTEROS, José, Esas Tenemos, Revista Pasajes núm. 119, Ed. América Ibérica, Madrid, 2011
7 BALLESTEROS, José, ¡Que Inventen Otros!, Revista Pasajes núm. 124, Ed. América Ibérica, Madrid, 2012
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.