Posteado por: Es Cau | junio 7, 2012


The evolution in technology has forced architecture to move its vital center of gravity towards the resolution of impossible shapes, unstable geometries and complex structures. This is nothing new, but it is disturbing when there is no content to justify it.

History is full of examples where the evolution of construction techniques and the emergence of new materials have enabled us to attain new horizons and innovative proposals which had once been unthinkable. This is the impossible architecture, the one that is dreamt about but seems unrealizable, and time is what is responsible for bringing it closer so that finally some privileged professionals can embody it with the assistance of grandiose assignments, egotistical patrons, unlimited budgets or sheiks with delusions of grandeur.

This is how the history of architecture is built, and this is how societies develop in search of new horizons.

Even so, the architectural challenges of the past more closely addressed people´s essential needs and their circumstances. Thus Gothic churches elevated the religious spirit of the faithful to the heavens and also allowed the glorification of the power of the papacy;  the Modernist revolution searched for new standards of beauty and balance, based on the human need to be creative; and the modern “Bauhaus” movement sought functional, viable housing solutions, trying to resolve the life of modern working man in a collective and equitable way.

In short, this evolution in architecture and construction largely responded to the expression of man’s inner questions, or to the development of a collective society governed by ideals and principles.

For some time now, the impact of hi-tech, associated to very high costs, and the recently standardized concept of “speed and consumption” as new icons of an increasingly transparent and lightweight society, have largely removed its essential values and ability to regenerate from the common good. Consumption is everything and its icons end up becoming glass giants that fight for the best place in the shop window at all costs. These giants, based on volatile commercial realities, are gradually standardizing an architectural model and a model of society, whose conceptual contribution often cannot see beyond its laudable technological achievements.

Dubai, Qatar, Shangai and other skylines respond to this impossible architecture, and are tending to monopolize some architecture magazines with increasingly more fanciful proposals, subject to trends or challenges that guarantee their individual glory and whose ultimate exponent is the “Ohhh!” of the masses before them, an exclamation that does not necessarily respond to their interesting conceptual proposal but to the engineering solution to an apparently impossible achievement, and augurs with that exclamation a better commercial return on investment.

Not only businesses but cities, too, have joined, or rather submitted, to this impossible architecture in the search for extravagant and wasteful icons to represent them, placing them back on the tourist market of consumption. Just more of the same.

Arquitectura imposible / Impossible architecture

Diametrically opposed to this movement, there is another impossible architecture, much more human and real, that results from the daily and unequal struggle of the architect with his circumstances. This is not about the difficulty of technological solutions, which are always achievable if you have unlimited credit, but the inherent concepts that struggle to survive daily in the light of any project, whatever its size, budget or brilliance and are therefore the very essence of the architect who approaches his profession with almost religious zeal.

This is the kind of architect who usually lives immersed in the incomprehension of his client, who does not need, nor want, to understand the conceptual proposals, and whose sensitivities have little in common with the architect’s. The constructed work ends up being the result of an unequal battle, of fighting to the last breath to save, with pyrrhic victories, some of the features of the original project, which will go on to be the sole survivors of that other fight that the architect has with himself throughout the creative process.

Each project, from its own genesis until the final work, is an endless game of obstacles of all kinds, most of which naturally tend to undermine the core ideas that support the architect´s  proposal, and gradually erode his architectural reading of the work: designed spaces, lighting treatment, controlled views, constant movement, or whatever gives the added value of the architect. The work will finally be what it may be, whatever its vast ocean of circumstances permit.

Arquitectura imposible / Impossible architecture

We therefore find two impossible architectures: one, plotting out the dreams and delusions of grandeur in this society of consumption and waste, monopolizing publications and awards, and whose value is mainly based on the ability of technical processes to crystallize a risky proposal, that threatens the laws of physics, or inundates with its size the horizon of our eyes.

The other is the one whose value lies exactly in the opposite, in the painful process of rejections and conceptual misunderstandings that usually lead to the mutilation of the constructed project, but which maintain the huge value, silent and unknown, of the surviving ideas.

These works cannot be judged by what they could have been, but for what finally became after that titanic struggle with their circumstances, which makes them the result of an impossible architecture, that adds great value to the architects who, on every project, have worked themselves into the ground, leaving the scent of sacrifice.

These impossible architectures have multiple readings, covering a large range of case studies, but in any case require professional compromise, which with different scales, perceptions and achievements, gives the same value to the architects of both type of architecture. ~



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