ARQ, n. 63 Mecánica electrónica / Mechanics & electronics, Santiago, August, 2006, p. 9.





Montserrat Palmer T.

Ediciones ARQ Editor in Chief, Facultad de Arquitectura, Diseño y Estudios Urbanos, Universidad Católica de Chile, Santiago, Chile.


Designing has been virtual, meaning the creation of a non-existent project, since at least the 14th century. So virtual reality is ancient history.

But we have titled this edition of Mechanics-Electronics Review not virtual: the virtual model is quite old, but not e-virtual reality. And how does it relate to architecture? The e-model has to do with speed, which is getting faster; mechanics, on the other hand, are speed-resistant. The mechanical model dominated architecture until Mies drew those extraordinary drawings of the skyscrapers on the Friedrichstrasse around 1919. He drew something that could not be built (nor did he know how to do it), but he provided a very powerful sign at the start of the 20th century. He challenged the weight of architecture and gravity (something similar occurred with the literature of passages by Joyce, Eliot and Pound, while Duchamp predicted the disappearance of art as part of daily life).

Through the 19th century, architecture symbolized and was viewed as a foundation, wrapping and shelter. Not after Mies: what seemed to be a fine metal structure (like the Seagram or Lake Shore Drive buildings) hung from the true, but hidden structure. Yet what is true and real is what makes another way of living possible inside, in transparent and continuous spaces: the building becomes a metaphor and simultaneously the real space of new times.

Now we are starting to accept, nearly a century later, a new way of living. But the architect’s work is to welcome the new life through constructions weighed down by gravity and forms resulting from it and the architect’s imagination, and not any available external repertoire.

What are we proposing in this new beginning? The task at hand is to house this new culture characterized by electronics, imagine it and construct it as well as Mies did in the early 20th century.

The works we present can be interpreted in several ways, but what they have in common is that none is indifferent to the times and the result is investigation, evidence, through imagination and audacious construction, with materials and technical possibilities within reach: an architecture that defies gravity despite its weight and welcomes new manners of living and working.