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ARQ (Santiago)

On-line version ISSN 0717-6996

ARQ (Santiago)  no.74 Santiago Apr. 2010 

ARQ, n. 74 Leisure, Santiago, April, 2010, p. 34-35.


Leisure and Architecture

Patricio Cáraves*

* Professor, Pontificia Universidad Católica de Valparaíso, Valparaíso, Chile


The characteristic acts of leisure and it way of occupying space are varied. Their observation by architects gives place to specific named spaces. From different areas of art ways of giving a home to leisure are illustrated.

Key words: Architecture-theory, contemplation, observation, poetry, plastic, acts.

To address leisture in architecture one must see it in an act and in reference to work. It requires one to freely designate time to its contemplation.
In leisure, one seeks to be in a clear but sheltered space, that is, to give structure to three dimensional space, permitting co-existence of the distant with the nearby. Let's look at this, something lived by many, and such, a common occurence: two friends or a couple taking a walk. In describing it we can note, for example, walking without haste, as wanting to completely plant ones foot with each step. Conversing distractedly, in a free attempt to say the words calmly, in that each syllable is distinguished. Looking at one's everday, intimate environment, the landscape of a family outing, free from anything that could cause tension.
Coming and going, hearing and speaking, stopping to smell the flowers, seeing a continuity of distance and nearness. Touching whatever the hand meets. All with a kind of distraction, under a light tinged by the protection of trees. One passes confidently through space, open to the pleasure to be enjoyed through extension.
In this act of walking we can be on the beach by the sea, or in a parque, that is, in nature. The diversity of spaces for this act is broad. Until this moment architecture has not yet entered the picture.
So now we ask ourselves, how does architecture protect leisure?
The architectural profession begins by observing this act of taking a walk we described; it becomes present, the act of walking. To give home to the act of relaxation that is taking a walk, in the complete aperture of meanings, must consider the characteristics of the person walking. To carry out this task one must pay attention to everything. Everything that occurs is observed and nothing escapes. One begins naming to give form to the extensive form and designates orientation. The oriented extension, we must understand it as the complexity of the form that protects the eye, invites the fooy to take steps in the distraction.
In a rhythm of steps and pauses: the accompaning complexity and density, like of the city skyline that is presented to the eyes and is contemplated. Situation that requires distances is what we mean when we say extension. In the poetic field, we can ask if the poem of Dante Alighieri, The Divine Comedy, is a walk. That begins by saying:
"Midway upon the journey of our life
I found myself within a forest dark,
For the straightforward pathway had been lost.
Ah me! how hard a thing it is to say
What was this forest savage, rough, and stern,
Which in the very thought renews the fear."
This poem shows us the guided step that presents the possibility of a meeting.
Also in the plastic, it is pertinent to pause before The prisons, prints by Piranesi. With its well defined lines, we see the invention of a space in which the background has the same intensity as the foreground. The distanct is not the periphery, placed so that there luminosity is fixed with the luminosity of the near, thus giving existence to an accomodating space in which both earth and sky inhabit. They are thresholds that insert mass and light, making space.
With this, the following must be said as a complement: the walk that protects leisure in space, where everything is an object of pause.
To acheive these demands that exceed programmatic necessities, gratuity is required. The architects that create a space whose program is the walk are aware that it must be a pure donation, not only to be seen, but to give a meeting place and be found.
To illustrate this gratuitous presence donated to the meeting place, we bring a related fact:
In an old church of a European town they must take down an old bell from its tower to proceed with repairs. In the act of taking it down, the workers were surprised to find an inscription on the interior of the bell, written in latin in perfect type. Perfection and gratuity, hidden to be found, understood as the opposite of exhibition.
But the complexity of the space conforming the walk, that embraces leisure, requires more dimensions. It requires invention to nourish contemplarion. For this, it is necessary to bring what was not there. Here, we refer to an accion with which a body is introduced to the space that, without being alien, both recreates and singularizes it. To clarify this task, it would be opportune to present this notable example: in medieval Germany, in the city of Limburg near the Spira cathedral, on the east side of the plaza, Emperor Conrad II commissioned a long, thin sea wall—gradierwerke—, a heavy timber structure made of pine and later covered with sea salt. In a wall that, facing a predominate wind, it passes over it and covering it with salt, finally transforming it in a sea breeze. If someone walks along this wall, they would be accompanied by the distant presence of the sea.
In summary, we have a way to give home to leisure, which could be the act of taking a walk. And the act of walking is conformed by the correspiondence of the distant with the near, in a relationship that protects with gratuity, perfection and invention.
The architect is asked: "where does one find leisure?" And he responds: "on a walk". Because this is the place that reunites excellencies: moving without haste, it goes through a known extension and without threats, with fragrant air, under the light shaded by the trees, an extension without restriction together with the sea or a park, and finally, the walk takes leisure and makes it an act where the foot and the eye move together with hearing and seeing.
The space of the walk can be recognized in the plastic works of Piranesi, The Prisons, where the distant and the near, equally constructed by light, build a space to be inhabitated by the looker.
The space of the walk is possible because he who practices and embraces leisure requires gratuity. The gratuity understood as this greater force and dedication carried out in the construction of a project. And it can be called gratuity because the acheived form does not seek immediate recognition.
Lastly, the architecture of the walk includes a device, realizes an invention in the meaning of bring what was not there before, like the enjoyment of the sea breeze in a place far from the sea, bringing the far-away to the present with the smell of the salt.
Leisure can be conceived as the capacity of man to enjoy the world he builds. And this is given in an act that consumes itself, that celebrates its existence completing itself like the prayers de las completas at the end of the day giving an end to another day lived with grace.

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