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ARQ (Santiago)

versión On-line ISSN 0717-6996

ARQ (Santiago)  no.82 Santiago dic. 2012 

ARQ, n. 82 Manufacturing and Cosntruction, Santiago, December 2012, p. 12.


Manufacturing and Construction


Patricio Mardones Hiche *

* Director Ediciones ARQ, Escuela de Arquitectura, Pontificia Universidad Católica de Chile, Santiago, Chile.

Manufacturing and construction is the title of the last 2012 issue of ARQ: it aims to raise questions on the turning point that the architectural realm faces (or at least does the Latin American one) regarding what it means today to "produce" a building. Maybe ten or eleven years ago, when asked about the "all times most significant work of architecture", Brazilian architect Paulo Mendes da Rocha pointed out the Egyptian pyramids, because "they are the machine of their own construction. The inclined plane." To Mendes da Rocha, the pyramids represented a perfect synthesis that merges form and construction. Also, and from present perspective, it could be said that pyramids embodied the architectural notion of "building" as a kind of heavy-duty and labor-intensive craft, related to frequent visits to the construction site and in-situ making. Hence the "work" would be a hand made, unique, one-of-a-kind piece, partially due to the lack of proper molds for its reproduction, but also due to the enormous physical effort involved in its materialization. Alberti, in his treatise De Re Aedificatoria, also recognized the "heavy" nature of architecture: "(the architect is who) knows how to realize by construction, whatever can be most beautifully fitted out for the noble needs of man, by the movement of weights and the joining and massing of bodies."

Le Corbusier was probably the most visible figure amongst the ones who opened a new take on the nature of building. At the beginning of the 20th century, he called the house "a machine for living" and designed the Maison Citrohan in a clear reference to the automotive industry production line. To him, modern civilization demanded architecture to shift from building to manufacturing, bringing together lightness, efficiency, automation and certain degrees of mobility. The modern vision of architectural design incorporated the idea of assemble, therefore modularization and prefabrication.

The 21st century reality that the current issue of ARQ tries to address -from the periphery of the Western world- stands in the cross of building practices heavily relying on cheap labor and emerging technologies that allow digital manufacturing and parametric design (that certainly are not available to all budgets and scales yet). Probably the fragile balance between both extremes could be useful to understand recent international appreciation of Chilean architecture. And maybe the only possible certainty in this dynamic scenario is that, in spite of all changes, works of architecture keep strong ties with our material, physical realm, that very same reality that utopians try to shape. In the words of Perec, architecture is still part of "things.".

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