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ARQ (Santiago)

versión On-line ISSN 0717-6996

ARQ (Santiago)  no.83 Santiago abr. 2013 



Buildings, Landscape, cities


Patricio Mardones Hiche *

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

In principle, this is a simple question: What do architects do? In our current context of permanent change, with a an over-saturated and growing supply of architecture professionals that will take the free market a long time to balance (at least here in Chile), maybe a better question is: What can architects do today?

The twentieth century carried a long tradition that understood architecture as a business of objects, a notion that today is questioned from all sides. Currently, from a predictable pendulum reaction, the word "landscape" appears to flood the majority of websites, annuals and brochures emitted by architecture schools around the world and concentrates views on the possibilities of urban and territorial design. However, this displacement of interests should not be understood from the conventional vision that opposes (or confronts) the architecture "of objects" to the environment that serves as the backdrop: on the contrary, it opens the door to revise and perhaps dismantle the apparent dichotomy of negatives vs. positives that has accompanied the design of forms. In other words, the architects would be responsible for what is built and what is not; from the presence or absence, from spaces occupied and those unoccupied that would no longer be a mere background to a detailed figure, in the best cases, learnedly designed.

Nicola Russi touches on this in his text "Building context: when architecture becomes the background"1. In this rediscovered reality, the architecture project would have the right to propose and design "everything," including its own absence, in a field of action recently opened where it is unfeasible to contemplate oppositions between buildings, landscapes and cities; the architecture as we know it disappears to be integrated into the backdrop that makes up what we call culture.

According to his hypothesis, the moment has come to abandon the autobiography, the mere description and the superposition of data lifted from context as the origin of an architectural project. In this contemporary scene, the void of "nothing" is no longer the opposite of "built space." And just like Anne Lacaton and Jean Philippe Vassal did in the Place Leon Aucoc in Bourdeaux, the architects are called to propose a form for this ground without necessarily resorting to the use of figures. As they note in the summary that describes their proposal, "As a project we've proposed doing nothing apart from some simple and rapid maintenance works (replacing the gravel, cleaning the square more often, treating the lime trees, slightly modifying the traffic) of a kind to improve use of the square and to satisfy the locals."

The selection of works and lectures in this edition, presented in an alternating chain, without distinction between theory and practice, seeks to stimulate the discussion around the ideas and projects where the limits between figure and ground are blurred.



1. Published in Italian magazine San Rocco No 4 Fuck concepts! Context!, Summer 2012.

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