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ARQ (Santiago)

versión On-line ISSN 0717-6996

ARQ (Santiago)  no.85 Santiago dic. 2013 


Space of transit


Patricio Mardones Hiche *

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

The project for the Trenton Bath House at the Jewish Community Center in New Jersey, designed by Louis Kahn in 1954 -and opened a year later- would have an almost disproportionate significance for the career that the architect would develop in the following two decades and also for the architectonic culture of the second half of the 20th century. Despite its reduced dimension and evident modest materiality, the project in Trenton served Kahn to put in play, with inaugural clarity, the spatial categories of "served" and "servers" that would later appear be defined as the design plotline of the Salk Institute laboratories, or the Philip Exeter Library: the project could be understood as the articulation of two categories, where one of these gives reason to the other and somehow governed it.

The ways in which this hierarchical and disassociated notion has permeated other areas of architectural design are as varied as the results of this acceptance. Maybe this distinction between a serving entity (essentially utilitarian and in some way auxiliary) and the other served, a main character of a noble nature, can serve to somehow explain the relative abandon that we architects have left the (serving) street, to concentrate our attention and effort in the "served" buildings. The title of this last 2013 edition, "Space of Transit" seeks to establish the streets, avenues and sidewalks in a much less peripheral position more deserving of our interest; more than a path between two points or a corridor for the transport of people and things, these spaces have an enormous potential as they can give place to rich experiences and unfold spatial qualities.

Far from the scope of mere infrastructure, and closer to the notion of a project able to change our understanding of the world, this edition echoes the affirmation of Elke Schlack, who at the beginning of her article "A legal figure: street" reminds us that the street is, precisely, the spatial device closest to public life, a clear example of how space can assume a social function. More than a mere connection or place for circulation (although evidently it is) the works, projects and articles of ARQ85 reflects on the multiple situations that transit spaces trigger while generating exchange and accessibility on many levels. This edition looks at transit spaces (parks, streets, or river banks) as spaces for exchange and negotiation; and also proposes to adjust the opposition that we make (perhaps unconsciously and regarding hierarchies and conventions) between the route and the destination.

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