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ARQ (Santiago)

versión On-line ISSN 0717-6996

ARQ (Santiago)  no.105 Santiago ago. 2020 


Surface as a Resistance Portrait

Pablo Casals Aguirre1  2 

José Luis Uribe Ortiz3 

1 Profesor invitado, Escuela de Arquitectura, Universidad de Talca, Chile

2 Profesor, Escuela de Arquitectura, Facultad de Humanidades, Universidad Mayor, Chile.

3 Profesor, Escuela de Arquitectura, Universidad de Talca, Chile.


After the social unrest of October 2019 in Chile, architecture became one of its material evidences. In an effort to resist possible violent attacks, the facades of the buildings were covered, in the same way in which protesters covered their faces to resist the chemicals used in an effort to disperse them. Thus, architecture began to manifest a resistance, but one less epic and muffled than the one that woke up a country.

Keywords: resistance; protests; armor; facades; photography

Source: Pablo Casals Aguirre

Figure 1 

In October 2019, the photographer Pablo Casals grabbed his Canon 5Dm4 camera and took a bicycle tour from the Las Condes district to Providencia in Santiago de Chile. His objective was to portray - in a systematic manner and with the same framing - the facades of the administrative, commercial, residential and cultural buildings that characterize the architectural landscape of Chile’s capital. A couple of days earlier, a social outbreak struck the country. Public space and architecture witnessed the angry demonstrations of its inhabitants. Casals took the pulse of the situation by recording the surfaces of the buildings and had no time for subtleties. He worked without a tripod, holding the camera with his hands. The lens captured the turmoil of the moment by documenting the interventions with which the owners sought to protect their properties. Casals’ photographic work - hitherto characterized by the calmnaess with which buildings are situated on the nature of the Chilean landscape - faces here a landscape of resistance.

Source: Pablo Casals Aguirre

Figure 2 

Architecture’s surface has responded to the Chilean social contingency. The architecture of the central sectors of most of the Chilean cities has been transformed following the intensity of the social outbreak. The image of the city has changed, attending to the manifestations of its inhabitants. A shell architecture has sprouted. If in those days inhabitants covered their faces in order to demonstrate anonymously, architecture responded to that situation by covering itself with opaque materials that no longer allowed inhabitants to be reflected. There is no longer an opportunity to see the other, nor to see oneself in front of the glazed facades, we only see the neatness of the osB or the stainless-steel and corrugated zinc plates. The use of mass-produced cladding brings along a variety of uses. This is how the material language typical of the construction site comes forward, hiding that of the finished work. The language of the overlay, the accessory, the patch, and the armor. The building is shielded just like the protestor.

Source: Pablo Casals Aguirre

Figure 3 

The dossier of photographs selected by Casals shows an aesthetic of violence, a consequence of the national contingency. Architectural styles disappear, as does that signature design that has long championed contemporary Chilean architecture. We only recognize the geometries of a silent architecture. We return to an anonymous architecture, not to the one promoted by Bernard Rudofsky, but rather one that protects itself from citizen discontent, covering the surface of its facades with fragments of the cheapest material possible. A hectic architecture, which distances itself from the inhabitant, one that closes itself; a hermetic architecture.

Source: Pablo Casals Aguirre

Figure 4 

What was initially only recognized as a succession of silent facades, led to a democratic canvas prompting the urge to communicate.

Source: Pablo Casals Aguirre

Figura 5 

The new facades have given space to the literature of the anonymous demonstration, articulated by the hasty calligraphic messages made with spray, ink or carved with metal pieces. There is no time for graffiti’s virtuosities. The new facades serve as an extensive Wailing Wall that portrays the current social situation in the country.

Source: Pablo Casals Aguirre

Figure 6 

Source: Pablo Casals Aguirre

Figure 7 


Pablo Casals Aguirre. Architect, UNAB (2006). He currently focuses his professional practice around photography, audiovisual production and academia. Within his photographic and audiovisual work, Blanca montaña / contemporary Chilean architecture stands out, in which he produced audiovisual pieces about renowned Chilean architects. He has exhibited his work at the Venezia Biennale, the Milano Trienale, the MoMa NY, and at the Aedes Gallery in Berlin, among other such events. He has received the Prize for Best Landscaping Short Film at the 5th Budapest Architecture Film Days, at the 5th Winnipeg Architecture and Design Film Festival, Canada, and at the Paris Photo Fair. He currently teaches at the Architecture School of the Universidad de Talca and at the Universidad Mayor.


José Luis Uribe Ortiz. Architect, Universidad de Talca. Master in Theory and Practice of the Architecture Project, ETSAB UPC (Spain). He is the author of Talca, cuestión de educación (Editorial Arquine, 2013), which received the IX Ibero-American Biennial of Architecture and Urbanism prize to the best architecture publication (Argentina, 2014), and the DAM Architectural Book Awards (Germany, 2014). He co-curated A contracorriente, Chile’s pavilion at the XV Venezia Biennale 2016. He is currently a professor at the School of Architecture of the Universidad de Talca.

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