Sunday, August 1

Rethinking (oneself) as an architect | Blog From the shooter to the city

Josep Llinás He begins his lectures many times talking about a mistake that, for decades, took away his sleep and made him feel guilty. He perpetrated it as soon as he could, that is, in his first project: the house that he built for his parents on the beach of Sa Tuna in Begur, very close to Barcelona. In that house there were many successes: the building closed to the street and opened to the garden. It took up only a tenth of the lot and was topped by an elegant pergola that was extended to convert the porch into a dining room. But… Llinás wanted the best for his first building (or to build his reputation?) And he made a mistake: he wanted to get closer to the Mies van der Rohe that he had admired than to the Mediterranean that he knew and had not (yet) been able to see. That is why he used a large glass cloth that heated the house inclemently during the summer and cooled it in winter. Years later, as a mature architect, he took responsibility for his mistake. And he didn’t just admit it. He fixed it.

House in Begur (Barcelona), by Pep Llinás.
House in Begur (Barcelona), by Pep Llinás.

As well Arturo Franco —Who could almost be Llinás’s son— he explains in the book Unprejudiced (Arquia) several of the mistakes he has made as an architect. So much projecting: his first project was a table-shaped house on the edge of a cliff that flew six meters on each side of the supports (one of the sides fell and has not made a cantilever again). As if thinking: “I felt devotion to Van der Rohe, ‘my architect my hero’, until now that I have lived longer and in more places I find it more uncomfortable. Can you imagine someone walking in a tracksuit through the Neue National Gallery? “

Interior of the House in Begur (Barcelona), by Pep Llinás.
Interior of the House in Begur (Barcelona), by Pep Llinás.

Admitting mistakes is a sign of self-criticism, and therefore of intelligence, but it is by no means an antidote that prevents you from continuing to commit them. Let’s take this last opinion about Mies van der Rohe: Does a building impose a dress? Isn’t it who visits the building who decides how to enter it? If something is clear in Franco’s book, it is his effort to communicate his rebirth, his new vision of architecture. And that is valuable. However, the road that remains for him – that remains for all of us – to travel until we are effectively free from prejudice is long. Franco, who describes his book as “a pocket memory to consult in times of extreme need” has actually written some notes about walking around the house. In them he describes how the bravery of a boy — himself — emerges when he decided to wear a T-shirt that read Transportes Galiport among friends dressed in Levi’s, Nike or Lacoste. That kid now tells “naked, raw”, while writing “this open grave book” (sic) that his classes consisted “of learning from others while trying to find yourself as an architect.” Whereas now, as a teacher, he considers it necessary to “get on the scaffolding and handle a camera.” That, I am afraid, may also be prejudice. The best teachers cast doubt, transmit knowledge (not doctrine) and leave you wondering, not convinced. If the scaffolding and the camera is a metaphor for leaving the house, even that would be prejudice. Borges found the world in a library. Those who get rid of prejudices have an easier time avoiding recovering them, but for this they must bear in mind that the new ones will be different from the previous ones.

Rethink (if) as an architect

Thus, like Llinás, Franco has the decency to explain how mistakes woke him up. Also the generosity of collecting the knowledge of others:

“The main thing is to start working and then, in any case, talk about it.” (Coderch). “We need hundreds of architects to think less about Architecture with capital letters and more about the office of architect. Let them work with their feet tied so that they cannot go too far from the land in which they have roots ”(Coderch and Donato).

And the lucidity of knowing how to write down his own: “Materials are like people, there comes a time when they get tired of doing the same.”

Finally, the architect displays the courage to run the risk of being wrong: “The regulations on climate comfort, energy efficiency, ecological footprint, accessibility or quality will end us, it will end up suffocating the individual.”

Pavilion 8B of Matadero Madrid, the work of Arturo Franco.
Pavilion 8B of Matadero Madrid, the work of Arturo Franco.

In one of the many descriptions he makes of the 76-page book itself, he defines it as “a little tailor’s drawer that has come out of the closet.” And that is what these texts are that do not form a book: they are the disordered notes (also the writings have their rules and a succession of sentences does not form a text) of a type that has dared to doubt. They are the proof of how the writer has become a convert from the doubt that he longs to communicate as a new revelation.

Arturo Franco is presented here as an architect who recognized the value of his teachers and as a teacher who tries to convey his doubts to his students. He does it without losing enthusiasm. That is why we must be careful: it is precisely enthusiasm that can generate new prejudices in the face of what does not coincide with what, in this second opportunity, has been learned to value. Only an enthusiasm – romantic or unconscious – can lead someone to write “How difficult is it to behave as the townspeople behave?” As if in the villages there was not everything. Or it can lead to advice: “Look for the ugly side of things, the rear, there you will find beauty.” Be careful with finding the scare.

It is rigorous to recognize that to this innocent or unconscious romanticism, Franco adds self-criticism: “Most of today’s teachers do not have a solid professional career and we speak in a confused, rhetorical, cloying way.” And it proves to free itself of many prejudices when it loads the final message of the book with that of Paradise cinema, a Tornatore film as emotional as it is tearful: “Whatever you do, love it.”

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