Written by Roberto Andrés and published on the journal of the Graduate School of Design at USP (University of Sao Paulo) in June 2009, the following text builds a keensighted critique on the possible theoretical and practical repercussions of the interventions presented in the book Collateral Spaces (see also the post above Collateral Spaces – bilingual website).
Even more collateral
Collateral Spaces compiles architectural practices conducted in Minas Gerais in the last decade, all of them outside the mainstream production of formal buildings. The book is part of a project that involved the organization of a public seminar, conducting exposure at popular places of Belo Horizonte and the publishing and distribution of newspapers and information cards. If these events turned to the local public, emphatically seeking a rapprochement with the working classes, the launch of the book is to broaden the scope of discussion of the project, allowing architects, teachers and students around the country know a little of experiences (some very significant) that the book brings.
Those “architectural experiences” as they point to an expansion of their common sense go beyond what is taught in schools and what is done in the vast majority of architecture firms. Artistic actions and proposals for using residual spaces, such as vacant lots, abandoned houses on stilts, parking and shoals of flyovers; architectural interference in slums; furniture design without drawing from existing objects and, development of methodologies for participatory projects; propositions operations urban qualification, are all, architectural experiments in the sense that change the area of human life in culture.
By knowing each of the practices, it becomes clear to the reader how narrow the profession of the architect is. This reader, astonished by the obviousness of the work, wonders: if there are vacant lots, empty parking lots at night, and desert shoals, why are they not occupied? If there are abandoned stilts, why do not we turn them into theatres, homes, galleries, and restaurants? If so many people want to build their place in the world, why meeting only the interests of a restricted group? If we inhabit cities full of contradictions and possibilities, isn’t it essential to approach them theoretically and practically? Why is the work of the architect restricted to the design of buildings for a small group, if the construction of the cultural environment we inhabit is determined by several other actions?
This questioner reader sees the Collateral Spaces as something at the same time obvious and unusual, obvious for their simplicity and effectiveness, and unusual for the radical enlargement of the field of action of the architect. As there has been a long time that the architectural activity has been eliminating several possible actions to focus on the drawing of buildings, at best of the cases like residences and institutional buildings, architects are the ones who solve authorial problems, passively responding for other people’s economical and domestic problems. In the mainstream construction, the only thing left to the architects is the choice of sizes and colours of the ceramics, if the shape of the balconies should be curved, straight, diagonal, and especially the production of necessary documents for the legal procedures. This dispatcher-architect, as named by Frederico Mourão, has very little influence in the transformation process of the human environment. Cities are built and un-built by the action of many actors, such as builders, politicians, entrepreneurs, technocrats, and those ones who might be more apt to act in this transformation takes the passive role of “problem solvers” / dispatchers.
To interfere with the construction of the environment we live in, to change its architecture, we must go far beyond the unimaginative place to which the profession was limited. The practices present in Collateral Spaces point in many ways to this horizon of possibilities.