Izaskun Chinchilla, Carlos Jimenez Cenamor, Helen&Hard
"There are no small issues. Issues that appear small are large issues that are not understood." Santiago RAMÓN Y CAJAL, Advices for a Young Investigator We were told modernization aspired to improve the well fare state. Paradoxically, following several authors remarks, we could presume that what it has in fact produced is a rise of vulnerability. According, for example, to Giddens, since we have reached the 'End of Nature' and the 'End of Tradition', we are no longer in a time of 'External Risk' but now we live in a time of 'Manufactured Risk', our environmental worries are no longer about what nature might do to us, but what we are doing to nature. Technification pushed us to hold to the illusion that humans are invulnerable, with our magnificent creations, our cities and our technologies. This resulting system allows economic privilege and the short-sightedness of the economic sphere to overwhelm the ecological and social realities in which we all live. Many threats, such as asbestos, smoking, and poverty, have remained unnoticed or unattended to, especially for architects, despite being as dangerous as threats which receive publicity and action.
The twentieth century has not brought vulnerability to the core of the architectural community in a technical sense. Weakness and fragility were not desirable structural conditions in a tradition in which FIRMITAS was an undeniable requirement for buildings. Being able to deal with, what in other times would have been considered weak and fragile materials, is now a technical task even distinguishing good architecture from mere construction: "anyone can build using a lot of material… taking weight away from things, however, teaches you to make the shape of structures to do the work, to understand the limits of strength of components and to replace rigidity with flexibility…".
Modernity, and most of the design process used in architectural schools and practices, does not include a sensibility of vulnerability. It might be true than modernity included some goals that seemed close or sympathetic to vulnerable realities but, even in those cases, there were conceptual frontiers that avoided a real familiarity with vulnerability. A first group of difficulties came from the fact that the main goal of modernization was to make the world Modern in a homogenous and synchronic way that has never been achieved.
When you find a whole profession is high jacked by the impossible fantasy of the attainment of modern goals, is good to know that others agree that, in fact, "We have never been modern". In this referential book, Bruno Latour argues modernity established a dualistic distinction between Nature and Society. Part of the lasting-for-ever condition of Modernism could come from this dualistic perception that, again in accordance with Latour, has in fact never describe reality accurately. Again and again we can think about radical goals for nature and society that will never been achieved since these two entities do not exist individually. Vulnerability is fabricated in the meanwhile process.
Our brief will focus on how the protection of vulnerable realities can be a task for contemporary architecture as long as architects change some design habits. Some of these changes follow:
-We will measure the quality of architecture by its ability to represent the interest and programs of others.
-We will abandon anthropocentrism rejecting human activities as more important than natural events.
-We will accept and include the legitimacy of different aesthetical repertoires. Tenderness, Closeness, Affection has not been part of the architects’ official aesthetics but will be part of the “structure of feelings” that our projects will promote.
-We will include the ecological limits and dependence of everything we design.
-We want the student to learn to build clues from observing, participating and experimenting. Knowledge coming from sharing the future performance of our architecture will be postulated as much more reliable than that deducted from theoretical propositions.
Bathrooms, stairs, kitchens and other rooms considered to be service spaces will now be fundamental. In the same way all architecture will deserve our interest not matter how small, peripheral or academically irrelevant seem at first glance.
-We will consider any waste or small part of already used materials as candidates to create new components for our architecture.
-We won´t avoid break, mistake or error. On the contrary, we will look for creating breakable conditions that not only can be relevant academically, but can ensure reversibility or that stimulate adaptation and change.
Piano, R (1997) Renzo Piano Logbook, p 253