Houses and owners
A photographic study by Karla Read
Water DeliveryA short film by Carlo Reyes
About GALERÍAS. An extinct specie in the dominican spatial fauna.
Yuri Leonardo, architect, visual artist. 2014
At the very beginning of human existence, there were females that gave birth to other females with the moon and the water (the sea) as the only others participants of the act of human reproduction. Since there were only females, the word male or males didn’t exist; there were no need of this (genre) distinction. There were only people.
These people, the Clefts, who are believed to have evolved from creatures of the sea, lived in caves facing the only seashore they knew. They had never left this place that they considered home. The Clefts fished their food, swam a great portion of the day and, every now and then, coordinated by the translation of the moon, gave birth to other Clefts. This way of life went on without significant changes until the first male was born. These first males, considered Monsters, whose bodies were different from those of the Clefts, were left at the top of the cliff to be eaten by the eagles that lived in the mountains. Somehow, these Monsters, which were not eaten by the eagles, survived and built their habitat in the valley across the mountain, by the river.
Even after Clefts and Monsters began to mate, the two people lived separately. The females rested in their caves by the seashore, bathed in the sea and fished their food; the males built shelters from trees in the valley, hunted their food and learned the advantages, in terms of survival, of inhabiting the treetops. Thus, the cliff, the caves and the sea were home to the females in the same way that the valley, the shelters and the river were home to the males. This version of the origins of the human race is the centre of The Cleft (2007), a novel written by Doris Lessing (1).
I find interesting the logic behind Lessing’s designation of caves and shelters to females and males, respectively, as the first two forms of humans’ dwellings. It wouldn’t be farfetched to conclude that these first typologies were born as products of their surroundings and not simple choices in the nature of aesthetics. I would say that they were choices almost entirely given by their natural surroundings. Almost. Caves and shelters are two different habitats that respond, not only to two contrasting environments, but also to the inner nature of two different personalities, two different individuals.
It is not the purpose of this article to induce that caves are to females what (man- built) shelters are to males, but to understand what is the relationship between these first typologies and the nature of certain spatial configurations that have existed in the Dominican Republic and in the Caribbean until this day, without ignoring what history tells us about the social relationships between males and females. Caves and Shelters, in the Dominican Republic, are related as much to natural environment as to the historical evolution of women in the dominican society.
Gretel Franke invited Tropical Ghosts and her past and present neighbors to a lovely evening at her house, a small oasis in the middle of the dense Polígono Central.
Photographs by Karla Read and Máximo del Castillo
Neighbours. Day five
Centre for the Aesthetic Revolution
Pablo León de la Barra (México)
Photo: Fabian Marti’s ‘Two Hotel’
There’s no more centre. The centre is everywhere. You are the centre. The centre is happening in the place where you are located. Create your own centre.
In the XVI century, Italian monk and philosopher Giordano Bruno affirmed “In the Universe, no centre and no circumference exist, but the centre is everywhere… Each world has its centre”, because of this he was burned by the inquisition. In another line of thought, at the beginning of the XXI century French philosopher Jacques Rancier concluded “There exists a specific sensory experience—the aesthetic—that holds the promise of both a new world of Art and a new life for individuals and the community.” Rancier relates this thought to an affirmation Shiller makes at the end of the fifteenth of his ‘Letters on the Aesthetic Education of Mankind’ where he declares that “Man is only completely human when he plays”. Following both this arguments, The Centre for the Aesthetic Revolution, regains playfulness as an aesthetic tool for revolution, and contests the prevalence of hegemonic centres of aesthetic control (New York, London, Berlin, etc), and their media vehicles (Frieze, Artforum, etc), in order to create a much more complex network of relationships, people, artists, exhibition and thought that goes beyond the traditional filters of artistic validation and beyond limiting regional and national representations, but also against international homogenization in an attempt to localize singularities and differences. The Centre for the Aesthetic Revolution is a blog, a travelogue, a diary of impressions, a history of recent exhibitions happening elsewhere beyond the official centres, a network that connects similar sensibilities.
Michelle Gratacós Arril (Puerto Rico)
Photo: Revista Area, Spring 2014. Puerto Rico
Espacio Común, recalls issues of gathering and common space, and architecture symbolic of socialist order and made little use of in the capitalist-ridden Island of Puerto Rico. The objective of this project is to induce a sense of shared ownership and responsibility towards the maintenance and upkeep of this historical building amongst the inhabitants and users of the space, and with that, feelings of self-determination.
Espacio Común, in an effort to reach it’s goal, has ideated “Adopta una silla”– an economic system that supports the restoration of rescued chairs and the fabrication of new chairs based on the original design of the chairs and cushionings. The chairs that are being rescued are typical designs that in the 50’s inhabited most balconies on the Island of Puerto Rico.
Buró de Intervenciones Públicas –BIP-
Stefan Benchoam and Christian Ochaita (Guatemala)
The Buró de Intervenciones Públicas (BIP) is a collaborative project by Stefan Benchoam and Christian Ochaita that originated as a direct response to the lack of public spaces and infrastructures for recreation and socialization in Guatemala City, Guatemala. Their work incorporates various elements of architecture, art, design, and urbanism, hoping to modify the way in which citizens relate with the open spaces of their cities.
Their projects encourage the use of public spaces through playful elements and unusual occurrences, to critically address the widespread criminalisation of citizens basic rights to gather in the public space during Guatemala’s violent civil war (which officially lasted thirty six years).
Additionally, BIP’s interventions can be read as Situationist gestures that generate reflection and debate about their city, and are often times developed through their collaboration with other artists, collectives and people in general. Each one is presented as a viable solution to the lack of initiative from the municipal and central government agencies.
Ignacio Mallol, Ramón Zafrani y Johann Wolfschoon (Panamá)
Photo: Pilar Echezarreta Installation, Mundo Minúsculo, Espacio Junta.
JUNTA is a platform that intends to generate dialogue, interaction
and confrontation of ideas through exhibition, talks, workshops and events
that compliment architectural, cultural and social heritage.
We focus on an innovative approach towards architecture, art and design.
We look to expand awareness, as well as to drive the development
of contemporary architectural discourse.
JUNTA aims to be an active and permanent channel of communication
that promotes the engagement of professionals, students, organizations, educational entities, artists and community members.
We are a public space open to thought, expression and discussion.
Neighbours. Day four
Marlon de Azambuja (Brasil)
Brutalism is an exercise in architectural thinking. Firstly, all the
elements used are temporarily suspended by industrial instrumentation
and are so because construction is not only matter at rest. When one
builds, one lifts a house, raises a building. Then the building
materials used are exposed as they are, without metaphors, without
finding them a role beyond their own presence and nakedness, because
ultimately this work seeks to deal with that, to carry out, in the
most radical and poetic way, the idea of brutalism. Accepting the
nature of materials and lifting a city.
Jessica Kairé and Stefan Benchoam (Guatemala)
NuMu (Nuevo Museo de Arte Contemporáneo) is Guatemala’s first Contemporary Art Museum, located in Guatemala City. Its physical space measures approximately 2 x 2.5 meters and has the shape of an egg as it was originally designed as an egg selling kiosk. It exhibits four shows per season, all of which are complemented by educational activities, and is open to the public 24 hours, 365 days a year and free to the public. NuMu is a project co-founded and co-directed by Jessica Kairé and Stefan Benchoam.
Darién Montañez (Panamá)
Shopping malls have completely usurped the role of public space in Panama City, and now you go to the mall to stroll and socialize and eat and go to the movies, always within the unchanging, secure confines of these climate-controlled spaces. This video illustrates and documents, like an anthropological study, the life of the inhabitants of the fancy section of the largest shopping mall in all of the Western Hemisphere: Panama’s Albrook Mall. Here, the shoppers move as in a trance, loaded with the paraphernalia of bags and cellphones, afloat in an endless sea of white. It is a study in contrasts: mortal and ephemeral subjects tread on the most permanent of materials—marble—within the most permanent of institutions—shopping.
La Vía Histórica
Edgardo Larregui (Puerto Rico)
Illuminated lineal drawing of the old railroad tracks of the train. 252 colored bulbs draw lines representing the railroad tracks of the no longer existent train on the Island of Puerto Rico. In the early days of industrialization on the island, the workshop station for the trains occupied the same terrain where these two apartment towers are now found, For this reason, the name of the neighborhood is “Trastalleres” or “behind the workshops”. This is the same neighborhood where my grandparents raised my father and his three siblings, where the Puerto Rican singer, Andy Montañez, grew up, as well as other musicians, athletes and people worthy of admiration.
Tribute to the pioneer of this type of art and technology Frank J. Malina and inspired by the “enlightened” Dan Flavin, Bruce Nauman, Mario Merz, Mauritius Nannuchi, James Turrell, Olafur Elliasson, Gozalez Felix Torrez.
Neighbours. Day Three
Tree House – Casa Club
Radamés Juni Figueroa (Puerto Rico)
Tree House – Casa Club – was a project developed for the Residency Program La Practica at Beta Local by Radamés “Juni” Figueroa. Figueroa is a Puerto Rican artist who developed a “collage” or architectural assembly made of the site’s timber (El Bosque Auxiliar, Naguabo), as well as materials collected in the city of San Juan. Among the materials employed were wood of various types, glass windows, tropical windows, zinc and plastic roofing, and other discarded materials found throughout the city. With these myriad objects, Radamés Juni built a structure in the forest that serves as a haven to relax, enjoy the scenery, partake of live music and even meditate. Juni Figueroa’s initial idea was to create a space to get away from the city and he thus ventured into the tropical forest […] The Grand Opening of the Club House was held last June 8, 2013. It was a sunny day full of magic and the intensity of the forest. A BBQ was held, craft beer was available and two rock and roll local bands performed – Las Ardillas and Reanimadores. As it began getting dark, fireflies emerged and were joined by psychedelic sounds introduced into the forest by Joelito el de Magueyes. The recent opening marked the beginning of a series of events and exhibitions that will be organized by Radamés “Juni” Figueroa in the Tree House – Casa Club.
16kg to Bend a Tree
Felippe Moraes (Brasil)
(…)The works shown here by Felippe Moraes seem to deal with this centimetre of breath, or in other words, they speak about the invisible abyss between numbers and their fake reliability.
(…) Felippe Moraes uses the technical reproducibility to make considerations about the relations of geometry and the physical space. The object that excavates today is the same one that will be discarded tomorrow; the body that is active and that gives names to units of measurement is the same that shall be conditioned to a coffin, in other words, a wooden quadrilateral. Geometry surrounds us and in it we shall be enclosed.
(…)Is it possible to bend a tree? Would we have the same doubt if this question was to be directed towards the buildings in the back of the photographic image of 16kg to bend a tree (2012)?
Celeste Olalquiaga (Venezuela)
Photo: Roads Exhibition, MoMA, 1961
Independent initiative which aims to culturally evaluate “El Helicoide de la Roca Tarpeya”, its structure, history and memory, through a series of exhibitions, publications and educational activities for 2014.
Conceived and directed by cultural historian Celeste Olalquiaga, Proyecto Helicoide brings together a multidisciplinary team of historians, architects, museum curators, artists and communicators including Maria Fernanda Jaua, Lisa Blackmore, Fabiola Arroyo, Mónica Santander and LuisRa Bergolla, among others.
Its goal is to produce a critical appreciation of this icon of modernity from different artistic, documentary and testimonial records from a multidisciplinary perspective. These records will form part of a more comprehensive evaluation about the complexities and contradictions of the modern process in which this building and its ups and downs are registered, both continental and worldwide.
Neighbours. Day Two
Ricardo Alcaide (Venezuela)
Living and working in Sao Paulo for the last years, after more than a decade in London, and previously in my hometown Caracas is an experience that still informs my practice and has been strongly influenced by architects like Gio Ponti, Carlos Raul Villanueva and Lina Bo Bardi, for example, who projected a great spirit of forward thinking and an extraordinary sense of aesthetics, -something that I cannot avoid to express myself. Latin-American architecture, or even generally speaking, is not only as a reference for my work but also as a way of living, a day by day personal exchange that affects the way I think, I function and interact with the world.
The work for his current solo show in Miami at Alejandra Von Hartz proposes a dialogue between all these concerns -the balance between formal aesthetics of modernism and the utopian impossibility- captured within the combination of found objects and the abstraction out from them, as in the Settlements installation, a construction built out of found disposed objects, next to a display of a small group of bronze sculptures of crushed cardboard boxes and other rejected material. Excerpt from his current exhibition, Displacement: The act of displacing, or the state of being displaced; a putting out of place.
Stefan Paul Sauter (Costa Rica)
For years, the main mechanism used to advance the architectural discourse has been the manifiesto. However, due to the disappearance of a heroic image of the architect heightened by the global crisis of 2008 and the infinity of information provided by contemporary media, postulating a manifiesto proves to be a challenge for new generations. How then does a new generation of architects advance the discourse when the manifesto has lost its power? The noun “monster ” comes from monstrare, (to show) and monere (to warn). Just like manifestos, monsters mark the boundaries of cultural value. Beyond fascinating, frightening and attracting our attention, the importance of the monster as manifesto is used metaphorically to give explanation to the unknown and to establish a controversial shout to advance a social or moral point of view.
This research is not intended to demonstrate that a monstrous architecture exists but instead it is aimed at the generation of an alternative vocabulary that can reveal relationships in architecture not previously considered. If monsters are postulated as a reverse reflection of the cultural values of the time, the current fears in this tropical city have much to do with the disappearance of public space and the simplified solution to the problem of urban insecurity with razor wire, electric fences and steel mesh. Rather than speaking in defense of architecture, the city of San José speaks of an architecture of defense.
María Constanza Carvajal, Diego Cortés, María José Jaña,
Fernando Portal, Pedro Sepúlveda (Chile)
Photo: Proyecto Pregunta.Presentación de preguntas, Bilbao 511
Mil M2 (one thousand square meters) is an interdisciplinary team focused on the temporary use of empty infrastructure in Santiago de Chile. We seek to activate communities and territories through the collective generation of content.
Proyecto Pendiente is our second temporary use project. After the demolition of our first space – a Centre for Civic Engagement and Innovation – Proyecto Pendiente involves the refurbishing and programming of a site specific gallery in the upper plateau of Teatro Italia, a formerly social cinema built in 1934. This proyect will bring new uses to this space, between October 2014 and January 2017.
Neighbours. Day One
Donna Conlon y Jonathan Harker (Panamá)
Historical architecture in Panama City is not appreciated, and is usually replaced with shopping malls and high-rise condominiums. Development for development’s sake seems to be a process that, once set into motion, cannot be stopped, like a chain reaction of dominoes toppling. One exception to this phenomenon has been the Casco Antiguo, the old quarter district located on a small peninsula in the Bay of Panama that has been protected as a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 2003.
Its World Heritage Site status is now in jeopardy because of the construction of a government sanctioned multi-million dollar marine viaduct around the peninsula. In its frenzy to tear down and re-build everything for a quick buck, the government even tore up the old cobblestone streets only to re-pave them with new, inferior bricks. In Domino Effect, Conlon and Harker create a domino-like chain reaction through the neighborhood’s streets. The dominoes themselves are the discarded antique colonial era bricks that were ironically used as landfill material in other parts of the city. As in previous collaborations, this video results in a pointed and poetic social criticism.
Faraway Brother Style
Walterio Iraheta (El Salvador)
The photographic series Faraway Brother Style by Walterio Iraheta parodies the international publications by Taschen concerning architecture entitled New York Style, London Style or Paris Style, focusing on the emigrant architectural style in El Salvador: Faraway Brother Style. The term “hermano lejano” [faraway brother] refers to a friend or relative who emigrated from El Salvador, generally to the United States, and who sends back money that helps the family finances of the Salvadorians. Iraheta resorts to a photographic series to identify certain recurrent patterns in this new style. He calls attention to substantial changes in the architecture of rural zones, where amongst modest houses there now begin to sprout “small-scale castles or palaces” of various floors. Built in an eclectic form that freely blends columns, decorative elements, colors, arches and ceramics of classic, baroque and kitsch style; or even the North American style of the shingled roof sloped for snow, transplanted into the hot climate of El Salvador. Iraheta’s series identifies the way of life of the Salvadoran emigrant as a particular style in its own right, like that of one of a metropolis; approaching the concept of style more in terms of a way of life than frivolous and arbitrary connotations of elegance or good taste. Text by Alfons Hug and Paz Guevara, 54 Venice Biennale curators.
La Perla Bowl
Chemi Rosado Seijo (Puerto Rico)
In 2006, La Perla Bowl, a Skateboarding Bowl and actual pool on the weekends was completed. Done in collaboration with Roberto ‘Boly’ Cortés, a veteran skateboarder since 1976, in teamwork with the neighbors from La Perla community, and with the help of skaters, surfers and people from around the island of Puerto Rico. The bowl was handmade and collaboratively built in front of the Atlantic Ocean on reclaimed land, outside the Old San Juan walls, like the community where it stands. The La Perla Bowl has gained international recognition through skateboarding magazines and ads, including a billboard In New York City Times Square.