Between Words and Spaces
Omar Campos Rivera @ Universidad Nacional de Colombia
“This meaning does not lie in it but outside of it”
These architectural experiments use literature as the origin of the project through the transcription of three short stories: ‘Luvina’ by Juan Rulfo, ‘The secret miracle’ and ‘The circular ruins’ both by Jorge Luis Borges to develop a landscape identity and the extension of the funeral area of a zone in Bogotá.
The goal is to develop a method where architecture doesn’t come from within the discipline and where perception and concept are dealt with simultaneously.
What prompted this new approach? How has it affected how you think of architecture?
I consider the architectural autonomy line of thought quite restrictive, even though I believe that the discipline is not only about its external factors, thus I wanted to explore a way to consider a teorethical approach that allows to think the discipline from outside its scope, questioning where these autonomy really starts, and at the same time give room to a methodology that brings concept and perception simultaneously to the project.
This type of approach changes the way you relate to a project as you have to ‘forget’ the way you design because it’s necessary to follow a completely different process and in the meanwhile discern which facts are actually architectural and which ones are not. Thus one need to understand the project beyond architecture and see it in a more interdisciplinar way, which is really interesting because it opens many design possibilities. In this particular case was literature but I belive that if someone tries it with any other displine (say biology, political sciences, sociology etc) the outcome will be something that can feedback the way we understand architecture.
By the time I had the dissertation I realized that a quote from one of the short stories defined the project as a whole “The purpose that guided him wasn’t impossible but unnatural. He wanted to dream a man: he wanted to dream him with miticoulous integrity and impose it to reality. That magical project took the entire space of his soul; if someone had asked him his own name or any other feature of his previous life he wouldn’t have been able to answer.” (The circular ruins – J.L. Borges).
What dictated the selection of the chosen narratives?
The idea was to find narratives that relate closely to the theme of death, relation life-dead, presented an idea of landscape (because of the programme), but also have a intense relation between concept-perception without falling into the cliches that could lead to a figurative representation.
Of course a lot of narratives met those criteria but it was necesary that I had enough knowledge of them to be able to manage the very chalelnging transition between disciplines, thus I selected the ones that I felt I knew in extent to work with.
How were these used and translated into architecture?
After I made literary analysis to the short stories, I started to try to depict the narratives in a non literal way, avoiding things as graffic novels that would be to obvious, minding not only the structural features but also aspects related to the perception of it (the emotions, the sensations, etc) things that in literature are hard to separate. These documents (collages, diagrams, distorted views) are suposed to be a mid point between literature and architecture and to be tools to be adapted in an architectural project context.
What defined the various drawings through which you explore this speculation, how does each stand in relation to another?
As the stories were quite different (mainly Rulfo’s in realtion to Borges’es) I didn’t try to set the same treatment to all, thus the transition documents tend to be very different among themselves, only minding that it was an inquiry requirement that they bring as much of the conceptual as from the perception of the narratives. They start to establish a relation among them with the project drawings that are not only the representation of the project but of the narratives as well.
How important was texture and materiality?
Very, as I stated before to find a relation concept-perception was a research aim and texture and materiality are fundamental parts of the perception of a project, in that way the transcription involved thinking on how the story could be felt in an haptical way.
What prompted the format of the drawing? Did you ever think of exploring diverse mediums as maybe animation / image book etc?
I tried from the beggining to focus on a medium that could lead me towards an architectural representation as the final result was a project, otherwise the transition would have been more complicated because it would have envolved another discipline (as cinema for instance) to the transcription, distorting even more the limits of each one and making harder to identify which elements are really inputs to an architectural project.