The ill-termed collectives
“(…) Despite political and technical changes, are today’s groups any different than those of yesteryear? Back then we also worked twelve hours a day, seven days a week, it was hard for us to break into the profession, and we made up for our inexperience with our enthusiasm. (…)” Luis Fernández-Galiano. Necessary Collectives. Arquitectura Viva. Num. 145. Spanish Collectives.
Once a design professor said “If you can’t find a single, obvious term for what you are doing, it may be a bad sign”. I think that professor is right.
For lack of another broader yet concise term, the term “collectives” covers a broad, heterogeneous phenomenon. Over the last few years, both stubborn reality and the structural crisis have consolidated Collective Architecture and fostered the appearance of many different types of such groups. Research work in 2012 accounted, in Madrid alone, for more than fifty persons and groups tied to ‘collectives’, 60% of which do not identify with the term. The obvious link was, and is, the affinity and desire to work in architecture from a different perspective.
Defining and accurately depicting this is complex. With the exception of Lys Villalba’s very judicious and felicitous Map of Spanish collectives (put together with in-depth knowledge; otherwise it would be unviable), paper editions, because of their linearity and the reliance on pictures that traditional architecture magazines have succumbed to, are limited when it comes to describing the work of so-called collectives, which is far more complex and less visual than what coated paper had us accustomed to. Only the Internet seems to be somewhat able to withstand the complexity of initiatives, relations, interests and the results they are generating.
Schools of Architecture have taught us to erect, from a blank sheet of paper, what it was we could imagine. Those who apply this literally have found their goal to be the publication of their shells. Yet those who were able to interpret have generated novel designs that introduce different orders. New structures appear after an education based on the solemnity of walls and the hierarchy of the portico system. They are solicited differently and sustain an alternative mindset, different types of building (even those falling outside the scope of legislation in force), with ingenious new solutions for introducing light, always so necessary in architecture.
Today, professionals, approaches and aspirations are all radically different from their counterparts thirty years ago. If there is anything that is being built, it is formulae to confront the present.
Let’s look for new terms, or revise the meanings of the old. Now is the time for redefinition, not gloominess.
Links of interest:
Recetas Urbanas, de Santiago Cirugeda
Map of Spanish collectives, done by Lys Villalba.
Colectivos y más. Research done by Ignacio Ramiro, Verónica Sánchez. Directed by José Juan Barba (now being published).