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Architecture(s): Whole(s) and(or) Fragmentation?

Collage as a Path Between Incorporating Time and Enlivening Space

In architecture I think the creative process is more important than the end product. The journey has priority over the destination and the architect sets out on that journey long before “the customer” even appears, consciously or unconsciously embarking on an endless quest which is physically sustained thanks to built works in the real world. It’s in the imaginary world, however, where the laws governing the creative dimension ebb and flow. The architect starts out with isolated, scattered fragments, tirelessly seeking out the space that holds them, collecting them and keeping them inside himself for someone later to pick up. He leaves marks in space and in people, signs that sleep in the unconscious and sometimes awaken as memories.

“I simply wanted
to collect spaces:
all the spaces I travelled,
all the spaces I visited,
all the spaces I experienced.
But nothing remains of them in me.
I wanted to collect them,
literally and in one piece, in my memory.
But I only collect part of them,
objects…”
(excerpt from personal writings, part of a poem, April 2018)

One often presumes to focus on a whole, a whole which requires a rigid, fixed position in space, without acknowledging the importance of the part as an element that contextualises us in time and makes space flow. As in painting, where a picture’s significance goes beyond its physical existence, a building too has its own history and context.
The architect becomes a “decoder” of the fragmentary world, an eclectic connoisseur of the culture surrounding him. In each work he sees a chart referencing other works, like a patchwork blanket made up of material and intangible elements. He himself becomes part of the cycle, perceiving through fragments and using those fragments to build. The fragments might almost be seen as objects to be studied, multiplied, handled, placed side by side, like the pieces in a puzzle that only make sense when joined together and put in the right place. They coexist and keep space in harmony with the context of which they form part: they are like indispensable tools, little elements we find all around us produced by the decomposition of life and of time.

Solà Morales, in fact, defends an architecture that’s midway between space and time, proposing the replacement of firmness by fluidity as a way of achieving a less rigid, immovable definition of space capable of endowing time with physical form.

In this, he reminds me of Enric Miralles, an architect obsessed with fragments, most of whose work incorporates the idea of an atomised architecture free from the constraints of any aggregatory interpretation. Miralles’ architecture is based on studying the part instead of the whole, using photomontages , scrap views of materials and shadows instead of diagrams and drawings. As an approach based on combining partial images, montage, in particular, makes it possible to incorporate time and at the same time “personify” space by giving it human properties such as the capacity to arouse emotions and appeal to the senses of those moving through it.

Collages can illustrate split seconds in a project; they are snapshots which condense the fleeting moments that are conveyed when a space is being experienced. Why can’t we see them as spatial models that respond to the passage of time? They make us question and forget conventional ways of representing reality, and they synthesise simultaneous drawings, grouping together multiple different visions of a single moment. Collage allows us to focus our thought on a place, but in a vague, deformed, “deformable” manner. It’s something manoeuvrable, a way of stabilising a reality that will always be ephemeral.

“Gregory and Shinro on the train to Japan”, David Hockney, 1983

Collage Centro Social de Hostalets, Barcelona, Enric Miralles, 1992


Text translated by Andrew V. Taylor
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(Figueira da Foz, 1996) Estudante na Faculdade de Arquitetura do Porto (desde 2014), com um percurso escolar dividido entre a arte, ciência e literatura, a arquitetura surge como a síntese dos três mundos. A palavra manifesta-se enquanto processo criativo, tal como o desenho em Álvaro Siza.

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