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Appropriacy and Inappropriacy in Uruguayan Architecture

It’s interesting, or at least challenging, to consider architectural output as being based on inappropriacy, on not belonging.

Architecture in Uruguay encapsulates the construction of a tradition based on an open culture critically receptive to contemporary international ideas as a basis for proposals which seek to provide singular, specific solutions to local circumstances.

In this light, it’s possible to review part of the architecture produced in Uruguay over the last century and discover a whole architectural culture shaped by the notion of not belonging to a specific spatial/temporal context. That is the aim of Uruguayan Architecture of the 20th and 21st Centuries, an exhibition organised as a tribute to Uruguay as the guest country at the Bienal de Arquitectura Latinoamericana (2019) at the University of Pamplona.

Consequentially to this deliberation over belonging/non-belonging, appropriacy/inappropriacy, the abundant, sophisticated architectural initiatives carried out in Uruguay and so often criticised within that country for their perceived lack of formal national or identarian values have made some remarkable contributions to critical appropriation and innovation, both in architectural production and in work and training systems.

One unique, outstanding training tradition in Uruguayan architecture is the study trip around the world which all Uruguayan architecture students have made each year since 1944 to observe and analyse at first hand the architecture they study in the classroom. The experience is mainly financed by the annual construction of student-designed houses following a call for proposals, a form of direct transfer from the academic world to the urban environment.

Another highly significant tradition is the contribution of the cooperative housing system to the social construction of habitat and to design and building innovation. The initiatives implemented by the Centro Cooperativista del Uruguay since 1966 have allowed Uruguay to create one of the most efficient and socially balanced housing access, management and construction systems in Latin America. They have been a true laboratory of alternative urban building types, new applied techniques and new forms of professional practice, resulting in numerous examples of quality architecture (see some of the buildings in the city of Montevideo, for instance).

All this illustrates a prolific architectural activity occupying the middle ground between appropriacy and inappropriacy, the result of an ongoing, more or less discreet, context in which it has been possible to cultivate advanced social, political and cultural scenarios for the different periods the city has experienced during the course of its history.

In this architectural task, the need to critically and moderately adopt, adapt, innovate and invent constitutes a priceless heritage.


Marta Pelegrín + Fernando Pérez Blanco

Text translated by Andrew V. Taylor
Co-fundadora del Estudio de Arquitectura MEDIOMUNDO Arquitectos y jurado en la VII Edición Arquia/Próxima 2018-2019, representante de la zona sur. Doctora arquitecta (ETSA Sevilla) y profesora de proyectos arquitectónicos desde 2007 en la misma escuela. Es coordinadora y profesora de Cátedra Blanca Sevilla, desde 2007.

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