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Cianchetta, Alessandra; Molteni, Enrico. Álvaro Siza. Casas 1954-2004 (Barcelona: Gustavo Gil, 2004). Page 9

What the Truth Hides

Nueva tienda de Apple en el Eaton Centre de Toronto, Canadá y tienda ML Informática en la calle Misericordia, Granada

New Apple Store at the Eaton Centre in Toronto, Canada, and the ML Informática store in Calle Misericordia, Granada, Spain.

Out walking the other day, I came across an IT store with an entrance flanked by piles of computer components. I couldn’t help going to the owner, Francisco, and congratulating him on the store. He told me his wife complained every day about the untidiness, but it was something he couldn’t change because it was part of his work process: he needed to have all those heaped up objects at hand.

It reminded me of my childhood, when I used to take old computers to pieces with my father at home and replace parts with different ones, filling the living room with bits and pieces under my mother’s disapproving eye.

I felt as if I’d travelled back in time because today’s computer stores, in line with very common present-day tendencies based on a specific commercial criterium and on the high price of articles ,have adopted a minimalistic look both in their spatial design and in the small number of items they have on display.

This is negative in terms of what users get to see of how things are manufactured and repaired. There’s a complete disconnection from how things actually work. Articles disappear behind a screen when they break and reappear repaired or substituted by new ones in spotless white boxes.

When Álvaro Siza presents his idea of a house, he describes how each of its component elements or each object inside it works, and how they wear out through usage and the passage of time:

“The idea I have of a house is that of a complicated machine in which something goes wrong every day: a light bulb, a tap, a drain, a lock, a hinge, a plug… and then the water heater, the stove, the fridge, the television or the video; the washing machine, or the fuses, the curtain rod springs, the safety lock. Drawers get stuck, and tears appear in carpets and in the upholstery of the sofa in the living room. Shirts, socks, sheets, handkerchiefs, napkins, tablecloths and dish cloths lie torn next to the ironing board, and the protective covering of the board itself is in a terrible state. There is also water dripping from the ceiling (the neighbour’s pipes burst, or a roofing tile breaks, or the lining peels off). And the guttering is full of dry leaves, the coping is loose or rotting.”1

Perhaps present-day society has a tendency to identify beauty mainly with things that are kept brand new. It’s an impossible delusion in which things can’t be touched because they’ll get dirty and objects are replaced instead of repaired – something highly unsustainable in terms both of its environmental impact and the value of the passage of time in architecture.

In The Banquet, Plato explains that beauty is the splendour of truth. That may be the beauty that Siza longed to find in his house: a truth that doesn’t hide how things work or get worn out by usage over time. Attention to processes, to what is truly authentic, makes it possible to work with numerous parameters conducive to interventions that are coherent with the place to which they belong, with the activity being carried out there, and with time – or, more specifically, the passage pf time.

In the computer store in Calle Misericordia,  partly hidden behind a tangle of black cables, there was a sign. It read:

“Design isn’t only what you see and feel. Design is how it works.”

Strangely enough, those are the words of Steve Jobs.

Text translated by Andrew V. Taylor
Notas de página

Cianchetta, Alessandra; Molteni, Enrico. Álvaro Siza. Casas 1954-2004 (Barcelona: Gustavo Gil, 2004). Page 9

Arquitecto por la Universidad de Granada desde 2009 y Máster en Proyectos Arquitectónicos Avanzados por Universidad Politécnica de Madrid desde 2012. Estableció el estudio de arquitectura Serrano + Baquero junto a Paloma Baquero en 2010, desarrollando proyectos de diversas escalas.

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