The Year 9177, More or Less

Illustration: still from the film Tiempo Después

The whole world has been devastated by unbelievable catastrophes and only one building remains standing, occupied by a handful of lucky survivors.

Like the sufferings of those last remnants of humanity, the building is monstrous. It comprises two structures amputated from Madrid, Spain, miles away in the remote twentieth century, and implanted in an Arizonesque moonscape. The two pieces of architecture in question are Torres Blancas (“White Towers”) by Sáenz de Oiza, which is still in pretty good shape, and the Corona de Espinas (the “Crown of Thorns”) by Higueras and Miró, which has separated into two parts: one at the foot of the tower and the other, the thorns, at the top, now acting literally as a crown and (who would have thought it, after so many centuries) living up to the unfortunate nickname the building was given some seven thousand two hundred years ago (more or less).

No. Those two architectural masterpieces can’t have just exploded, flown through the air to the other side of the world and miraculously fallen together in that position. Don’t give me that. Just over seven thousand years have passed and somebody, somewhere along the line, must have made this scheming, twisted copy of them.

A destitute human being, persona non grata in that questionable paradise, examines it through a pair of binoculars. And at that moment, his eyes become our eyes, and we’re able to contemplate that rare marvel of a dirty, grey, phallic form sticking up from the rocky, arid terrain.

Even the sky, with its faded, off-white sheen, is dismal.

Of all the buildings in the world, the only one left is this one. Of the city around it, there isn’t a trace. It’s an artefact, just standing there, providing a false sense of security and at the same time serving as a grim prison for the people locked up in it.

The terraces of the Torres Blancas, which Oiza envisaged so beautiful, fresh, green and perfumed, look rough and dusty, and the crown… Ah, no. Look again. The bottom part is complete, and includes the crown. The thing at the top is a kind of clone version of the crown. So there are really two crowns.

The geometry is impossible and yet, strangely enough, the combination works very well. Higueras’ building was an infallible, definitive circular matrix, structured like a sea urchin. In contrast, Oiza’s is an irregular, unpredictable, fanciful jumble. The binoculars reveal an unusual organic-numeric phenomenon with a rigid, spontaneously generated base (Higueras used to joke that he was such a lazy designer that in this building he’d only actually designed one section and the rest had fallen into place on its own). The base anchors a mutating, sculpted shaft, a nervy, rethought, reinforced, contradicted, shaken, thrashed out, chewed up (despite Oiza’s legendary toothache) stem crafted anxiously and avidly, corrected a thousand times – and eventually enhanced at the top with the crown, the roulette wheel, the circle of life or hell.

That building, home of the few privileged humans remaining in 9177 (more or less), stands as a goal, an oasis, a promise, but also as an unerring affirmation of architecture’s eternal punishment: “Humans, you are going to die. And you are going to die for having built this, for having built me”.

Here, though, in this secluded sanctum in which I’m writing these words, we are all fascinated by this aggressive, impossible image, this tender, beautiful icon of genius and incomprehensible harmony. Here, we reflect a lot on that artificial, projected beauty which mirrors the spirit and the freedom of its creators and thus renders the divine accessible to the senses. Here, despite the logical breakdown of compact doctrines, we’re very Hegelian. Because today, seeking the truth forces us to systematically deconstruct theory, OK? And accuracy resides in the inflexibility with which we perform that deconstruction.

In short, that’s how things are. You know what I mean.

Soy arquitecto desde 1985, y desde entonces vengo ejerciendo la profesión liberal. Arquitecto “con los pies en el suelo” y con mucha obra “normal” y “sensata” a sus espaldas. Además de la arquitectura me entusiasma la literatura. Acabo de publicar un libro, Necrotectónicas, que consta de veintitrés relatos sobre las muertes de veintitrés arquitectos ilustres.

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