Time in Architecture

“Dyslexic Facade”, Corpo Atelier, 2020

The idea of time is intrinsic to architecture.

Firstly, because time doesn’t exist in architecture: the need for shelter and the need to organize space came into being simultaneously with the appearance of human beings and their relationship with land.

Secondly, because thinking about and understanding architecture necessarily requires time, making a spatiotemporal comprehension of reality imperative. And also because in the act of creating architecture – from the commissioning of a project to the idea, design, authorisation and building of a house –  there’s always plenty of time to be continually questioning the project, even though you can never afford to waste time.

The haste and urgency so typical of today’s architecture, which is of course always in a race against time and therefore requires standardised solutions that are often unthinkingly adopted regardless of site-specific circumstances, are inevitably antithetical to the passing of time; that is to say, to the idea of process, research and maturation that emanates from a more accommodating attitude to the specificity which seems to endow our discipline with meaning. The moment for thinking and the moment for doing are therefore two times within one single architectural process which don’t always seem to go hand-in-hand.

Nevertheless, architecture is always an expression of its time, even when imitating times gone by and revealing a nostalgic vision of the world (as, for example in the different varieties of so-called “neo-architecture”).

Strangely enough, and unlike the timeless buildings that fill our memories – those now known as monuments, which usually vigorously and readily succumb to ageing with a veneer and charm made possible only by the passing of the years, the present-day buildings destined to be of interest to the archaeologists of tomorrow will be made of more modern materials, materials designed to passively withstand and show no sign of the ravages of time.

At the same time, both the overrating of a period as manifested in the current tendency to freeze cities in the past and the recognition only of its contemporaneity in a timeframe circumscribed to financial hubs (i.e., a sectorised interpretation of the city) seem to contradict the city’s (timeless?) nature as a living organism which spontaneously accommodates the simultaneous coexistence of different contemporaneities.

How much time will have to pass before architecture starts doing that? Only time will tell.

Text translated by Andrew V. Taylor
Fundadora do atelier Andreia Garcia Architectural Affairs, tem-se especializado na disseminação da arquitetura através da prática curatorial. Doutorada pela FAUL, recebeu o Prémio Professor Manuel Tainha. É cofundadora da Galeria de Arquitectura.

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