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1

“La Belleza Cautiva. Pequeños tesoros del Museo del Prado” (“Captive Beauty. Little Treasures in the  Museo del Prado”), Museo Nacional del Prado, Obra Social la Caixa, 2014, p. 191

2

A good reminder of how excess and incidents have affected the attributes of architecture, cities and land can be found in the Atributos Urbanos project, an initiative aimed at providing a much-needed identification of change as a means of counterbalancing scenarios like Koolhaas’s generic city.

3

Of the profuse amount of literature available on this issue, I recommend the work of philosophers Marina Garcés and Santiago López Petit.

Turning Point II

In 1786, Francisco de Goya gave King Charles III of Spain a preliminary sketch which has since become known as “The Drunken Bricklayer” or “The Drunken Mason”. It was a cartoon for one of the tapestry paintings depicting day-to-day life that were going to be hung in the “conversation room”, or dining room, at the Royal Palace of El Pardo in Madrid. The sketch showed a construction worker held up by two colleagues. All the characters had roguish smiles on their faces, and some scaffolding could be seen in the background. Years later, however, Goya proposed a different picture for the same room in the palace. This time it was an oil painting called “The Wounded Bricklayer”, in which the figure being held up was obviously injured and the characters’ mischievous expressions were replaced by ones of preoccupation.

The thematic change in these two cartoons by Goya has never been explained, and the question remains:  could it have been that the first scene was too indecorous, or even sordid, for the aristocratic inhabitants of the place where it was to be displayed? Or might the two works be, as others have postulated, a historical protest about the social, cultural, and labour predicament of construction workers at that time1?

Looking at the two images, the question arises of whether Goya—that intellectual giant whose thoughts were immortalised on canvas, copper plate and double-sided paper—might have been depicting not only two scenes of day-to-day activity, a celebration and an affliction, but something more: a timeless invitation to reflect on whether the nature of change may, as in professional architectural practice, be put down to excess or to specific incidents2.

From the architectural and urban planning perspective, it has been abundantly argued and proven that the over-exploitation of natural and human resources generates imbalance and inequalities which weaken the scaffolding in the background (which, incidentally, also appears jaded in Goya’s picture). And we are quick to recognise incidents that illustrate the biological and political vulnerability of the human condition3, the appearance of which, like that of the two bricklayers holding up their companion, changes with the circumstances. Apprehensive despite having structured our whole lifestyle around prevention and precaution, we have now taught ourselves to cyclically recognise states of crisis and progress, increasingly more global simplifications which make it easy to identify causes and reasons and justify both their consequences and the measures implemented to address them.

But Goya’s scene ignores possible precedents and future solutions and simply shows the facts.  Perhaps that is the biggest lesson these two works hold for us: they show us the facts and invite us to stop and think carefully about the situation we are in right now, here, today. They also make it perfectly clear that it is essentially collaboration, mutual cooperation, that always provides balance, albeit precarious, in an undertaking, that helps it along, so that we can move on to another, as yet unpainted, scene.


Text translated by Andrew V.Taylor

 

Notas de página
1

“La Belleza Cautiva. Pequeños tesoros del Museo del Prado” (“Captive Beauty. Little Treasures in the  Museo del Prado”), Museo Nacional del Prado, Obra Social la Caixa, 2014, p. 191

2

A good reminder of how excess and incidents have affected the attributes of architecture, cities and land can be found in the Atributos Urbanos project, an initiative aimed at providing a much-needed identification of change as a means of counterbalancing scenarios like Koolhaas’s generic city.

3

Of the profuse amount of literature available on this issue, I recommend the work of philosophers Marina Garcés and Santiago López Petit.

Autor:
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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