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1

Dubos, René: The Mirage of Health: Utopia, Progress, and Biological Change. New York: Harper & Row Publishers. 1959.

2

Idem

Health

AALTO FOUNDATION_Alvar Aalto, Noiseless Washbasins, 1932.

“Solving the problems of illness is not the same as creating health and happiness. This task requires a kind of wisdom and vision that transcends specialized knowledge of remedies and treatments and apprehends, in all its intricacies and subtleties, the relationship between living beings and their whole environment. Health and happiness are expressions of how an individual responds and adapts to the challenges facing them in daily life.”1

In April 2020, in the Experimental Projects Seminar at the Architecture Faculty of the University of Applied Sciences in Frankfurt, I invited students to reflect on the changes infectious diseases can bring about in architecture.

It is a well-known fact that over the last few months, and in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, numerous teachers and students from architecture schools all over the world have been making use of their skills to work as “manufacturers” of masks and face protectors in support of #OperationPPE. Industry has been quick to react to the emergency, while still maintaining its capacity to keep working on the important issues of what principles, criteria and tools can be used to continue to design our environment.

Although designing an element may be a very sophisticated task, taking into account the rules and regulations of industry, the Experimental Projects Seminar focussed on addressing, on different scales, the problem of what health is and what things can be considered healthy, the ultimate aim being to think about simple, basic systems for improving common domestic health-related habits, from facilitating the washing and disinfection of circulating people and objects to designing simple, efficient improvements in healthiness at an urban level.

To understand the different ways the 2020 pandemic is going to affect humanity, it is necessary to acknowledge how medical considerations have up until now determined architectural design, from cities to ideas for common items of furniture. Architect Beatriz Colomina has carried out in-depth research into how factors like the impact of medical discourse and image technology shaped the architecture of the 20th century. In her recent book X-Ray Architecture, she explains how architects presented their buildings as a kind of medical instrument for protecting and improving body and mind. Colomina’s research and work method will therefore constitute a point of reference for study over the year. From another perspective, she also suggests that much of the development of modern architecture is attributable to experimental designs influenced by medical obsessions of the modern era such as tuberculosis and its main diagnostic tool: X rays.

For students doing the Master’s Degree in Advanced Architecture at the Frankfurt University of Applied Sciences, this design workshop has laid the foundations for a much-needed method of researching and corroborating information in a collaborative, transdisciplinary manner. The specificity of this shared online training has gradually led to the design of a private domestic system, an experimental design for a space that acts as an interface between the exterior and interior of the house, where not only can people and objects be disinfected as required but which can also always play a role as an intermediate space demarcating our health safety zone, midway between the individual and the collective, between the public and private domains.

The use of existing architectural elements and components to build, modify, improve, and study their original functions invites academic work based not only on invention but also on ingenuity. To optimise the design of an artifact, the number of different materials and the quantities of the materials used should be as low as possible. Following the idea of Alison & Peter Smithson, the project proposal invites reflection on “using what it is” and using “as found”. “Relaxed technology” architecture lacking in rhetoric provides unprejudiced suggestions in which the main objective is naturalness. Its creation also involves certain participative and manual assembly skills.

“Clearly, health and disease cannot be defined merely in terms of anatomical, physiological, or mental attributes. Their real measure is the ability of the individual to function in a manner acceptable to himself and to the group of which he is a part.”2


Text translated by Andrew V. Taylor
Notas de página
1

Dubos, René: The Mirage of Health: Utopia, Progress, and Biological Change. New York: Harper & Row Publishers. 1959.

2

Idem

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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