Previous Calls for Papers
Issue #13: "The Traces of the Ephemeral"
(Scheduled for publication in December 2019)
«Modernity is this inconstant element, the ephemeral, the fugitive, the contingent, the half of art whose other half is eternal and immutable»
“Modernity”, in The Painter of Modern Life (1863)
In his presentation of modernity, Baudelaire conceives the imperishable beauty associated with monuments in parallel with the ephemeral beauty of the city of the industrial age. Despite the passing of time―and although ephemeral architecture has always accompanied lasting and ‘permanent’ architecture―the truth is that conventional architectural and urbanism historiography still fails to pay enough attention to the former, relegating it to a lesser position.
However, major research is being conducted into the nature, role and traces of the ephemeral in the fields of architecture, urbanism and cultural studies. Evidently, we refer not only to the ‘physical’ footprints of temporary constructions but also to the intangible legacies that remain in the cultural landscape and in the social imaginary, our architecture and our cities.
One of the traditional aspirations of architecture and urbanism is that of timelessness, permanence, the obsession with eternity (Aaron Betsky). However, it is also true that good architecture, both cultured and popular, is one that has known how to adapt to its time, to understand what in German is defined as Zeitgeist, the ‘spirit of time’. Ephemeral architecture has always been a reflection of its historical context: from Antiquity, passing through Baroque or Modernity, to the present. Much has been written about ‘occasional’ architecture associated with public celebrations, religious acts, political or cinematographic scenographies, festivals, temporary markets, nomadic housing, emergency architecture in the context of natural disasters, war conflicts, etc. The field of the ephemeral goes, however, even further, particularly regarding the proliferation of provisional architectures, from those associated with the great events of modernity―such as the Olympic Games, International Exhibitions or football championships―to those that deal with cultural capitals and other events (John Gold). Many of these architectures can become permanent, although it is often difficult to distinguish between those that were planned as ephemeral containers and those designed with the will to remain. In a way, the difference between temporary and permanent structures is, increasingly, only a matter of time (Robert Kronenburg). Therefore, it seems reasonable to question the nature and quality of the ephemeral in history, at present and―why not―in the future of our cities.
It is commonplace to counter the architecture of the ‘ordinary city’ (lasting) with that of the ‘extraordinary city’ (ephemeral) that manifests itself through large or small events. It can also be argued that it is precisely what happens in that city of exceptional moments that makes urban life vital (Schuster). Celebrations or events of all kinds allow us to experience other forms of architecture and urbanism that often become paradigms of each historical and cultural moment, as is the case of the Serpentine Pavilions in London.
Some of the best examples of architecture and urbanism have been associated with temporary events. The Olympic Games and International Exhibitions are probably the best known. There are many exhibition pavilions that have become key pieces in the history of architecture, such as Bruno Taut’s Glass Pavilion in Cologne (1914), Le Corbusier’s L’Esprit Nouveau in Paris (1925) or the German Pavilion in Barcelona by Mies van der Rohe (1929), including Patio & Pavilion by Alison and Peter Smithson (1956), the Philips Pavilion by Le Corbusier in Brussels (1958) or the Spanish Pavilion in New York by Javier Carvajal (1964), or more contemporary ones such as the Portuguese Pavilion in Lisbon by Álvaro Siza (1998), the Swiss Pavilion in Hannover by Peter Zumthor (2000) or the Blur Building in Neuchâtel by Diller & Scofidio (2002), to name but a few.
Exhibition pavilions have very unique features that allow them to turn their apparent fragility into strength. Their ephemeral nature, their great programmatic freedom and their origin in architectural competitions are opportunities that favour their understanding as true architectural and urban laboratories. Many of these events respond to strategies that promote and catalyse large-scale operations in the host cities. The impact of projects linked to Olympic events and international exhibitions is demonstrated; the urban transformations of Paris cannot be understood without taking into account the impact of its successive exhibitions, as well as the impact they had in consolidating the cultural centres of London, the opening up to the sea in Barcelona in 1992 or the mutations associated with Seville Expo that same year, in Lisbon in 1998 or Zaragoza in 2008 (Expo Cities - Urban Change, BIE 2018). The planning strategies of the urban pieces made up of the exhibition sets and the sports and cultural facilities correspond to visions and paradigms of the international urban culture of the moment―not only as a ‘reflection’ or a mechanical translation of the principles of each historical period, but as forerunners of what comes next (Stephen Ward). Whilst it is true that there is also a proliferation of what Daniel Boorstin calls the ‘pseudo-events’―created and structured by the media in the face of ‘spontaneous’ events, ‘festival markets’, etc―these are ‘less authentic’ proposals that deal with competition strategies between cities associated with globalisation (David Harvey).
Alejandro de la Sota said that the legacy of modern architecture is not so much that of physical footprints as that of ideas. This statement is, undoubtedly, extendable beyond the limits of modernity. The current issue of ZARCH, which is entitled “The traces of the ephemeral”, aims to collect those traces crystallized in ideas, vindicating their ability to conquer the physical reality of the architectural or urban fact and transcend time, moving beyond the immediacy of their existence and achieving immortality among future generations.
Many questions are open to reflection and can be included in this issue 13 of ZARCH. All of them should favour a broader debate to understand the value and potential of the ephemeral, as well as the nature of temporary events and their ability to produce relevant and lasting changes in the architecture and urban shapes of our cities.
Javier Monclús, Enrique Jerez
Issue #12: "The Learning of Architecture"
Published in June 2019
From a general point of view, the learning and teaching processes of architecture do not differ from other professions and disciplines. As in any educational dynamic, learning basically takes place in two stages: perception and understanding. During the first stage, we receive a certain idea, phenomenon or reality. The second stage encompasses all the mechanisms through which we not only receive certain information, but also assimilate and retain it, and we are then able to apply it in new circumstances and under different premises; that is, we are capable of being creative. Perception can occur through experiences or via abstract concepts (feeling versus thinking), and understanding, through a practical action or by reflecting on it (acting versus reflecting). The curricular content of any of the study programmes that lead to the University Degree in Architecture includes numerous training activities and educational methodologies that are precisely a response to these processes, regardless of the specific subject matter.
Nevertheless, it is worth asking whether teaching and learning are comparable activities. Those who teach follow a systematic procedural model that is prepared in advance to direct and channel the learning of knowledge and skills. However, those who learn do so in both an explicit and implicit way. They learn the ‘what’ (contents), but also the ‘how’ (attitudes). They select, evaluate and relate in an unexpected and even random way. Therefore, in all learning processes strategic issues combine with capricious issues and reasonable issues with autobiographical ones. Consequently, in schools, these two activities—learning and teaching—should be present and coexist so that those who wish to teach can use the drive and the desire of those who wish to learn, and vice versa. Therefore, all subjects, but especially architecture and urban planning workshops, should be spaces for cooperation. They should follow collective work—where teachers guide—resolve queries and open up horizons. However, students take the initiative and offer solutions to be opened up for discussion. The objective is, therefore, inclusive, cross-cutting and cooperative learning, in which students take on an active role, both in the search for responses and in the production of knowledge.
In any case, this should not prevent us from warning that, in the specific field of architecture and urban planning, their multidisciplinary nature and the high professional attributes—and criminal liabilities—of professionals who work in the field entail greater complexity in learning environments. As the American lecturer and historian Joan Ockman has stated, schools of architecture have undergone a major transformation since the beginning of the 21st century. Globalisation, digital technology, the social and political role of architects, environmental responsibility and an educational economy that is increasingly market-driven are some of the strong forces that are transforming schools. Questions raised by global urbanisation, economic instability and growing awareness of the environmental crisis have stimulated a reconsideration concerning the design methodologies and the potential of multidisciplinary and collaborative work. Research projects such as Spatial Agency, by the lecturers and architects Jeremy Till and Tatjana Schneider, have specifically shown the numerous and experimental collective ways, both past and present, in which professionals and/or academics work in the profession. Specifically, three of the most used concepts by participants at the Spanish pavilion of the 2018 Venice Biennale (curated by Atxu Amann), focused on new learning environments, are: experimental, social and collaborative approaches.
For all these reasons, the International Union of Architects (IUA-UNESCO) states that the education of architects represents one of the greatest challenges for the built environment and its environmental, heritage and cultural balance. Universities and educational centres bear the responsibility for improving the theoretical and practical training of future professionals so that they can meet the expectations of 21st-century societies. Therefore, teaching and learning methods must be diverse, so that they can improve cultural richness and make it possible to ensure study programmes are more flexible in order to respond to the demands and requirements of clients, users, the construction industry and the profession itself, remaining alert concerning the political and financial motivations that cause these changes. That is the reason why debate, reflection and research into these matters by the most varied educational environments should be promoted, including both academic and professional environments and disciplinary environments and those on the periphery of education.
In this context, the objective is to provide students with the knowledge, instruments and skills required to work in the profession—in its numerous and varied branches—beyond project architects or builders. The objective is also to find an educational approach that will define architectural and urban planning problems and opportunities and make them explicit. Therefore, we seek an exercise of the profession that is capable of referring to its disciplinary roots and own forms, but it also owns the ability to transform society and collectively improve our inhabited environment. It is, therefore, necessary to combine many artistic and scientific disciplines that come together in the design and construction of the physical environment at all its levels: from the land and the landscape, to cities, buildings and all the elements that make up the private space of our homes.
This issue of ZARCH attempts to study these and other thoughts on education in architecture, using the sixth Workshop on Educational Innovation in Architecture (JIDA, for its acronym in Spanish) at the School of Engineering and Architecture of the University of Zaragoza, at a time when the establishment of the university degree in Architecture is celebrating its 10th anniversary. Also, it is now 50 years since the “May ‘68” movement, which was the driving force for major changes in university structures in the 1960s and 1970s. On the occasion of these anniversaries, the JIDA workshops are covering the issue of teaching in emerging Spanish centres, and this monograph forms part of this, from a more global view of the education of the architect. The intention is to bring together researchers who will carry out research into the changing role of the architect and its educational implications. The aim is that they will study the importance and presence that great teaching traditions still have today, after emerging from the Beaux-Arts – Bauhaus dichotomy that found its greatest antithesis in the radical practices and activists of the 1960s, as has been shown in recent years by the Radical Pedagogies project by Beatriz Colomina. The final aim is that these and other questions will be included in the modern role of teachers and students, and that the dynamics inside and outside the classroom will be included in the teaching of architecture.
The aim of all the above is to provide new points of view regarding questions related to both the near future of the profession and how future architects will be educated—and will educate themselves. As the lecturer and former Dean of Columbia University (Graduate School of Architecture, Planning and Preservation), Mark Wigley, said: “A good school fosters a way of thinking that draws on everything that is known in order to jump energetically into the unknown”. Josep Quetglas said something similar, when stating that: “Teaching should be out-of-date: teaching a profession as it is no longer practised, and teaching it as it has yet to be practised. This is the price of making professionals taught this way capable of adapting and defining their role to suit any circumstance, no matter how changeable or unexpected”. Teaching, therefore, should be extemporaneous and cutting edge at the same time. It should not instruct, but educate. It is not about informing; it is about broadening knowledge and preparing students intellectually, morally and professionally. The market demands instant profitability, applicability and efficiency: teaching demands patience and large doses of utopian thought, so that, based on this, professionals can respond to these demands.
Berta Bardí i Milà, Daniel García-Escudero, Carlos Labarta
Issue #11: "Primitive Architectural Anatomies"
Published in December 2018
On 29th January 1927 Walter Benjamin was wandering along Shabolovka Street in Moscow looking for his beloved Asha. During his search he came across a new radio station tower. He wrote down the discovery in his Moscow Diary which he described as a very different structure to any he previously knew. That anatomy of metal bars sewn into the skyline of the Russian capital was the tower designed by the engineer Vladimir Shukov.
Today, in our time of architecture resolved using skins and enclosures, we propose a journey back in time to discover that architecture with its visible anatomy. Anatomy that aims to give origin to a place. These are architectural structures that recover the Hegelian concept of a primitive anatomy. This primitivism appeals to the most basic and essential side of architecture, making the structure a revelation of the site it occupies. A structure that aspires to an order that gives rise to its occupation as a site. An order that has taken a journey from modernity where hierarchy was given to space, and contemporaneity which appears to reject that kind of hierarchy.
For our atlas of anatomies, we are seeking structures that were built and also those that never became more than drawings. We are interested in the radiographic visibility of anatomy that Mies dreamed about for the first skyscrapers in Berlin and his towers on 848 in front of the lake in Chicago. The anatomy that Kahn also wanted to make dance in the wind in the middle of Philadelphia, or the one lighting up Kimbell museum. The table on which Ishigami sleeps or the constellation of white pillars describing the room of a university laboratory. We praise structures whose entrails are evident in the expression of their occupation, and structures that are installed as exoskeletons on the outside of the building. If Paxton made a wire structure the inside of a glass palace, Foster gave shape to the Gherkin thanks to a diagonal mesh anatomy in London itself. Our aim is therefore to find out which architectural anatomies have become the visible soul of new sites that architects and unknown engineers dreamed about, and which we do not want to forget now. All of them converted the technical novelty into the primitive anatomy of a new world and structure into true architecture.
After the unexpected architectural discovery, the German philosopher found his beloved again.
Javier Pérez Herras, Eduardo Delgado Orusco