I firmly believe that architecture can make the world a better place. As architects, we have the responsibility to tackle today’s environmental, social and economic challenges, by designing inspiring and emotional spaces that could influence people to improve the world. We must take care of the places where we design, as a mother with her kids, trying to rediscover a sense of place that we derive from the uniqueness of each setting, be it natural or cultural. We must respect and learn from nature, history, and technology; this way we will protect cultures, preserve nature and guarantee a distant future to generations and species.
ON SPACE, PLACE, AND LANDSCAPE
I’ve always been interested in the relationship between man and the environment. Soon, I understood that architecture is a medium between the two. My first theoretical projects - which I called 'archi-textures' - were based on understanding the bond between man and space, a primal topic for Architecture. I’ve learned that space is an abstract frame of reference used by man to exert control over the physical reality, transcending the analysis of particular places. So, space is a sort of filter, a mediatory conceptual entity between man and place. After widening my learning about space, I turned my attention to the related concept of place, passing from a knowledge hinged on the functioning of man’s environmental perception, physiology, and psychology, to a knowledge hinging on anthropological, social, and geographical interactions between men and places. I’ve learned that place is where inorganic, biological, social and symbolic evolving processes show themselves. Thereafter, my interest in the concept of place extended to the concept of landscape. This further step implies a paradigm shift from a man-centred relation to the environment to a bio-centric vision, where all of the organisms and the related physical environment are important, since they are mutually dependent. This also means a shift towards a global systemic vision, being conscious that only positive coevolution of natural and cultural systems can significantly affect the way we will design our future.
ARCHITECTURE: SPACE, PLACE, AND MATTER
Space and place, before than matter, are the main tools of expression for an architect. Matter for architecture is like mould, or a container: it serves to give shape to space, which is an abstract and impalpable medium; but it also serves to modify places and their ambience - the spirit of place, which is another elusive concept. So architecture mainly proceeds by indirection: it acts on matter, which is concrete, to give shape to space and modify the spirit of a place, which are both ephemeral. While space is generally designed to be cut out for human needs only, place also regards the environment and all of its processes. An important corollary follows: the concept of place is complementary to space. Together they square the circle of reality, in between body and mind. One concrete, the other abstract.
Architecture creates spaces and modifies places for dwelling.
UNVEILING THE CHARACTER OF PLACES
The sense of a place is what I’m interested in, whenever I start a project. Through architecture, I want to unveil the intimate bond between the culture of people and their unique environment. To begin with, it is a thorough operation of uncovering physical, chemical, biological and ecological levels of reality, respectively. How was the physical setting created? Why that morphology? Which basic geological, hydrological and meteorological processes occurred to create or modify that place? When did the first vegetal forms appear? How did they influence the distribution of animals? How many changes occurred in the natural habitat before the human colonization? Then, social and cultural layers begin to appear: when the first settlements in that place? Which are the main historical events that allowed the community to flourish? Which kind of economies evolved? Which are the habits and customs of those people? Which are the main cultural events, celebrations, festivals, and happenings? Is that place spatially organized to support all of the physicochemical, biological, social and cultural processes that continually occur? Or is the existing man-made spatial organization an obstacle for any or some of those processes? How can we improve or integrate those conditions through architecture and planning? These are the kind of questions that an architect should answer in order to thoroughly deal with place, understood as a complex system of processes.