Last February 6th took place at Columbia University the first of a conference series organized by Juan Herreros, named: “Transgress: Blurring Boundaries in Architecture”, proposing for this occasion a conversation with the artist Tomás Saraceno.
The aim of this series of conversations is to explore the current boundaries of the Architecture and propose new ones, from the academic to the practice, with experiences from people no exclusively related but familiar with it.
I found the premise very compelling, and I would like to analyze the meaning of “blurring boundaries” through topics treated at the conference, but getting to a more extended view.
Tomás Saraceno is an Argentinean artist who studied Architecture in Buenos Aires University. Previous to the conversation with Juan Herreros, he showed examples of his current work, as the study of the 3d formation of Spider webs, and the installation “On Space Time Foam”, currently displayed at the Hangar Biocca in Milan, Italy.
Both installations show different sides of Saraceno’s preoccupations on social interaction issues, with roots in the Architectural field, as shown in his treatment of three-dimensional space.
Personally, I found the studies on the spider web structure quite obsessive and over-demanding in resources for the result achieved, since he used high technology equipment from MIT University in order to create an installation. On the other hand, the way in which he treats space, material and social interaction in the installation built in Hangar Biocca in Milan, achieves with much less resources a more interesting reading on the way in which the user may be able to interact with its built environment.
The inflatable structure that changes depending on the pressure that the user makes on it, changing completely the relation user-structure of the rest of the people using it at the same time is a successful experiment from which the Architecture field could extract interesting and useful concepts.
Going further than the work explained by Saraceno at the conference, interesting by itself and with some connections with Architecture, I would like to make a reflection on the name of the conference, since I have my doubts on where should we blur the boundaries, if in the profession or in the professionals.
I rather would say that the boundaries in the profession should be pushed instead of blur. Find new formulas on how to carry on an Architecture practice nowadays.
In that matter, another conference held in Columbia on February 1st named “Score: The Barclays Center Arena and Other Non-Controversial Projects by SHoP Architects” by Gregg Pascuarelli presented a stronger proposal on how to work in pushing the boundaries of the profession. As their website states “use technology to build practice, see practice as technology”. In this case, Architecture stays clear as a profession, but the Architect blurs the limits of his traditional tasks and tools.
The same happens in the everyday more common Architecture Collectives. A formula which I undoubtedly support proposing the disappearance of the individual, of the ego, to perform a work more plural and more social, based on the needs of the users. The Architect become a group, changes its structure and methodologies.
Both approaches represent the current search for re-definition that Architecture is going through, both represented by a generation of young architects experimenting in exhibition spaces, building art installations, incorporating new technologies in project management, involving more people in every phase of a project… But I consider more interesting, more committed, more concern with the actual problem the efforts on changing the traditional role of the architect, more than the effort in blurring Architecture with other disciplines.