— Building and Planning

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November, 2016 Monthly archive

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Surveying is the link between what is socially valuable and what is materially possible. These survey documents are my study of a farmhouse in Zhejiang’s Wencun Village, which is also the site of Wang Shu’s most recent village renovation. In this case the roof was deemed structurally beyond repair, but the sequence of courtyards that it served in a small block became integral to the design phase. Even if the roof is removed as a structure, its construction techniques and spatial characteristics can be retained in the renovation.

 

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Women at work in Evora, Portugal. In the background, Alvaro Siza’s social housing project was under construction in 1978.

Siza’s building project for low-income housing residents who could no longer afford the city center has clear social and practical considerations. This image of the building under construction, with local women at work in the foreground, is a part of that social project. Rather than see them (building or resident) as complete subjects, we see only the details of their relationship. In 1979, Siza wrote,

Most of my works were never published; some of the things I did were only carried out in part, others were profoundly changed or destroyed. That’s only to be expected. An architectonic proposition whose aim is to go deep . . . a proposition that in- tends to be more than a passive materialization, refuses to reduce that same reality, analyzing each of its aspects, one by one; that proposition can’t find support in a fixed image, can’t follow a linear evolution. . . . Each design must catch, with the utmost rigor, a precise moment of the flittering image, in all its shades, and the better you can recognize that flittering quality of reality, the clearer your design will be. . . .That may be the reason why only marginal works (a quiet dwell- ing, a holiday house miles away) have been kept as they were originally designed. But something re- mains. Pieces are kept here and there, inside ourselves, perhaps fathered by someone, leaving marks on space and people, melting into a process of total transformation.

This image and project have both been powerful for me for a long time. It seems fitting to share it now given the current political situation.

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