Arquitectura Viva
Wednesday, October 28, 2020

Architectures for Life

Eduardo Prieto

If all had gone well, saying that architecture involves creating spaces for life would not be a platitude, but things happen differently. The discipline has preferred forms to atmospheres, exact geometries to diffuse limits, programs to uncertainties, and the exceptions are few. Fernando Quesada has devoted much his academic career to fishing some, reliving them in their historical context, but with the hidden aim of making them models of an architecture that, paraphrasing Nietzsche, he sometimes calls ‘from becoming,’ and which, in tune with certain trends in art and the philosophy of language, at other times he prefers to describe as ‘performative’: an architecture whose substance is the lived-in space built spontaneously by bodies, not that predetermined by laws of geometry.

The endeavor began with La caja mágica (2005), where Quesada traced a genealogy of performance spaces, from Baroque theaters to electroacoustic atmospheres through 19th-century opera stages and modernity’s choreographic utopias. This seminal work, which rescued a negligently treated architecture, guided his subsequent essays, and Ediciones Asimétricas now presents them in two books.

Del cuerpo a la red enriches the themes explored in La caja mágica – body, play, movement – with four texts on Laban’s ‘kinetography,’ Häring’s choreographic habitats, or children’s playgrounds of Noguchi and van Eyck, and Quesada adds research which, drawing from Sennett and Tafuri, takes stock of the evolution of spaces of corporeal representation (‘stalls,’ he calls them) through nature, house, city, and networks. Conceived as comments on quotes, these texts recall Benjamin’s because of their asystematic nature, also relying on examples that take on unprecedented meaning when juxtaposed in a shared concept.

Quesada keeps to this method in Arquitecturas del devenir, which summons the ‘performative’ idea through four pairs of essays. Under ‘Cities,’ the reasoning of the first pair is the still open conflict between interior and exterior, domestic and public, objective and subjective, that arose with the modern metropolis, and which the author dissects in a dialogue with Weber, Worringer, and Simmel, but also with contemporary thinkers like Sloterdijk and Latour. Focussing on objects, the second pair of essays interprets Fisac’s system of bones and goes over the evolution of the ‘character’ concept, but this is less important in a compilation that regains momentum with the two final pairs of texts: while the two articles of ‘Paisajes’ present examples which are paradigmatic in generating microclimates and addressing the environment, those of ‘Sujetos’ are phenomenological, centering on Superstudio’s work and Allan Kaprow’s performances and happenings, and suggest ways of tinting everyday habits and banal architectures with poetry.

It is hard to sum up the reasoning behind inquiries into space and body. But it is worth trying, if only because the prose of the author, ever straddling art and architecture, aesthetics and anthropology, is profound; a virtue never before as rare as it is today.

Fernando Quesada
Del cuerpo a la red
Ediciones Asimétricas, Madrid, 2013
149 pages
Arquitecturas del devenir
Ediciones Asimétricas, Madrid, 2014
205 pages

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