In 2018, architect Souto de Moura won the Golden Lion at the Venice Architecture Biennale. He presented two photographs of his project in the São Lourenço do Barrocal complex. The submission embodies an architecture of erudite instincts and is essential to understand “… the precision with which two aerial photographs are juxtaposed, revealing the essential relationship that must exist between architecture, time and place”. The photographs, by Italian Alessandra Chemolo, show the “before and after” of the restoration of a large hill in Alentejo…”. Distinguished as a pivoting point in the way we can position acts of conservation in the context of an architecture exhibition, the architect is subliminally stating the obvious “past” as the before and, the after as the representation of his intervention’s “present” time.
Following the challenge set by the curators, Paolo Baratta clarifies that: “… this edition curated by Yvonne and Shelley focuses on the question of space, the quality of space, open and free space. The fundamental parameter of reference is indicated with great clarity. (…) space, free space, public space can also reveal the presence or absence of architecture, if we understand architecture to be “thinking applied to the space where we live, that we inhabit”.
Souto Moura is also part of his country representation titled Public without Rhetoric which explores public buildings in “… a time when Western Europe is confronted with its limits and possibilities, and architecture accentuates its non-conformism, reinforcing its role in political and social intervention. (…) as the affirmation of architecture as a form of celebration of the experience of public space, highlighting the primary importance of the architect in the construction of experiences in contemporary societies.”
REUSE is proposed as the obvious answer for this competition, in the form of a programme that is also deliberately obvious:
Turn a watchtower into a landmark and public space.
Isn’t it already?
My understanding of this complex field of positions, pedagogy and of the power of architecture begins with an elementary disambiguation of Souto Moura’s “before and after” when it is replaced by a now and a then respectively.
What would happen if we accepted the concept of loss? Could architecture produce loss as a mechanism of design, implying memory, nostalgia, and history without the presence of an artefact? Can our habitat be elegantly constructed from a detail that deconstructs the narrative of centuries of human intervention, considering that immateriality is a tangible and real matter?
The presence (or absence) of Lecce’s Rinalda coastal tower is irrelevant if we continue to practice unbridled planetary self-destruction. Architecture must not indulge in disciplinary acts when confronted with the future of our society. A transformation must begin with elaborated actions that reclaim a central role for “a tower” on a territorial scale in relation to other places and other “towers”, not necessarily through their loss, but through the discernible valorisation of the direct result of our actions over time. What could be observed as sacrifice (by accepting this proposal continuation of the ruin’s decay when seen through the eyes of the old masters), must be perceived as the implementation of a disciplinary framework based on a multimodal system of decision-making initiated by architects.
The use of criticism as a design tool can be a productive way of activating a relationship with the existing environment. It can propose a pedagogical insight into how divergent essays are spectrums of the practice of architecture. From this historical interpretation of our future, we can deduce the monumental role that all renovation projects have in territorial management.
The proposal deliberately does not adhere to all the principles of renovation, conservation and heritage management set out in the competition brief, but constructs a process of initiating an alternative field and practice of the discipline and architecture in each individual in relation to our contemporary habitat.
In 1975, Federico Fellini’s Amarcord won the Oscar for Best Foreign Language Film at the 47th Academy Awards. A masterpiece, the film explores nostalgia, the passage of time and human contradictions through vivid vignettes of 1930s Rimini. It interweaves joy, vulnerability, and the impact of memories. Fellini’s Oscar acceptance speech emphasised the film’s homage to personal history, resonating with an audience captivated by its universal storytelling in the realm of nostalgia. Diogo Seixas Lopes article: Amarcord: analogy and architecture discusses analogy, time, and space in the context of Souto Moura’s work – an atlas of references in which he claims to be his opera. By exploring how Souto Moura uses analogy as a design process, drawing from memory and personal references to create architecture, it examines the role of analogy and its significance in bridging different sources and finding solutions in architecture. Always in a process of addition, interference and imposing the discipline of architecture as a material presence of an extreme erudition and sublime practice of disciplinary beauty.
Coincidentally, the analogy in both titles (film and article) relates the process of analogy to nostalgia. I see it almost as a romantic pursuit of domination over nature in all natural conditions of space and time and perhaps, the inability to accept loss as a spectrum of the field of architecture. Furthermore, aligning my own referential practice I can infer that doing through non-doing, as an act of the sublime presence of architecture, we can exorcise the ghosts of Viollet-le-Duc (advocacy of restoring historic buildings to their original state, emphasising “truth to materials” and meticulous reconstruction); John Ruskin (belief in “preservation of historic fabric”, valuing the physical evidence of a building’s evolution over time through minimal intervention to preserve its authenticity and cultural significance) while revolving Francoise Choay’s focus on the idea of “cultural continuity” (emphasizing the need to balance conservation and adaptation, taking into account social, economic and environmental factors to ensure the continued relevance and functionality of historic buildings) by accepting the loss of materiality as the tangible presence of a real architecture.
As contemporary architects, we must practise contextual acts of construction of our habitat, aware of the eco-social, ethnological, and cultural state of an ongoing conditional crisis. Therefore, I propose time as “the materiality” of the project. Erosion, decay, and loss are the syntax of a renewed lexicon in which I propose to submit the tower to the inexorable power of the sea, and nostalgia.
I act by rethinking the programme of how/what to reuse as the pedagogy that positions the field and practice of my own architecture. I want to save the ruin by acknowledging its loss. I want to draw from the rise of the sea and foresee in it our society as it cannot continue to be. Architects must admit the power to save, by being able to lose the artifacts of the discipline, just as time as intended for it to happen.
A simple totem as an object-memory, that dimensions the then from the now as a spectacle of absence. An observation of loss as an immaterial, tangible, and real act of architecture.
Reusing it as a landmark perceived by time in a public space constructed by loss.