2009-2010. URBAN BUDDY SCHEME / 05 feb 2009 / Andrés Jaque (transcription)

Extracts from the MADRID_ABIERTO Urban Buddy Scheme sessions

5th of February of 2009
Cecilia Andersson and Jorge Díez (presentation of seminar and Madrid Abierto 2009)
Javier Duero (moderator)
Basurama (Javier Duero presents + conference)
Andrés Jaque (Javier Duero presents + conference)
Ludotek (Javier Duero presents + conference)
Wunderkammer (conference)


… is a group of architects, Andres Jaque Architects and Cinthya Associates, Political Innovation Office, explore the role that architecture fulfils or may fulfil as agent in the construction of societies. It manages the “Parliament architecture” brand of political quality, designing hosts for the “TECNOGHEISA” contemporary city, Plans for political transparency, “Twelve actions to reveal Peter Eisenman or a line of Steep Garden jewels, urban plans based on word of mouth, “TUPERHOME”, buildings that make you want to hug “TEDDY HOUSE” or social assemblies that generate controversy, building (priest dormitory) in Plasencia…

…some of their current projects include Rolling House, architectural prototype of shared housing in Barcelona; the Nevernever Land House in Ibiza; Hostel for the Floating Pleasures, Mallorca; the Walk Around the House Museum, a global project to be distributed around big shopping malls

… I would like to show you four pictures that are urban to me…
In my opinion there exists a very wrong idea, thus it is important to relocate the concept of urbanism in architectonic and urban activities

____ Great scale/Urbanism. Urbanism is not equal to those thousands of houses that have been built in last years, those ghost towns, it has nothing to do with crystallized concepts that deal with great scale interventions or with strategic design, 20 year term decisions… first, infrastructures, then housing, then… that which we all know.
Neither does it have to do with cities, the construction of cities, what is believed to be urban at this point in time; in my opinion it has to do with, it’s defined as “some kind of qualified air in a particular way”, that is, with the way of building an interaction context”…
SHIFT__I think this ‘shift’, in our conception of what is urban, towards something more adjusted to political and democratic frames is crucial to rethink urban and architectonic activities and the management of cities…
I suggest four very elementary ideas… and find the way to incorporate it to the construction and transformation of our environments.

The materials that I suggest are these, ‘Parliamentary parenthesis’.
We have worked in the “city of political innovation”, with the Universidad Javeriana of Bogotá, in the development of ‘soap operas’, as well with Carlos Plitnick, Omar Rincón, art, urbanism and architecture students…
They can be seen in ‘youtube’, putting “I hate you, love you so”, to explain why soap operas construct a “parliamentary parenthesis”… with the poster, made by Julia Roshenfal of the Global Show project. To see why film reviews have been so rough with soap operas… critics haven’t been able to comprehend the ‘social commitment’ that soap operas imply… when the main character confronts a difficult decision, at some point in time receives advice from a friend that is usually liberal as well as from her mother that is usually conservative. In a100 chapter soap opera diatribe, the protagonist has to make a decision, a triangle is built, the liberal and conservative options, and is in a political ‘twin be twin’, between two options. It’s the moment in which all of them end up looking into the infinite and action is suspended… this is the narrative disaster to which film critics refer… however, if we check out what really happens in ordinary households, where controversy appears, taking part, is precisely because a ‘parenthesis’ has been created.
When the decision takes places in specific or local environments, due to this political construction, it is there where these ‘parenthesis’ occur, it is where urban interactions take place.

The construction of spaces, which in itself reveals shared public issues, that matter to all of us… therefore we are interested in being able to discover how our environments react or ‘position’ themselves towards them… I refer to things such as gender equality, equity in access to resources, sustainability, space representation…
This is an example, an assignment we received from the City of Culture Foundation of Galicia, the M30 of Galicia, which is going to elaborate the community’s budget for the next 20 years.
We received the assignment to conceal the works of the City of Culture, which were ugly to politicians; they even suggested us to create a wooden barrier to ‘cover that massive earth movement’.
However, we redesigned the assignment, said that the works were beautiful, that the problem was that they weren’t visible enough, transparent, they weren’t comprehensible to people that weren’t taking part in them. We developed a “Transparencies plan” that was very simple… Build some towers in Santiago’s historic centre just to watch the works and for five minutes every hour the sound of the works was heard through small amplifiers (conversations, bricklayers having lunch…), projecting it downtown as a transplanted ghost; bus lines to visit the works; to equip the works as if they were El Retiro, as a public infrastructure (coffee machines and food, services…) to spend one’s day…
And more complex proposals; to assign each construction company actively working there a code of colours so that they were visible to the whole and at first sight…
We suggested more things; some were rejected because they created ‘risky situations’ for the politicians. We tried to make the trace of residue and material transportation visible… from the works outwards and from the outside within, to really see the trace that such a massive work leaves in the environment…
To me this is a city (referring to a fallen sign in the works of Santiago de Compostela’s City of Arts), this is an urban situation… the sign fell and we had to solve it, we found the men in blue fixing the yellow sign, we asked the directors, how come the men in blue worked in the yellow area? They didn’t know… However, a group of elderly people standing against the fence… “we come every day and we have observed that they have an agreement, when the yellow men have a lot of work to do the blue ones help them…”
Thanks to those transparency devices, the works were understood, transparent to those not involved.
In my opinion, the city could become urban by simply installing devices, enabling “public concerns”, shared by all of us, to be evaluated and visible to all.

3__ The third property of urbanism has to do with INNOVATION COMMUNITIES AND EMOTIONAL NETWORKS. Urbanism occurs when we develop systems that link a community in the development of sensibilities, cultural forms, in conclusion, the notions of quality that the community as a whole experiences and the people contribute to implement…
It has to do with ‘Tupper Home’, the development of houses, that, with demonstrative marketing formulas (Avon, Tupperwave…), we can establish a ‘word of mouth’ urbanism.
Basically, the idea is that specific formulas of quality in serial production, specialized conditions for those who are involved in the works, efficiency in the use of materials that make costs cheaper and the management of space…
Would reduce the quantity of work hours to pay a mortgage, all that construction of a qualitative society could be done by a simple ‘word of mouth culture’… thus, that woman could build a ‘tupper ware’ house, invite others and build an urban community, word of mouth, an expansive horizontal urbanism, as a network… so that users themselves were producers, designers and beneficiaries of economic performance; the transformation and exploitation of the city.

4__... the last thing has to do with the area of ‘long term confrontation’, the urban aspect as a political space in which differences can be built without a violent horizon in mind, without crossing a rupture horizon.
Our experience… some years ago we started working, Enrique Krahe, Miguel de Guzman and myself, in the transformation of a fifteenth century building, a minor seminar, a factory of priests, a geriatric hospital, a priestly house, that would host the same people that had been educated there. After having lived in rural environments as parish priests, now when 90 years old it’s impossible for the Church to take care of them in their houses, dispersed through the country. And, as there aren’t that many people that want to become priests, the factory had to be transformed into a dormitory for people who have been independent, with great ability to make important decisions in a day to day basis…
This is what it looks like, it was very controversial, it became known with the phrase “what a whorehouse the priests have built for themselves…”

… I would like to say something about this project, of how architecture, the material devices that we architects manage can contribute to transform a building; from a factory for unity (the idea of uniting bodies around an exclusive and desirable doctrine) it turned into a controversial network (public space), disputed but durable.
We did it by inserting a bunch of toys in the building, playful devices… that fulfilled the role of perfect hosts, to ask a question: What is your opinion about this? What do you think? Building a dinner’s conversation on different views of things… in the garden, instead of a French design, as the bishop had requested, we decided to divide it in small parcels, one per room; we didn’t define their exact limits at any point, nor the entrances, the idea was to create a conflicting space in the garden… like the remote control that makes us argue and fight over it and to decide…

… Another idea (taken from the Situationist International’s minutes), that lights are turned on and off centrally. If we ask about this, the answer is: “what a problem, the debate would begin, the discussion on when to turn it on…”, that’s what we wanted and to a great extent we distributed switches…
We designed benches and furniture that incited people to adopt several postures, several decisions…

… in these vegetable gardens (commenting on a projected photo) you can see a retired priest keeping an eye on some lettuce. He had agreed with the neighbours to cultivate several gardens and then distribute the crop.

… there were many pacts.
In this picture (open air dance in the dorm’s garden) we see an urban image , a group of residents are together in a party without conciliating their opinions, this group discusses the colours that had be used, the director defended them but another man strongly criticized them, saying that he didn’t like them in order to receive visits… The priest was blind (!).