29 March 2022

After the Ruin:
Towards an Architecture
of Interpretation

University of Luxembourg

Jomy Joseph
The Oslo School of Architecture and Design

At a time of unprecedented environmental emergency and land pressure leading to socio-spatial injustices—where we come to acknowledge the illusion we used to call modernity—a profound redefinition of architectural and spatial design protocols is in order. It is now essential to critically reconsider the purpose of the actors that shape territories, be they tangible or systemic.

We consider the colonization of nature by humankind—focusing on exploiting territories solely for the sake of productivity—as the driving force behind what we call ruin. On the one hand, the term ‘ruin’ is understood from a geological point of view: like the resource extraction, raw materials from the soil that we use to make the world we inhabit. On the other hand, it is considered from a political economy point of view, which takes its revenge under the intricate forces of socio-environmental crises.

In the face of this reality, architecture as a discipline and political tool is fundamentally overwhelmed. Hence we support the hypothesis that the purpose of the architect is no longer that of a builder but that of a modest interpreter of an existing social, cultural, and physical aggregate. Before a global moratorium on construction establishment, we assume that local, global economic, and legal frameworks must fundamentally change. Economic geology becomes thus at work, hand in hand with territorial spatial policies, and shapes the future of extractivism. To avoid any collateral damage, the pedagogy of architecture must therefore also follow to allow for the transition of the architectural practice, addressing the opportunities for a more weak, reversible, or sustainable condition of our contemporary world.


Labor, Protocols, and Innovation behind the Project of the Modern Universidad de Buenos Aires (1959-Unfinished)

University of Cagliari

Davide Sacconi
The Architectural Association

& Martin Huberman
CCA c/o Buenos Aires

The project for the new campus of the Universidad de Buenos Aires entered the architectural debate in 1967 through a specialized publication on its concrete blocks. While university was considered the epicenter of urban and architectural development in Latin America, all descriptions on the new ciudad universitaria take the tone of technical notations about structural diagrams and managerial tools. After a critical reading of the abstractness that permeates this project as a strategy to launch innovation faster, by sharing risk and saving costs, this contribution reveals the extraordinary managerial skills and mediation practices of university authorities in ensuring a fruitful dialogue with executives and intermediaries of foreign private entities (foundations and banks) to liberate capital flows in favour of their project. University became a critical site of exchange and modernisation, functioning as a mechanism for cultivating new ways of learning and living. Finally, a critical design analysis of the inside-carved typical block designed by Argentine architects Horacio Caminos and Eduardo Catalano, will be presented to trace the spatial implications of urban interior as the new territory where knowledge production has been controversially liberated.

More than a mere historical finding, “Atrium Libertatis” will be presented as a chapter of a critique of learnification in architecture. The 21st century has witnessed, in fact, a growing debate around distributed learning, with the concept of ‘informality’ taking the traits of a real pedagogical mandate not devoid of contradictions. On the one hand, the euphoric rediscovery of radical pedagogies that challenged authoritarian university institutions to emancipate from the production logics of the bureaucratic state; on the other hand, the often contrived revival of informal educational spaces instrumentally adjusted to the production logics of a flexible and precarious reality. Against this backdrop, some peripheral exponents of the post-war architectural discourse dispersed in the countergeography of Latin America, traced a trajectory of design episodes in which education was, primarily, intended as a project. Moreover, this project reveals education as a contested territory between bureaucratic and anti-bureaucratic structures when their still permeable boundaries made the concept of informality coincide with the most elaborated, complex and ambitious object of this contention.

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