The project Spatializing Debt: A Visual Audit was presented at Columbia GSAPP after an invitation by the Buell Center for the Study of American Architecture from the Graduate School of Architecture, Planning and Preservation from Columbia University during the panel Unnatural Disaster: Infrastructure in Puerto Rico before, during, and after Hurricane Maria on November 9, 2018.
More information about the event and its video recording can be accessed here.
Spatializing Debt: A Visual Auditing examines the intersection of architecture, political economy and visual imaginaries with the logics of state-financial debt under Puerto Rico’s current status, by giving territorial, spatial, and visual dimension to the so-called public debt. Investment Firms Information by the Centro de Periodismo Investigativo of Puerto Rico.
Researcher, ongoing, 2017.
After researching the cities of Rio de Janeiro, Brasilia and São Paulo in Brazil we identified leisure, void, security, industry, body, tourism and monumentality as drivers of the forms of desire. With and ever expanding economy, Brazil has become the world’s eighth economy and the destination for countless local and international events. The research was organized through three analytical lenses -the Imagined City, the Ideological City and the Informal City- and worked with the hypothesis that in Brazil the imaginary of desire is employed to promulgate the worshipping of the body, the architectural object and the staging of both within the diverse urban and natural contexts of the country. This destination of great social and cultural contrasts like emptiness and monumentality in Brasilia, the geographical fragmentation of Rio de Janeiro as well as the self governance model that occurs in its favelas, or the congestion and cultural typological hybridity in São Paulo- proved to be a great challenge in order to investigate Brazil as container and producer of a Form of Desire.
Exhibition held at the Old Armory of the Spanish Navy of Puerto Rico’s National Gallery
Old San Juan, Puerto Rico, 2010.
Instructor, Researcher, Exhibition Curator-Designer, San Juan, 2010.
For more information you can download a complete pamphlet here: ciudadlab-pamphlet-web
Polimorfo is the journal of the School of Architecture of the Polytechnic University of Puerto Rico.
Founder, Editor, Designer, 2009-2011 (in collaboration with Oscar Oliver-Didier).
PDF available online here.
Sense Recession: What Comes Next? was a lecture series inquiring and exploring architectural practices as they emerged or were formulated out of the financial crash (not crisis) of 2008.
Xavi Sempere – Culdesac, Spain; José Luis Vallejo & Belinda Tato, Ecosistema Urbano, Spain; Giancarlo Mazzanti – Colombia; Carmina Sánchez del Valle, Hampton University, USA; Sabine Müller – SMAQ, Germany; Mitch McEwen – SUPERFRONT, USA.
Lecture Series Director, School of Architecture, Polytechnic University of Puerto Rico, 2009-2010.
(Complete lecture series text below)
We are reaching the end of the 21st century’s first decade and it would seem that architecture has been trying to achieve what it could not in the last decade of the 20th: anything at all. The discipline, the practice, and its pedagogy struggle to breathe within a sea of uncertainties fed by an entropic past that threatens to drown them at the turn of the century. The resulting confusion could be embodied in a series of questions: What are architects doing today? What do they worry about? What are their commitments, and what is the sense of their architectural production? Has architecture as building been displaced by architecture as event?
Architects are still doing architecture – in capital or lowercase letters, whatever is preferred – but even the postmodern “everything goes” attitude that burst a bubble of projects unimaginable just fifteen or twenty years ago has lost today its capacity to surprise the public. The incessant repetition of architectural projects that seem to have been conceived in the same womb is just further proof of the inertia that guides many of today’s architectural practices, which simply replicate or emulate images born from an uncertain –although shared– imaginary, with little space for the acknowledgement of possible (and unavoidable) shifts.
Much like the invention of perspective dramatically changed architectural meaning and representation during the Renaissance, today’s mediatized infrastructure of visualization has replaced architectural work as an end in itself, promoting instead the autonomy of its ephemeral reading. Contemporary architecture has left us, then, with a repertory of virtual realities that are closer in nature to Hollywood’s cinematography of escapism than to the particularities of a cultural practice, which presupposes a universe of spectacle out of phase with the vicissitudes of its historical moment.
The hard realities derived from the financial crisis, the permanent state of environmental emergency, the insurmountable conflicts between nations, the insufficiencies of social justice, the breakdown of the neoliberal economic model, the overpopulation of cities, among others subjects, mark an epoch of media coverage that highlights, as it also questions, the relevance of the trafficking of fantastic images within the discipline. Without a doubt, the current imaginary of intentions, references and abjections that once nourished the practice is approaching a state of crisis due to its sudden lack of pertinence. In this context of uncertainty, it behooves us to discuss architecture’s future venues and agendas as the new century progresses.
As has occurred in many other disciplines that are subject to the ups and downs of markets and capital, the worldwide economic recession or depression has altered the way we think about the architectural project, in what could become a radical change of direction that may be significant enough to be included in the annals of architectural history. Architecture has never been –nor does it appear to be– marginalized from the ideologies that feed the world’s financial engines, yet these ideologies have now desisted from promoting architecture without certain fear. It is worth to approach, consequently, the new macroeconomic shifts from a more critical and less opportunistic perspective, taking advantage from this sudden lack of interest.
The end of history was announced decades ago, and some have already put an end to capitalism as we know it. In Chilean writer Jorge Edward’s own words: “Casino capitalism, venturous and full of frantic speculation, has failed, and now we’re faced with the no less important important task of re-founding a more reasonable and human capitalism. No serious person, as far as I know, has ever thought that the answer may lie in going back to the past century’s real socialisms.” Therefore, if contemporary societies are looking for new paradigms that range from a non-self-regulating neoliberal economy to a post-socialist model of social justice, architecture cannot afford to prolong its alienating stance of defending technological nirvana as the panacea for the evils faced during the (20th) 21st century.
Finding the multiple relevancies of our discipline goes far beyond innovating its mechanisms of production or merely nourishing a dazzling visual and formal spectrum. It is through the conscious and sensible problematization of the commission and the implementation of mechanisms of management and execution, adequate to the specificities of a given place, that architecture has achieved –in recent times– better results. Conceiving and recognizing public space as dynamic and inclusive, reconsidering existing structures instead of promoting brand new projects, exploring materials in a conscious, intelligent way, reconciling our social and natural environments, inserting critical discourse instead of merely showing off formal bravura in publications (in spite of the non-critical trend of forgoing criticism), giving opportunities to emerging thinkers, diversifying the discipline, and reconsidering housing prototypes as key components of the city, are some of the issues that appear to claim relevance in the reformulation of the architectural product for a contemporary practice. Today, the opportunities for inclusion and open experimentation offered by the multiple realities that condition the architectural project transcend the opposition between local and global as an illness inherited from the last century, pointing instead to hybridized models and risk-taking experiments.
Debates on practice and education should focus on the tumbling relevance of architectural work, both as articulated on paper, with letters and drawings, and as built with more or less permanent materials. While not meant to be used as redemptive devices, the anxieties and impulses that bind architecture to art and speculative thinking should otherwise remain outside of our objections. They assure the development of the discipline hand in hand with the vestiges of a humanist tradition that will continue to be instrumental for the pedagogy and the production of what will be called architecture during the following years of the century that has just begun.
The Roundtable Discussion Series began as a complement to the first CIUDADLAB course offered at ArqPoli in 2005. The conversations were conducted with the idea of bringing to the school multi-disciplinary issues pertinent to our discipline. The invited panelists came from a wide spectrum and fields, provoking more than mere conversations, but vivid debates that nurtured the students’ concerns and understanding of the career’s scope.
– Suburban City: Mutation and Variation of the Dispersed Model
– Method, Concept, Matter: the Re-education of Architecture
– Leisure and Business: the New Geographies of Public Space
– The Neoliberal Landscape: the Territory Economics
– Body and Domesticity: the New Culture of Makeover
– Radical Inertia: Professionalism, Guild and Academy
– The State of Architecture Today (with Kenneth Frampton)
Director, Moderator, School of Architecture, Polytechnic University of Puerto Rico, 2005-2010.
The project, the new Visitors Center and Museum for the Luis Muñoz Marín Foundation in San Juan, Puerto Rico, situates itself as a mediator and threshold between a large semi-urban forest and a historic site grouping the former home and small buildings of the owners, where the house of the first elected governor of Puerto Rico is located. A bold two-pieces volume resembles and occupied the space of a natural border that existed before, while providing a threshold welcoming flows through the building to the site and the forest.
Project Lead Designer for Toro Ferrer Arquitectos, 2006-2013.
AIA Puerto Rico, Honor Award, 2008 (unbuilt).
X Architecture Biennial Puerto Rico, Honor Award, 2008 (unbuilt).
For the initial part of the course, first year undergraduate students where confronted to notions of place and context. An analytical city study was developed through the layering of cartographic drawings including a vast variety of the city’s visible and invisible infrastructure. Mixed media, hand drawn.
Studio Instructor, 2007.
Led by pedestrian deity (Finnish architect Marco Casagrande), the anarchist gardener performance developed 12 “industrial zen gardens” during a 9 hour walking performance between the cities of Bayamón and San Juan. The anarchist gardener aimed for a better pedestrian city lost to vehicles.
Memory is a vital resource for trying to explain cities. Valparaíso in Chile has been no exception as evidenced by the efforts that made the city a World Heritage Site (UNESCO) after this project began in 2002. Therefore, critical analysis of heritage-related memory could present operational and architectural alternatives in the exercise of articulating historical value. With this premise, the project proposes an alternative for the staging of the city through its “documents of the past,” with a scenery dominated by the transient and imagination as a tool of memory. The city’s geographic amphitheater-like formation strengthens the relationship with the bay or scenario. In this theatrical play of floating objects and dialectical views, memory becomes a strong yet diffuse record of the temporal, becoming the main resource of the project.
The strategy of distancing from the city to intervene from outside raises a dynamic attitude of happening to address the ambitious cultural program for the city. The architecture would transcend its object value, framed in the city’s undeniable landscape. In this sense, the project works on several levels, it appropriates the floating dock structure Valparaíso III as the venue for fall/winter cultural events. Here the activities will occur in a series of pavilions, which would be at this time of the year within the floating dock to safeguard them from the winter tides. During the first day of Spring, pavilions will float and leave the dock to locations in the city shore, to accommodate orchestrated events that will complement the festive coastal living.
The project’s five pavilions could be associated with various expressions of the city. There are four types that accommodate exhibitions, music performances and film screenings. Cladded in copper they seek to acquire the passage of time. Architecture will perform its capacity to provoke and activate the individual memories of the collectivity through time.