+ - 162 mins
18 x 25 cm
ENG/SPA Bilingual Edition
José Vela castillo
¿Aunque la mona se vista de seda, mona se queda?
Paradise...Back to nature
28º Celsius is the temperature at which protection becomes superfluous. It is also the temperature at which swimming pools are acclimatized. Within the limits of this hygrothermal comfort zone, we do not require the intervention of our body’s thermoregulatory mechanisms nor that of any external artificial thermal controls in order to feel pleasantly comfortable while carrying out a sedentary activity without clothing. 28º Celsius is thus the temperature at which clothing can disappear, just as architecture could.
‘We live not, in reality, on the summit of a solid earth but at the bottom of an ocean of air’. These were the terms used by the physicist and mathematician Evangelista Torricelli addressing his colleague Michelangelo Ricci. Surprised by his discovery around 1644, ‘The air has weight’ he stated in front of what was to be the first barometer in history, resting on the table of his laboratory. From this critical moment onwards, that introduces the first text of this issue, the idea of air begins to unravel its own mystery, the one which had burdened people’s shoulders for so many years. The mystical conception that had always been associated with this enigmatic substance could now be abandoned. The Greeks, who established the foundations on which Western culture was built, considered it one of the four elements of the gods, vital principle of the spirit, and naturally, within cosmogony, in its numerous and diverse explanations of the universe, it has always been linked to magical and pure properties related to the spiritual. Thus, this mix of gases was, for the most part of history, something sacred and indescribable, and this was probably due to one of its most salient features: Air is invisible. The scientific change that enabled the understanding of its properties —that it is dense, it weighs and its temperature varies— has been extremely important in beginning its desacralization, conceiving it as a substance that can be analysed, altered, and designed in our own benefit.
If air is what encourages life, one may think of these properties and states as what modify, specialise, and therefore enable architecture (as well as politics, social structures and the rest of human activities). When considering a state of perpetual spring, those 28° Celsius enjoyed in the Garden of Eden on the island of Ogygia, just as in any other lost paradise, architecture in its origin —the need to acclimatise a space against the weather— would not have been necessary. Architecture is thus born from an instability, from the tension between two systems, the exterior (climate) and the interior (the body), which are unbalanced.
The work condensed in this issue is an example of some of the practices which abandon a geometric conception in search of climatic spatial organisation. In them, they move from the idea of symmetry to meteorological stability, they talk about the quality of the air, and they forget about programmes in order to define the atmospheric qualities which make certain activities possible. In a similar way as when air was demystified by scientific conceptions, contemporary architecture can now enter a new period in which we abandon the metaphorical nature given to emptiness (which was never empty since Torricelli pointed out that it was always full of air) in order to, operating from the invisible, place it centre stage in the discipline.
If the history of architecture has focused on defining the elements which configure space (closures, structures, materials) by means of their limits, many current works begin to do so from the study of the microscopic and the atmospheric, from the properties and qualities of the air to everything it envelopes and inundates. Overcome modernity, investigations emerge in the meteorology of interior spaces, replacing a metric composition of space with a thermal one, renewing the ideas of form and use with those of sensation, rethinking spatiality, substituting proportions with gradients, redeveloping architectural composition into thermodynamic management, and establishing a phenomenology that begins to consider conduction, transpiration, convection, and these processes as the new paradigms of an architecture yet to come. In some cases directly, in others obliquely, all the authors also propose that it is energetic efficiency applied to this new way of designing that will be the driving force in taking on architecture’s responsibility as one of the main contributors to climate change. This new architecture understood as meteorology, as reaction to the climate, is beginning by imitating the property of the air that so many fables awoke, and becoming more and more invisible. ◊