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  • Foto del escritorJuan Almarza Anwandter

A concept like “Eternity” cannot be verified empirically. It is just a possibility that we can infer, a construct of the mind. Pure mathematical entities like squares, triangles or circles are also mind-constructs, but these can be somehow represented and replicated as concrete objects in space. How could we represent “eternity”, in a drawing for example? It cannot be even represented. One could think of a circle, because it is a curved line with no beginning and no end. But at the same time, a circle is a limit, and it has a dimension. So, it embodies just one aspect of what we can grasp as “eternity”.

In this sense, I think that the potential degree of representation of abstract concepts is variable, and it depends both in the nature of the concept and the medium chosen. If I ask my architecture students to represent in drawings concepts like limit, sequence, rhythm, enclosure, dynamism, horizontal, vertical, the results may vary, but probably they will share some common features, and some degree of objective universality. But what about happiness, or justice? These are a completely different kind of concepts, which do not have an immediate and intuitive form of representation. If we contextualize this distinction in the ambit of architecture, the problem becomes even more patent. The matter of architecture is, a priori, non-representational and non-referential. Painting, music and sculpture are more adequate mediums for representation, in this sense. Can we conceive a building as if it was a painting, trying to "express" concepts as in a blank canvas?

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  • Foto del escritorJuan Almarza Anwandter

Actualizado: 23 feb 2022

What is the meaning of “style”? In formal terms, it corresponds to a certain set of compositional attributes that distinctively characterize any form of artistic expression. Thus, we speak of the style of Rafael, as something different from the style of Botticelli. But, in colloquial language, we also use the term as an adjective: “She looked so stylish!”, “He did it with style!”. What does the concept mean in such contexts? Roland Barthes gives us an interesting answer. Inspired by the spectacle given by the Spanish “toreros” (bullfighters), he says: “And what is style? it is to turn a difficult act into a graceful gesture, it is to introduce a rhythm in fatality. It is to be brave without disorder; it is to give what is necessary the appearance of freedom.” Certainly, a beautiful definition. Understood in this sense, conscious volition is a precondition for style. Therefore rocks, clouds and trees may have shapes, but not “style”. They are ruled by necessity and fatality, in a deterministic sense. Entities with a higher level of complexity like animals (in particular beasts of prey), exhibit traits of style in their predatory strategies. It is in human beings where the concept of style can reach a peak of manifestation - in the conscious confrontation with death. I am planning to write a short book on this interesting subject...

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  • Foto del escritorJuan Almarza Anwandter

That thing we call "sky" appears to be the earth´s “roof”. A huge self-supporting dome, without pillars. This primary interpretation is echoed in the etymology of the word, which refers to the notion of cover. It has a persistent, ever-present character, which means, it is a sort of endless roof, whose only limit is the line of the horizon. A limit that also re-configures itself, endlessly. We may travel a few or a thousand miles, and, strangely enough, the sky is still there, “up”, hovering far above our heads. What seems to change is just its appearance: luminous during the day, dark at night, veiled by passing clouds, dyed in beautiful colours at dawns and sunsets. Somehow, it has no age. Unlike the rest of the entities that surround us, which reflect the passage of time in the form of aging and decay, the sky is timeless. In this sense, it is the closest form of manifestation of what we may designate as "the Absolute". This is a shared attribute with all those things that are regarded by us as heavenly: the sun, the moon, the stars, and divine beings of all sorts. Technology has allowed us to enter the sky´s realm, thus being not anymore the privilege of birds and creatures provided of wings and feathers by nature. But, somehow, it remains an alien medium for humans, an irreducible form of otherness, just like water and the ocean´s unfathomable depths. The ancient myth of Icarus makes the point. Will we ever make of the sky a ground for permanent inhabitation, turning this roof into a soil for digging foundations?

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