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architecting LIFE

living ARCHITECTURE Marina Carretero


Nowadays we live in a world of mess, movement, commuting. We do our best to achieve what we have always wanted. We dream with something, fight for it and hope someday that dream becomes true. As said, it is all about a dream. Something similar to what we understand today as “myth”, mock although based on reality but decorated with fantasy. From the point of view of each person most lives end up becoming a myth. We use to dream with something better to what we have, and -in the case of optimistic – we hope that dream will become true. 02


That is somehow what this ad inspires me. At first sight it is only a car with a background of a building in a day that is about to end. But that is only the signifier, obviously the thing goes further. It is an advertisement of a car, in which we see more than a car and a building. We can see that the car is not a simple car that by chance has been pictured, but a high end one. The building is not a random building neither, but an International airport. This picture expresses somehow the reality of which we have been talking about: The movement and commuting people is getting used to nowadays.

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Barthes Myth Diagram

Guggenheim Museum, Bilbao

Bilbao World Design Festival

Architecture as a symbol.Marketing of cities

Architecture as a symbol.Marketing of cities: WORKING??

Mirador, Sanchinarro, Madrid

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Sanchinarro bird eye view


All this, and with the meaning it has beneath it is what we call the signified. This signified has bunches of meanings, from what is a car or an airport itself, to what the car company wanted to express with this advertisement. Somehow they are trying to attract costumers selling what they believe is the client´s life based on. There is not a common building as a background of the image, but a modern one. It serves not only to sell this car, but to sell the city in where it is located. Modern and high tech buildings mean more than functionality and sustainability. They have a second connotation behind them which is marketing. Nowadays politicians commission big architects not to design a common building that covers all the functions needed, but they do hire an architect capable of sell a city, or even a country, with a building. We can see for example the Guggenheim museum (signifier) in Bilbao by Frank Gehry, who has convert the city of industry into the city of contemporary architecture and culture (signified). Since this point, politicians have believed that with contemporary architecture the problems of a city, or neighborhood can be solved, such as the building Mirador, by MVDRV where politicians in Madrid have invested, with no purpose. It is located in one of the new extensions of the capital, Sanchinarro, which since its beginnings until now, it has been a ghost neighborhood, a dormitory-city of Madrid, that hasn’t work by itself. It is here were this sign or myth of the “new architecture” has its end.

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The advertisement, as said, has been thought for people of this new era. They want their clients to think this car is not designed for common people, but for special people, (something that many publicity agencies use to do). As a highend car is supposed to, it is directed to people of the upper class, business men, who is used to travel, to commute. This myth of the high-end car and the high tech airport is nothing but a dream, such as the dream of one´s life. From my point of view it is nothing but an image for you to thing who you want to be, who you to become when you take that car. While talking about car advertisement, they refer to two different aspects. On one hand, it refers to the car, to all the things that car is capable to do, or all the different topographies or paths the car can go through. On the other hand, it refers to the buyer, and to what a person can become when buying the car, as in the case of this ad. If the picture was taken in a different atmosphere, in a non “high class” referred atmosphere, the meaning (signified) of the advertisement would be completely different, for example, if it was taken in a conflictive neighborhood, the meaning could be like “feel save wherever you are with this car”, and if it was in a non-asphalted road of a poor country the meaning would end up being of the “first type ads”, type where your car can be anything. So, this advertisement is seen as a dream, as this kind of myth that we wish it can become real, as the development of one´s life, and in this case this dream becomes true while buying this product. With the monumentality of the building and the signified of an international airport with its atmosphere is created the signifier of the car itself.

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This is not the first time architecture is linked to commuting and transportation to express a way of living. Yet in the 20´s, architects of the modern movement started theories about this link. Le Corbusier started thinking the house as a machine, and relating this concept to the car. How did houses needed to change with this revolutionary new vehicle? And what is more important, how life was affected by this change? We can see some pictures from Le Corbusier architecture, and how he related his projects to the car, to the machine, but not only to compare both “technologies” and their behavior, but also to manifest how different ways of living come related to something from the outside. Le Corbusier was not taking onto account his precise clients nor their hobbies or their specific ways or living, but he was relating his projects to a new Era, and a new society. The society of the machine, industry and serial production. Here it´s worth to quote Alan Colquhoun, and his positions towards historicism. Le Corbusier was taking into account one precise context, and as Colquhoun exposed, making truth as something relative and determined by the context.

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If we analyze his projects, we could affirm that from the plans (from the house), as a signifier we would obtain the signified as “ways of living”. If we change signifier by signified, we would have that from a way of living of a person or group of people we would obtain one or another kind of architecture, different distribution or even different program. Let’s take in this case the example of Eileen Gray´s E-1027. This architect disagreed completely with the “living machine” of Le Corbusier and for her, the specific ways of living was what determines architecture. She takes the social context as a background, and focuses into the experience of the user within the architecture which at the same time comes by the user way of living. In the case of this precise work, (E1027), Eileen designed this house for herself and her husband, and the architecture reflects how they lived. It was a house to experience the architecture at the same time they were experiencing their own lives. It was so until L.C hunted the house and painted the walls following his own style, and it is in this point where the myth of E1027 was break. There are different ways of create architecture, but here we can see two examples of creating mythical and successful architecture, and both are related with the experience and social context of the user. There is no city without citizens, as there is no architecture without users. 08


Although these two architects had different theories and ways of seeing architecture, they both fit in this myth of life. They both –although in different scales- play with the experience. Somehow we could relate this myth to the one of Roland Barthes about the Eiffel Towel. It is about how this symbol is representing the city of Paris or the country of France. It is –as the work of both architects- incorporated to daily life. In all cases it is more than just a building, house or tower, there is something else behind it that is the myth around them. It is not anymore –in the case of Le Corbusier and Eileen- as Barthes said referring to the Eiffel Tower “an adventure of sight”, but an “adventure of living”, an adventure of experiencing. They are somehow architecting life and living architecture. The same way this myth can be applied to different disciplines, as we saw in the example of the car advertisement, in where the way of living was the first theme to convince the client. In this case architecture was also present, helping to understand one certain way of living. So, everyone´s life is conditioned to something external that is somehow creating our way of living, and creating the myth of our life.

Theory and Culture in Architecture V Ie School of Architecture & Design Fall 2011 09


The Myth of the New Age