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ARQ (Santiago)

versión On-line ISSN 0717-6996

ARQ (Santiago)  no.100 Santiago dic. 2018 

Works & projects

Alternative practices

Camila Reyes1 

1 Arquitecta, Pontificia Universidad Católica de Chile. Estudiante de doctorado, Princeton University, EE.UU.


Disciplines - including architecture - have flexible limits, which are modified according to new discourses and practices. The cases that defy these limits remain as ‘alternatives’ until they are internalized and become part of the status quo. A magazine like ARQ should also promote those examples that attempt to challenge the limits of each moment; this selection brings up ten cases in which this has happened.

Keywords: discourse; practice; order; discipline; limits

What is this coherence - which, as is immediately apparent, is neither determined by an a priori and necessary concatenation, nor imposed on us by immediately perceptible contents? For it is not a question of linking consequences, but of grouping and isolating, of analyzing, of matching and pigeon-holing concrete contents; there is nothing more tentative, nothing more empirical (superficially, at least) than the process of establishing an order among things; nothing that demands a sharper eye or a surer, better-articulated language; nothing that more insistently requires that one allow oneself to be carried along by

the proliferation of qualities and forms. And yet an eye not consciously prepared might well group together certain similar figures and distinguish between others on the basis of such and such difference: in fact, there is no similitude and no distinction, even for the wholly untrained perception, that is not the result of a precise operation and of the application of a preliminary criterion. (Foucault, 1994: XIX-XX).

These ten projects speak, to varying degrees, of a broader, less tightly bound discipline. Practices ranging from makeshift technological apparatuses to public interventions and spectacles, from material fabrications to institutional and cultural critique, or the systematization and rendering visual of trivial procedures like the construction of a kite. We could provisionally call them ‘alternatives’: practices (once) located at the margins of the discipline - or definitely outside of it - yet somehow posing significant epistemological questions to the specific skillset of the architect. Performed by architects, designers or artists, each of these ten projects represents interesting re-significations - at a specific moment in time, within a particular context - of what architecture as a field might look like. Today, however, none of them would be considered radical, or even novel. We might then ask: ‘alternatives’ to what? If a discipline is a strategically defined system of order, as Foucault indicates, then what does it mean to stand as an alternative within such a framework? Are alternatives only provisional explosions that cannot yet - but eventually will - be subsumed into the larger status quo? Perhaps, one alternative (pun intended) is to critically interrogate each of these ten projects to understand in what ways and through which means they might have contributed or failed to push the boundaries of our field. If, as Foucault argues, a system of order is an essentially tentative, empirical and ultimately precarious structure, then there is no underlying order that, having sustained the field for 100 issues, will prove valid for the next 100. The question then is, how do we move forward

ARQ 87 (August, 2014): 58-61

Figure 1 Aulas Neumáticas. Juan Ignacio Baixas, 1980-1986. 

ARQ 39 (August, 1998): 31-33

Figure 2 Ampliación para la Casa del Carbonero. Smiljan Radić, 1998. 

ARQ 52 (December, 2002): 35-37

Figure 3 Pantalla itinerante: cine, vino y espacio. Luis Cifuentes, Gonzalo Fuentes, Mathias Jacob, Cristián Schmidt, Waldo Urquiza, 2001. 

ARQ 45 (July, 2000): 30-33

Figure 4 La rueda hélice. Ingenuidades para un ingeniero. Manuel Casanueva, Ariel Núñez, Elías Cancino, 2000. 

ARQ 46 (October, 2000): 28-31

Figure 5 Nautilus, la casa de vidrio. Arturo Torres, Jorge Christie, 2000. 

ARQ 88 (December, 2014): 52-55

Figure 6 Phantom Railings. Catalina Pollak, 2014. 

ARQ 70 (December, 2008): 40-43

Figure 7 Fábrica se declara en quiebra al inaugurar… Proyecto intervenciones de Utilidad Pública. Sebastián Preece, 2002. 

ARQ 50 (March, 2002): 36-37

Figure 8 Hoffmann’s House. José Pablo Díaz, Rodrigo Vergara, 1999-2001. 

ARQ 78 (August, 2011): 72-75

Figure 9 Soft Pavilion. Mauricio Pezo, Sofía von Ellrichshausen, 2011. 

ARQ 55 (December, 2003): 42-43

Figure 10 Volantín. Guillermo Prado, 2003. 


FOUCAULT, Michel. The Order of Things. New York: Vintage Books, 1994. [ Links ]

* Camila Reyes

Architect, Pontificia Universidad Católica de Chile (2013); Master in Critical, Curatorial and Conceptual Practices in Architecture from Columbia University, USA (2017). Her work has been published in The Avery Review, ARQ, and in an edited volume of essays titled And Now: Architecture Against a Developer Presidency (Columbia Books on Architecture and the City, 2017). She is currently a Ph.D student in the program of History and Theory of Architecture at Princeton University, USA.

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