Some evidence of the importance of dealing with the issue occurred in everyday reality when, on the occasion of commenting on the inauguration of the last Biennial of La Paz, a man of press and television known “closely”, a relative of prominent historians architects, was exhausted in concluding as “mediocre” all contemporary Bolivian architecture, but also when we see daily in national newspapers journalists referring to our architecture and urbanism in subjective terms, confusing economic poverty with poverty in design, or measuring with the same category exceptional architecture, commercial architecture and spontaneous architecture.
Some criteria about the current Cochabamba architecture, with concepts more or less accepted for the case of Latin America, verifying in professional practice the underlying argument, or at least putting in evidence, the tendency of what exists of the types of architectural production.
Recognizing a geographical, historical and cultural entity for Latin America and different features of that identity by nations and regions, a clear distinction can be made between three general types of architectural production, each with its own rules and its own subtypes.
1.- Arquitectura excepcional y puntual de grandes maestros arquitectos.
2.- Arquitectura de arquitectos, permeada por la imagen de las modas y por la lógica comercial.
3.- La arquitectura “espontánea” hecha por la población: por auto construcción o por construcción delegada o por formas de cooperación tradicional.
GROUPS OF CURRENTS
Based on the classification made by Latin American architects in September 1992 at the National University of Colombia in a workshop dedicated to analyzing contemporary Latin American architecture, fitting it into the global panorama. We identify the different contemporary approaches, in four groups of currents.
1.- Technology and Function: It covers the great tradition of modern architecture throughout the twentieth century and labels such as “Functionalism” or the “High Tech” recent, that is, all those groups in which function considerations predominate and technique.
2.- History and Project: It considers those proposals that work the elements of the project of the architectonic discipline and unite them with the study of the history in particular, this has to do with the Italian school, more concretely with the one of Venice.
3.- Culture and Community: Includes those currents in which culturalist approaches are combined with ideas about “the world of life”, the relationships between architecture and its inhabitants at different levels.
4.- Simulation and Difference: it is the most recent group, theoretically speaking. It is defined as the new ways of seeing space and architecture, the recognition of what can be random, the break with pre-established codes and, in general, the criticism of reason or rationality.
RATIONALIST BASE OF CURRENT ARCHITECTURE
Apart from the validity of this classification, we recognize the rationalist basis of twentieth century architecture, we will accept a rational substratum, that kind of “collective unconscious” that is evident in the different ways of approaching problems, independent of physical forms. So that the different currents, could be called the different forms assumed by rationality in contemporary architecture, including the rationalization of the irrational, that is, the attempt to try to apprehend, capture and tie irrationality.
Accepted that basic substratum, the differences would then be in the emphases, in the accents and the qualification with which certain tendencies approach to solve certain problems. Behind these differences are causes that are not necessarily architectural or taste, but deeper ideological reasons, which do not refer to the simple fact of language, as if it were a menu of proposals where language is simply assumed as a fashion or of circumstantial tendency, but they have complex relations with general conditions of society. While we can not decipher these relationships because of their complexity, we can characterize and analyze certain aspects that are posed by the identifiable groups and try to know their intentions and results. Because in the end what matters here is to determine the degree of coherence between the problem and the response given by the architects in a given medium.
PLANNING AND NORMATIVE
Intuitively we refer to the existence or not of planning, assuming that the generic term and its presence or absence in the city define that things are right or wrong, abstracting the economic and social variables that planning assumes and knowing that alone It does not solve anything. The regulations should tend to return the homogeneity to architecture, the excessive freedom to do everything instead of being an advantage has become a conflict for the architect. No doubt at present in the city of Cochabamba in architecture and urbanism everything is allowed. Free market and free market, let do and let go.
DENSITY AND HEIGHT
Permanent discussion between urbanists or laymen, unresolved situation when talking about the growth of the city. We criticize the horizontality in the solution of the construction, for the consumption of the territory that this supposes, without a parallel benefit in the social enjoyment or of the environment, social housing plans consumers of urban land. But even when we analyze high-rise buildings we criticize the proposal for the deterioration of the urban image or the countryside that they suppose, this contradiction supposes the re-posing of high-density but low-rise options, which do not begin to be popularized in concrete typologies that resolve lack of housing and promote an adequate use of available space. It is worth mentioning and evaluating as positive in the search for appropriate solutions, the unique cases of housing condominium for middle class, group in band with access from the interior patio, proposed and housing condominiums for upper-middle class built.
Other projects of appropriate technology for housing of social interest elaborated for relocated miners are also a good attempt to look for new alternatives of density of the housing at the lowest possible economic and environmental cost.
THE EDGE OF THE IMPOSSIBLE
Another myth, of which much is said and little is solved, is this one of the urbanizable limit of the city, this line or dividing line in the paper, supposes effects contrary to those that it tries to achieve, when its single implementation marks differences of price of the ground abrupt expensive inside and cheap outside, encourages the obvious purchase and speculation of non-urbanizable land, generating social problems that the municipality has to solve and consuming agricultural land that is intended to be preserved. What would happen if the artificial edges are eliminated and the earth plays its role in the market based on its intrinsic characteristics such as differential rent, its accessibility and infrastructure. What would happen on the other side if we effectively control the validity of urban regulations.
NO CLEAR URBAN STRUCTURE
This thesis wants to verify that the city of Cochabamba, has been built by simple addition and superposition of zones, do not exist or have been digested by the size of the city the structuring spaces, there are no territories marked by spatial qualities but they are only expression or result of socioeconomic processes or are differentiated by the greater or lesser provision of basic services, although there are some differences in spatial appropriation and land use between the south and north of the city. Geographical references weigh more than those of the urban structure, there are no milestones, edges or textures that allow the architecture also accommodate a language of variety within the unit.
All this added to the lack of control of urban regulations and the accelerated growth of the last 20 years have shaped a city on the verge of losing its identity. Cochabamba is not “Chola ni señorita”.
In this situation, the architecture of Cochabamba can not but be coherent with the destiny of its urbanism.
With these considerations, we can point out that there are specific and characteristic currents in Cochabamba within the types of production and currents, among which we highlight some of them here.
THE GREATEST BENEFIT WITH THE MINIMUM EFFORT
We refer here to the largest percentage of civil works built since the 70s with the late advent of modernity arm military dictatorships, in which fortunately few architects were involved. However, we must mention or at least show these works for pedagogical purposes in their various forms:
THE DEGRADATION OF THE URBAN LANDSCAPE
It is characterized by the greatest usufruct possible to the urban land, the aggression to the historical patrimony in order to represent the power and the development, the submission of the design to the governing regime in the public works of buildings or to the speculative requirements of the owner verifying irrefutably It’s easy to destroy an environment without dying in the attempt.
THE LARGEST BUILDABLE SURFACE
Not only do the owners claim the highest possible land rent, but the architects and builders try the largest constructed area at the expense of sacrificing sunlight, lighting, ventilation and visuals, in this purpose they project floors as layers of a birthday cake, one on another …. shortly after one or two more floors are added to reach the condition of cake, balconies are closed converting them into habitable airplanes using public space without reproach for free.
THE HI TEC LATINA CURRENT
Mixture of the passion for cutting-edge technology worldwide with the Latin inclination for accessories and lace. It is characterized by an image with a profuse presence of elements that, without being structural, display airs of such, serial planes in the form of columns or bearing walls, parasols or blinds.
However a negative sequel to this current constitutes the series of anonymous buildings built by the empirical owners or builders. These are projects lacking exterior aesthetic quality, with slum interior spaces, “Brillante” buildings with façades covered in mirrors like a disco ball, the model quickly spread and today we can see several of these aggressive ways of expressing Latin beauty.
THE INTERNATIONAL CURRENT WITH THE LOCAL ACCENT
This group of architects corresponds to the second type of architectural production of the frame of reference, however the quality of their proposal and the interest to transcend them approaches the type of exceptional architecture.
These are individual housing projects and sober, functional buildings that, while adopting international image standards, do not dehumanize or lose personality by adapting local requirements and scales.
The theme of the scale deserves a reflection, in Cochabamba when the first “skyscrapers” were built coinciding with the opening of the Av. Heroínas seemed huge today we see them out of scale, that is to say they were always with respect to the historic center, today also they are regarding the size of the city.
THE REGIONAL CURRENT
The youthful enthusiasm for doing things healthy and good, the revolutionary effervescence for the student demands, the reconquest of the university autonomy of the 70s and 80s, express in practice the changes of the university reform.
The experience of professionals recently arrived from exile, or who woke up from confinement, joined the renewed streams of new generations, between the comings and goings of discourse and practice, of the criticism of the system that reproduces the mediocre.
The revaluation of the local, in its forms and materials passed from the paper, to the facts, recoding the aesthetic and ethical values, that what happens inside is expressed to the outside, that the protagonist is the space and the man his interlocutor, permanent, man not in the abstract but he who lives day by day, with his earthly aspirations, but with his limitations of not knowing what he wants, of knowing what I could pay or deserve to receive for dignity.
A synthesis of the design features in this trend could indicate:
Clear spatial structure, with variables of simple composition, starting from pure basic forms, a geometric treatment of the form, having the space as protagonist.
Economy of formal elements, lines, planes, volumes. The smallest number of types of enclosures and possible encounters, compared to the greatest amount obtainable of spatial qualities. Understanding spatial qualities as degrees of definition of space, from the real, to the suggested or virtual. The tacit of inside-out or covered-uncovered is nuanced with a spectrum of innumerable intermediate conditions.
Technomorphological work, where the form and materials interdependent each other, each shape has a material that responds better to its intrinsic geometric and resistance characteristics.
The preferred materials tend to be the “noble” rustic and handcrafted brickwork but worked with detail that exploits its dimensional and texture possibilities, natural or colored wood, combined with brick in lintels or vaults, ceramics on deck and floors.
The built typologies denote that there are no exclusive symbols of a social class, the formal codes that represent a certain status are therefore less strong than in a “traditional” architecture. It adopts, however, elements of the popular regional architecture: Cornices, eaves, balusters, diaphragms, corridors, hallways, patios, recodes and represents them.
The green and vegetation are proportional and integral part of the proposal, the garden is not only a decorative element, here the concepts of bioclimatic architecture appear in their passive systems. The furniture is part of the morphology and the construction system.
In addition to isolated architecture and public facilities, social housing works in systems of self-construction directed and organized urban planning and building management are highlighted.
(Source: Rolly Aruco)