The pleasure of anonimity

The pleasure of anonimity

Header image: Engraving of the door of the ears, Granada, around 1830.

Sometimes I wake up to the sadness of not being born into a wealthy family two centuries ago. Be that not to enjoy a resolute life, not to have many servants who are concerned about satisfying each of my needs, not to be in tune with the high society of the moment, not to have my name engraved in the books of history after having received an illustrious inherited title. No. The reason that leads me to imagine myself in such a context is the pleasure that would give me being able to observe each one of the picturesque cities of Romanticism, when these still behaved like a heterogeneous being but with its own, distinct, identity.

Identity as a result of a constructive logic, local logic and, why not state it, also as a result of an aesthetic coherence.

Engraving of the city of Belfast, around 1830.

Those mornings, my sadness worsens when I remember that quite a few of my colleagues behave like a little boy who seeks to stand out no matter what. To achieve this, they decide to do things differently. They come stomping hard to, once in front of us, roar a scream that clouds our sight out of how deafening it is. If that child’s family is disciplined and worried, it will be able to lead that little one, it will be able to understand him and make him see what his strong points are without the need to turn him into a caricature of himself.

However, if that same family has a large offspring who share a taste for originality, the poor parents will lack the patience, time, and energy to give them the education they need. The place that should be called home becomes a little hell.

What if instead of being a child, this individual is an architect with a groundbreaking spirit, a seeker of originality? It is no longer the home that becomes hell. It is the city that is filled with visual pollution, the result of not respecting the canons of order, rhythm, materials and logic that have been formed over the centuries. A grown-up, misguided little boy who manages to destroy all the rules of the location.

This attitude can be defended by saying that it is a matter of showing one’s own, contemporary language. “To be coherent with our time”. Others will justify themselves by saying that they simply dialogue with the site, or that they seek to generate a contrast.

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Colour lithograph of the city of Antwerp, around 1830.

I would like to ask the first ones kindly if we don’t realize that there are materials or forms compatible with certain places. Just as a doctor takes care not to prescribe medicines that cause allergies, we should take care not to irritate the surrounding urban landscape.

To the latter, as long as they are carrying out a real dialogue with the environment – and we have magnificent examples of this – I would ask them if there are already more projects that converse with the pre-existing ones. If the answer is no, the proposal can then enrich the place by offering a subtle mouthful of contemporaneity. But, if the answer is yes, and there are already contemporary projects that are dialoguing with the pre-existences, what will happen when there are more contemporary artefacts that have blurred the traditional language? Where will the dialogue be? Is it legitimate, then, to normalize this way of intervening in cities, whether in their historic centres or neighbourhoods yet to be developed?

With this sadness, this doubt, and my lack of experience, I prefer to design taking into account the language of the place, without capriciously distorting the legacy left to us by our ancestors. My reward will come when I enjoy the anonymity of a work that does not visually contaminate its surroundings, so that ordinary people walk without noticing the novelty of the intervention, and the avid eye discovers our time through the most subtle of details.

Images extracted from the book “Pintoresca vieja Europa”, author Rolf Müller.

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