Author : Adriana Useche

University : University of Westminster

Status : MArch, 2014

Advisors : Samir Pandya, Nasser Golzari

Title : The Awakening of our Faculties

When a country is so immensely affected by an internal conflict such as Venezuela, it becomes empiric for architecture to be more involved with the issues that conditions day-to-day life, and that generates such a contested environment. Based on that belief, the presented thesis is developed; using research and design as interdependent collaborators in order to reveal certain [ elements ] that relate to the idiosyncrasy of the Venezuelan people who are undeniable participants in the consolidation of this conflict.

It is important to first establish a [ strategy ] that facilitates a critique’s existence outside of the typical political frame. This can be done by generating such arguments outside the conflict, where none of the groups are specifically targeted. This was achieved by using of the Venezuelan novel Doña Bárbara (1929), written by Rómulo Gallegos, as the central basis for this theory. In this narrative, elements of a fictional story act as reflectors of a wider and more complex reality; linking political, social and cultural issues, and using [ symbolism ] through the description of the characters and the Venezuelan heterogeneous landscape. Here, the main idea is developed around the battle against the barbarism of a nation, the lack of morality and the everyday injustices.

Simultaneously, the site selected for this intervention is Bolivar Avenue. An Avenue that represents the evident failure and lack of possibilities caused by modern urban planning; it was projected and constructed under the supervision of French professionals as part of the massive urban development propelled by the oil’s incorporation to the economic system. It still exist today as a very isolated and poorly connected avenue, employed mostly by vehicles and avoided by pedestrians; it is the symbolic intersection in an area where politics and space are closely related.

The project combines both elements: politics and spacial elements. In a first phase, the site is modified in an [ abstract ] way; departing from the employment of a new grid into quadrants; each quadrant responds to specific characteristics and variables. The narrative of Dona Barbara modifies what used to be abstract by relating the environmental variables to specific chapters of the novel. The spaces begin to narrate a story, as the built environment inevitably creates a [ dialogue ] between moments from the life of the characters and each quadrant represents an instant in the journey that takes the reader from the beginning of the avenue until its end. Such instants are later captured, producing the intersection of all design components upon which the critical argument is built.

Interview

S//A : What’s the most important aspect of this project that we should be aware of?
Adriana Useche_ The project has a very personal exploration, that is in fact not intending to present a formal urban proposal rather to use architecture as a resource for critique, where both tangible and intangible elements define situations that confront the cultural identity of the Venezuelan, and intend to be polemical in a context that is highly politicized.

S//A : What other fields outside of architecture interest you?
AU_ Political Sciences.

S//A : Most important thing you learned in architecture school?
AU_ How to be patient, and how every project can always be improved, even after completion.

S//A : Describe your dream project
AU_ I would like to participate in projects where the process of design and research are correspondent to the strategy of design, trying to engage into more participatory schemes, where the most important factor is how people will receive and adapt a specific project to their day to day lives.