Author : Juan Carlos Espinosa Cuock

University : Pratt Institute, Graduate School of Architecture & Urban Design

Status : MArch, 2015

Advisors : David Ruy, Michael Young, Ferda Kolatan

Title : Cadavre exquis

A new urban target practice considered the [ destruction of cities ] and land to be crucial to their survival. Technology has been able to pinpoint more finely and to surgically destroy buildings within cities. Industrial disasters can slowly and insidiously ravage a population and landscape produce undeniable  evidence of environmental abuse. Spills percolate in the soil and water over the years, creating widespread environmental disaster with no single defining event, similarly establishing large fields of subtraction and quarantine that extent into space and time with indeterminate boundaries.

Subtraction is an alternative repertoire which takes subtraction in hand and shapes it as a construction  rather than a negation. While urban destruction is often viewed with sorrow and outrage, it can also produce powerfully productive and beautifully landscapes. Even the most devastating disasters potentially rewire buildings and landscape networks with associations and adjacencies. The project is the habitable description of the aftermath of the 1978 oil spill and it did not begin with the desire to correct, restore or usher in new systems or programs. We simply identified a new site by measuring the subtraction, evaluating its constituent parts and cross-referencing the section it cut through the organic shape of the leak and is potentiality as space, observing that areas formerly separated could suddenly access each other moving, containing, sculpting and shaping an outline.

[ Architecture ] can design buildings, cities and landscapes not just as a collection of objects, but also [ programs ]. An object is active not because they are kinetic but because it interacts, evolves and unfolds the dialogue with the context around it. Different from a master plan, a cadavre may orchestrate a [ growth protocol ] or establish a relationship between interdependent variables in the larger urban calculus. Extending the reach of object forms, a cadavre is time releasing an updating platform that remains to condition, divert, or enhance the process. It joins the existing agency of urban organization, tuning it to deliver more powerful spatial consequences.

This taphonomical procedure, is an [ in reverse ] process, where an exchange between interdependent  spatial variables does not grow but rather gradually [ reabsorbs ] building. While the making of an object  form usually results in the addition of buildings, the taphonomical architecture can direct their removal, the task of building and unbuilding, inaugurating and relieving, replacing and recasting urban form.

[ Subtraction ] as an ecology of removal and addition shows above all, an understanding of the instrumentality of interplay and interdependence with the context and the implementation of a subtraction protocol that ironically finds new values in failure. It can also be both destructive and productive. The least spectacular deletions are not immediate; because they are performed through time and programmed as death, they are certainties. While some forms of subtraction deliver aggressive debilitating attrition, others gradually recondition and strengthen urban relationships and eventually, becoming one with it.

The [ taphonomical architecture ] is not the disposal or failure or the eradication of contradiction but rather deliberate tools for managing land/object changes. It does not erase the information, but rather releases a flood of information and exposes it as an historic diagram. The performing of this project so called [ Cadavre Exquis ] (Exquisite Corpse) also offers an expanded artistic repertoire of form making as well as a new territory for a spatial enterprise and ingenuity. Like the cultivation of crops, programming time or the use of one type of microorganism to counteract another, implantation and subtraction may use both active forms and object forms to change not only to shape, but also to constitute and organize of space. If every building is both an addition and a subtraction, every act of [ unbuilding ] is also both a subtraction and addition, an environmental protocol that demonstrates that subtraction can be urban growth.


S//A : What’s the most important aspect of this project that we should be aware of?
Juan Carlos Espinosa Cuock_ The building is itself a baroque machine of soil remediation that is implanted on site to perform it tiring task of cleaning the place. Its job is also a beautiful spectacle: gears, drones, fluids and dirt processed at different stages of remediation are the slow and necessary ritual of mixture and decay of a huge machine that was designed to be a visible testimony of the pollution below, whose shape and functions are molded by it.
The enormous apparatus generates its own underground space, an artificial cave designed by this mechanical architect over the years where the patina and colors, shapes and effects are produced by the collusion between the environment, their own decomposition and the explosion of nature that appear as a sign that the task of the dying building is completed. The architectural cadavre creates a new place where the building and the environment become one. Once its work is finished, this redemptive machine rises from its cave in a theatrical final gesture, one last death rattle which in turn, marks the beginning of a new stage in its process.

S//A : What other fields outside of architecture interest you?
JCEC_ Literature, Science, Art.

S//A : Most important thing you learned in architecture school?
JCEC_ “I want you to chase your reality” a teacher said at the end of certain review. I take those words as if they had been spoken to me, so I set to work and invent cities, built monsters and draw my dreams obsessively. I discovered that for my Mom, objectively matters, “I put your drawing in the bedroom and there’s something in it that makes me feel happy” She said smiling, And my Dad still wondering about that story about a city that was buried and as found in every hole or even his dreams, although he is a Doctor.
The point is that, objectively, those things matter in absolute terms, although we know that is a fiction, it is true, and that’s what matters to us. Because that is the point about reality and probably the most important thing I learned in Architecture School: Reality matters.

S//A : Describe your dream project
JCEC_ A labyrinth. I have an obsession with classic archetypes such as towers, walls or pyramids. Any project that is irreducible and whose program is abstract, such as “create a building to confuse” as The labyrinth.