Author : Juan Sala

University : Harvard University | Graduate School of Design

Status : MArchII, Spring 2016

Advisor : Jorge Silvetti

Title : Oscillations

The project is a search for an architecture that intends to oscillate between the earth as concealing and the world as de-concealing. In the ruin the balance between nature and edifice shifts in favor of nature and the object becomes infused with our nostalgia- yet it is out of these conditions that a new whole- a new unity- emerges.

Absence gives rise to an extraordinary new beauty. This brings to surface a paradox: How could one celebrate absence yet juxtapose in a single space several spatial elements and intensities? How could one further intensify this new unity yet make the ruin belong to a discourse?

This requires an architecture of a different kind. To not alter a monuments physical condition but uncover successfully it’s memory and discourse, a marriage of geology and archeology, could be able to stitch together multiple times speaking at each other, simultaneously. All time and space present. In such, one could conceive of a site that becomes a celebration of epochal changes, and its experience a process of unearthing time so as to see its historical evolution. This can be thought as a strategy that conceives stratigraphic excavation not as destruction but as creation. The actual disruption of the earth’s crust as an art piece in itself. This is an architecture that acknowledges we are in the epoch of simultaneity, in the epoch of juxtaposition, in the epoch of the near and far, of the side-by-side. This brings up the possibility of a new dialogue: abstract, tabular diagrams delineating a given sequence of rock formations switching their vocabulary from the mineralogical to the architectural. Excavation and then a representation -so as to preserve- the past. As Levi Strauss writes in Tristes Tropics: “testifying in their own way to a gap of several tens of thousands of years suddenly space and time become one: the living diversity of the moment juxtaposes and perpetuates the ages. Thought and emotion move into a new dimension where every drop of sweat, every muscular movement, every gasp of breath becomes symbolic of a past history, the development of which is reproduced in my body, at the same time as my thought embraces its significance. I feel myself to be steeped in a more dense intelligibility, within which centuries and distances answer each other and speak at last with one and the same voice.”

This process of visual recovery puts objectivity and subjectivity, past and present, history and individual, fragment and whole, into a peculiar kind of oscillatory tension. It generates an architecture that as stated, oscillates between the earth as concealing and the world as de-concealing. As Heidegger writes “the world, in resting upon the earth, strives to surmount it. As self-opening it cannot endure anything closed. The earth, however, as sheltering and concealing, tends always to draw the world into itself and keep it there”. The project becomes an exploration of an architecture that establishes an attitude of humility into the world through a potent insistence on gravity. One can reach into the future and see the positives and negatives; one can reach back in time through an almost telescoping collapse. Seeing and feeling intense past and present through these simultaneous worlds coming together and the deep-awareness of oscillating between imposition and liberation.


S//A : What’s the most important aspect of this project that we should be aware of?
Juan Sala_ The proposition that a marriage of archeology and geology can allow ruins to both celebrate the weight of absence yet belong to the collective memory.

S//A : What other fields outside of architecture interest you?
JS_ Conceptual Art. In this project I have looked very closely into works such as Nobuo Sekine Mother Earth in 1968, Robert Smithson Nonsite: Line of Wreckage 11 in the same year, Jannis Kounellis Untitled in 1969, and Mary Miss Perimeter Pavilions in 1978. All projects that involve an understanding of an in-situ totality; projects that involve debris and shards being transformed into geological specimens.

S//A : Most important thing you learned in architecture school?
JS_ That as Le Corbusier once said: “In a complete and successful work there are hidden masses of implications, a veritable world which reveals itself to those whom it may concern, which means: to those who deserve it.” It is only through an inseparable commitment to both theoretical thinking and construction, that one can ensure clarity resonates at all stages of a design process.

S//A : Describe your dream project?
JS_ Precisely a cultural institution like this one, in a site full of pressures, full of historical weight, that then requires for architecture to exercise its maximum potential.