INSIGHTS_03 — What underlies the structure
Architecture is considered as the practice of conception and construction of structures related to a certain place and the specific period of time in which it was built. Architecture plays an important role in our lives. It represents values that are beyond tangible properties. All the buildings that we see in our cities hide a story, memories and were designed and built for a reason.
Each building represents a social, political and historical value, which is transmitted from one generation to another. Architecture and urbanism cannot cover these immaterial layers and are part of the history of the context where it was built. Some photographers saw these features in architecture and how they shaped their own environment. Through their projects they explore and try to understand what lies beyond those walls.
German visual artist and photographer Malte Uchtmann has been using photography as a medium to manifest socio-political issues in relation, among other subjects, to architecture. His interest resides in the reflection of the structures of our society and how these influence our lives.
Arriving is one of his last long-term projects, where he focuses on the architecture of refugee accommodations in Germany. Each society imparts its values through its architecture and sometimes, consciously or unconsciously, they create material and immaterial borders that expose the difficulties for the people to settle.
Malte studied the infrastructure of the refugee architecture that the German government provides and explored the social structures and how architecture impacts, not just on urban planning, but also with the integration between the refugees and locals.
Clothes have always been related to bodies.
But, may fashion be transferable to architectural spaces or landscapes?
This was the main question that drove Emily Cannell’s project. She decided to begin from her home, the East Anglian coastline in the United Kingdom, a long source of inspiration for her. An historically charged landscape that inspired some of the most prolific British writers, and an area well known by its nuclear buildings, defensive battlements and abandoned airbases.
By dressing old buildings, she shows the absence of the human body and how the clothes reveal a transformative nature of the subject. In some way, fashion transforms the identity of these spaces and gives them a new different meaning. The structures that used to be in disuse or simply abandoned, now they present a rich repertoire of shapes and contrasts. The angular forms, the light games provoked by the clothes and the draping effects, make the building become the new body upon which fashion locate, creating a perfect balance between all practices.
The human being has always had the need to feel protected, to live under a roof. There’s an inner relation between safety and security, we need to understand the space that we live in. Since the beginning of humanity, our species has never had any trouble appropriating land in order to safeguard our necessities.
Sòl i sostre means ‘floor and ceiling’ in Catalan, and references this relation with space. The project focuses on the self-construction processes that took place during the 50s and 60s in the neighbourhood of Les Planes in Barcelona. The whole borough was initially planned for immigrant families who arrived to work. Due to the Spanish law of land and roof, the buildings could not be demolished, if after 48 hours they already had a roof. Because of this, families had the pressure to build roofs during the night and in communities under precarious conditions. Ultimately, these self-construction processes together with this particular law, brought into light the social and architectural problems, such as the use of cheap materials, the exposure of the basic structures, and the precarious conditions that people were living in.
As we have seen, architecture and politics are closely linked. In the town of Les Borges Blanques in Lleida, Spain, there was a housing estate called Grupo Generalísimo Franco. For those who are not familiar with contemporary Spanish history, Francisco Franco established a dictatorship in the country from 1939 until his death in 1975. This neighbourhood (which was the home of the artist’s maternal grandparents) was inaugurated in 1962. Being a social housing area, buildings and street signs featured the fascists symbols of the dictatorship: the pickaxe and the wheat stalks, and the yoke and arrows of the fascist party.
After Franco’s death, these symbols were defaced. In some cases they became almost imperceptible, others were scratched to end up revealing the trace of their elimination. Iconoclastic acts in architecture have been recurrent throughout history. They are made from a nonconformist point of view and represent a denial from a past that no longer defines that society. They promote change and the intention to build a new vision of the future. In cases like this, architecture happens to have an educational and social purpose, which reminds society of its historical memory.
Malte Uchtmann (b. 1996, Hamburg, Germany) is a photographer and visual artist based in Hanover, Germany.
In his work he uses photography as a medium to reflect the structures of our society and its influences on our lives. Besides his work on socio-political long-term projects he is works on editorial and cooperate commissions.
Emily Cannell (b. 1989, Ipswich, United Kingdom) is a multidisciplinary artist who lives and works in Suffolk, UK.
Her practice combines photography, sculpture and site-specific investigations. She works with textiles, using them as a medium to explore ideas around memory, identity and place.
Blanca Munt is a photographer and graphic designer based in Barcelona, Spain.
She works on photographic and archive projects that deal with topics such as architecture, periphery, landscape and portraiture, among others. She currently researches about the culture of fear and paranoia.
Pol Masip (b. 1993, La Secuita, Spain) is a Barcelona-based photographer with a degree in History of Art.
Passionate about architecture, arts, and design; Pol loves to take portraits, to shoot buildings and interiors. His personal work focuses on urban landscapes and infrastructures and its relations to politics from a documentary approach.
INSIGHTS is the new initiative by Conceptual Projects that puts the spotlight on artists’ narratives. In Conceptual Projects, we truly believe that collaboration is essential for success and visibility on these days. INSIGHTS was created to bring together photography based projects that explore similar areas of investigation, initiating dialogues between artists and their projects.
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