Today we bring you a graduate thesis project by Ivan Bernal of SCIArch. Familiar Primitive makes and argument for reverting to “primitive” imagery and geometry to generate formal and programmatic relationships in architecture. It is interesting to see a proposal that embraces its context in an urban ruin; We’re getting pretty tired of seeing proposals for “modern” architecture as having pristine, shiny surfaces that apparently never get dirty or crack.
“Familiar Primitives. This thesis uses familiar primitives and operations among them to generate complex spatial systems that retain a high level of formal legibility and clarity. Throughout history primitives have been used as an expression of monumentality, religiousness or even utopian dreams. They carry an intrinsic value and formal expectancy that can be used to capture its users. Since childhood we have been playing with this basic shapes creating a predisposition to them, we have experienced them, and we know what to expect.
In contemporary architecture and with the use of digital tools, spatial configuration has advanced to a degree in which the audience outside the architectural field can no longer recognize it. By bringing back primitives, we can introduce a level of recognition to which most people can relate to, and establish the foundation for the excessive formalism that can be achieved with contemporary techniques. With the use of specific tools, primitives could offer the first step for this system; which can then evolve with its own complexity, retaining it’s familiarity to a broader audience. It is this legibility what this thesis wants to use to generate a system that can be traced back to its primal shapes, retaining a level of intimacy and expectancy to be understood at its core.
“Buildings become a stage moving forward and backward in time”. “It assumes the world can change, can become something is not” — Moss, The Havana Project
The project: Cuba has been a country in constant search of its own identity since they first became a Spanish colony. In this search they found their identity in music through a mixture of american, african and french influences, in religion, they found it by merging the catholic church and african beliefs, and in art and in literature they where able to express their own ideas and positions,…but not in architecture. The architecture of the country has seen many styles from colonial to modern to regionalism , but none of them really express their unique culture, their struggles and views. In the early 1960’s before the Soviet Union was fully established in Cuba, the government commissioned a design and construction campaign in search for their own architectural character, resulting in the art schools and isolated houses which were then forgotten as they did not fit the later views of the government.
This project reexamines the issue of identity as it questions and searches for its own character, for its place,its context……El Malecon.
If the current state of the city is not perceived as old, how to make it new? The city is decaying, it is deteriorating and collapsing, it wears it’s scars. This idea is what gave rise to a project which embraces its condition, it searches to relate to what people in Havana are familiar with and understand as architecture, to move back and forth between the old, the decayed and the new. The primal, the familiar and the shapes they can relate to.”
– Ivan Bernal