random thoughts on architecture history theory and criticism

airport urbanism

heathrow airport

that’s it, i’m creating my own urbanism, damned! but this one’s a protest. airports should be public infrastructure, regulated by the state, and involving private enterprises under their scope. however—and i have done no research on this except traveling a lot—they are increasingly managed by private companies, as profit machines. i propose we should discuss airport environments as a type of infrastructural urbanism (which is already a thing). but the rules here are very different. instead of jane jacob’s eyes on the street, retail at the bottom, in airport urbanism we need to have—nay, demand!—less retail.

in the post 9/11 world, air travel has become not only more stressful, but also more costly to manage. to what degree are cost hikes justified because of increased security measures is not for me to say. but as a result, airports are under perpetual renovation, expanding their retail sections to increase profits. as a consequence, the counter-to-gate distances are sometimes ridiculous. in airports like barcelona, miami, and london, the impression is that one has to literally walk through a mall in order to reach the gate. while miami tries to trick its customers by alternating retail and gates, barcelona just dumps one huge retail space between counters and the gates corridors, leaving the frazzled traveler to wonder (or run, if we’re late) through endless shops trying to reach the distant gate. heathrow even offers shopping carts to its customers, with different terminals offering different degrees of confusion as to where the actual gates are.

several airports in south america have been renovated in the past 10 or so years (no research again, but I’ve seen the ones in guayaquil, lima, montevideo, and punta del este) to fit this model. they all look, of course, eerily similar: white metal structure with curved sculptural roof, large panes of glass, some local regionalist nod in the décor, tons of shops. sadly, these remodels usually do not include actual passengers needs—electric outlets are scarce, and wifi (increasingly more of a necessity than a luxury for the traveller) is usually paywalled by boingo or similar internet retailer. the contrast is particularly strong when traveling through older airports such as buenos aires or boston, where distances become surprisingly short thanks to more moderate retail spaces.

my main point is that airports are and should be treated as public infrastructure, and as such it’s time to demand improvements. running them like places of consumption and following retail models is unimaginative, irresponsible, and ultimately results in deteriorated service: it benefits the airport company, but not its users. even if a passenger is willing to pay for additional services, the airport is bloated into a space that no longer serves its function: getting passengers through to their flights, and accommodating their waiting time through different options. retail is the easy answer, but not the only one and definitely not the smartest one.

ps. a more optimistic take on airports here.

pps. also important: availability of public transportation to/from the airport. but that’s another post.

ppps. the são paulo-guarulhos airport is an excellent example of an older airport that works fairly well without excessive retail, managing a huge amount of air traffic. although the location is not ideal—very foggy area.


Filed under: ., rant,

Traduciendo a Rossi, en PLOT 8

mi artículo analiza cómo marina waisman desde summarios y peter eisenman en oppositions usaron el libro de rossi de manera estratégica para sus propias agendas teóricas. lo presenté en octubre pasado en una conferencia en la casa de rossi.

Filed under: ., cv, eisenman, rossi, waisman,

cortázar a caillois

Entendámonos: el propósito central de su libro ha sido plenamente logrado. Nadie, después de leerlo, puede sentirse seguro de que no ha soñado que lo leía. Tampoco yo puedo tener la certeza (certeza lógica, claro, porque de hecho la tengo) de que no estoy soñando esta carta. Ojalá la estuviera soñando; seguramente sería mucho más interesante.

fonds roger caillois, médiathèque valery-larbaud, vichy. julio cortázar le escribe a roger caillois a propósito del libro de este último, l’incertitude que vient des rêves (paris: gallimard, 1956). la carta no tiene fecha, se trata de 14 páginas escritas a máquina. la cita es de la página 2.

Filed under: ., caillois, cortázar, dreams,

Eme3: Bottom-up—at Domus

my report of the eme3 2012 festival at barcelona, is up at domus.

Filed under: ., cv, participation,

what’s your project?

dpr_barcelona invited me to participate in this digital publication—my piece is titled “what’s your project?” and it’s in english and spanish. it has a great line-up if i say so myself, check it out! cover above by klaustoon.

Filed under: ., cities, cv,

layered wall

this wall is next to the macba, in barcelona—a building in the middle of el raval that looks exactly how you’d expect a meier building from the mid 90s to look like: lots of white tiles, lots of corb references, lots of glass. as you might tell, i’m annoyed by the meier building and i really like this wall, and i just realized it’s because it’s the total opposite of the meier museum.

1. it is a collaborative work, where one person has layered their opinion over someone else’s. it includes contrarian and opposite voices. it’s a conversation of many without falling into hive thinking.

2. it keeps growing and evolving over time, and gets richer because of it. it doesn’t require maintenance: change is part of what it stands for.

3. it’s opinionated and political, critical of the status quo (those photographs are images of people loosing their homes because of the crisis, if i remember correctly).

4. part of it is unintended, accidental, and random. those walls were not designed to look like that, pieces just fell away.

5. … and some parts were broken off, which remind us that there’s an inherent violence that is part of creation—it’s not always good, but we should understand what it does and how it operates. some demolishing and clearing is necessary—we shouldn’t allow nostalgia to hinder creativity.

i like this wall as an example of good collaboration—an example creative groups and creative cities should follow.

this post brought to you by my first bottle of red in paris.

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