Original Misunderstandings: Latin American Architecture and Some Genealogies

Tropicália was a Brazilian movement founded in the 1960s by musicians, poets, and other artists. Immersed in the Latin American polarized discussions about the meaning of identity, which pendulated between extreme expressions of nationalism and an international outlook, these artists wanted to be “just like the Beatles” while remaining faithful to their roots and traditions. This kind of syncretism was also a distinctive feature of Latin American Modernisms in general. When it comes to architecture, local renditions were manifested by specific responses to the environmental and climate conditions, a relationship to landscape, poetics, the incorporation of political art and traditional crafts, and the porosity and openness of the object. Modern buildings were meant to be performative and experiential, not because of any theoretical mandate but just as a representation of the new “Latin American way.”

Latin American architecture has since been recognized by its modern pioneers—even though their real impact in the triangle of influences that included them, Europeans, and North Americans, has often been underestimated abroad. Yet, their local effect was such that it persisted over time, even coming to complicate a theoretical renewal or the constitution of other significant narratives that later production could build upon. Suffering from the preconceptions conditioned by a modern aesthetical-political ethos, most of the referential postmodern production in Latin America remained reductively categorized as "Critical Regionalism" or understood as a shallow result of later capitalism. Lately, a big trend of criticism falls into the alarming fetishization of poverty that not only raises moral questions but also undermines the chances of learning from the disciplinary contributions that architecture in the South has to offer.

This course intends to address those contributions and the interpretative void that began with postmodernism in Latin America through the critical analysis of its contemporary architecture. While maintaining a playful, bold, and very committed approach to possible modes of making theory today, taking risks, trying ideas, and the creation of concepts—in the Deleuzian sense—will be encouraged. Lectures, guests, readings, discussions, the study of cases, drawings, and collective interviews will be used to help students develop new cartographies and taxonomies that can be used as tools of representation, analysis, and communication of the design and theoretical genealogies explored.

The seminar will be divided into three parts. In the first part lectures, readings, and discussions will focus on the Modern heroic period and the expansion of the canon. Differences and similarities throughout the continent will be debated and historically problematized in a global context. Students will prepare reading responses to participate in the discussions following the lectures.

In the second part, the class will interview guest speakers while researching and discussing case studies. Works by Pezo von Ellrichshausen, Camilo Restrepo, adamo-faiden, Productora, Carla Joacaba, Angelo Bucci, Felipe Mesa, Ana Smud, and Emilio Marin, among others, will be discussed.

The final part of the course will be devoted to the collective production of graphic analytical cartographies and taxonomies, focusing on the exploration of possible new tools and uses of media for a contemporary theory of architecture. These discussions will conclude in a public event with guest speakers.