Radical Pedagogies: School and Institute of Architecture of Valparaíso (1952-1972)

Radical Pedagogies: School and Institute of Architecture of Valparaíso (1952-1972)

ArchDaily is continuing our partnership with Radical Pedagogies, an ongoing multi-year collaborative research project led by Beatriz Colomina with a team of PhD students of the School of Architecture at Princeton University, presenting a series of paradigmatic cases in architectural education. Today, Ignacio González Galán (Adjunct Assistant Professor at Columbia University GSAPP) presents the most important —and living— example in architectural education in Latin America, the School and Institute of Architecture of Pontifical Catholic University of Valparaíso, led by architect Alberto Cruz with a group of artists: the poet Godofredo Iommi, the sculptor Claudio Girolla, and the architects Fabio Cruz, Miguel Eyquem, José Vial, Arturo Baeza, Francisco Méndez and Jaime Bellalta. The program's deep dialogue with poetry, arts and the craft of architecture is the main distinguishing feature of its pedagogy. Its ideals have been materialized in Open City, a space for architectural experimentation to the north of Valparaíso in which some professors and researchers live.

Starting in 1952, the Architecture School at Valparaiso offered simultaneously an elaboration of the intellectual project of modernity and a response to modern architecture as it had been institutionalized in Latin America. Led by Chilean architect Alberto Cruz and Argentinean poet Godofredo Iommi, its pedagogy bypassed architectural sources and turned to a wider set of references from the avant-garde in a quest for the “absolutely modern.”

As an alternative to studios of other Chilean schools that linked technical modernization and a utopian social program with the language of the modern movement, the Architecture School at Valparaiso concentrated on the “plastic aspects” of architecture. Exercises combined these explorations with an interest in the “lived” experience of the city. The city was initially analyzed as a set of formal relations discovered through direct observation and experience, dismissing the social analyses developed by other ramifications of modern architecture. The School’s agenda responded to those who focused on the heteronymous realm outside the forms of architecture, concentrating instead in the autonomy of its language.

The exploration of language—specifically as it was performed by poetry—was the medium chosen by the School to develop a creative inquiry into the “lived” experience of the city’s spaces. The so-called “poetic act,” and later the “phalene,” unfolded this exploration: Oscillating between public recitations and collective artistic performances—introducing games, celebratory garments, and commonly leading to the production of a material artistic work—phalenes instilled actions and spaces with unexpected qualities. Sites were understood as playing fields in which movements and formal strategies were disengaged from any goal beyond them. Such an approach to architecture was thought to load spaces with meaning and to open them to the production of new subjectivities while remaining completely disengaged from material conditions and historical contingencies. Different types of drifts or travesias extended this poetic appropriation of spaces throughout extended territories. The pan-American journey Amereida, in 1965, was the first of these trips. Envisioned as an American phalene, it aimed to provide a landmark for a symbolic re-origination of the continent, appealing to a mythical chronology rather than to any historical project.

These activities questioned the transformative impetus of modern architecture and any “instrumentalization” of architecture as a historical agent. More explicitly, the School rejected modern architecture’s impetus to “change the world,” turning instead to the “change of life” that they understood was allowed by poetry.

Student work at Valparaiso School, Curso del Espacio, Professor Arturo Baeza, 1956. Courtesy of Archivo Histórico Jose Vial

This pursuit led the School to engage in activities that destabilized pedagogical structures, obliterating the boundaries between learning, working, and living in what was offered as a new “erotic” character for the university. To defend such pursuit and against the constraints of the University authorities, students and faculty overtook the School in 1967. Their protests resonated with some of the concerns that shook educational institutions both in Chile and globally one year later, though the School quickly set itself apart from the political character of the 1968 revolts and their revolutionary emphasis on the future.

This anti-institutional search for autonomy was consolidated with the foundation of Open City in 1971. Built together by students and faculty, Open City still hosts some of the School’s exercises and allows a number professors and researchers to live there. The buildings of the Open City cannot be understood as abstract explorations, nor are they engaged with their historical context. In them, the members of the School aimed to find a project for architecture outside the instrumentalizing tendency of the modern world, engaging in an exploration of their own life in its relation to new forms of architectural expression. As such, the project of the School remained a radical way of teaching and inhabiting modernity, detached from any friction with the tumultuous events hitting Chile in the years after its foundation.

Poetic Act for the “Opening” of the site, Open City, Ritoque, 1971. Courtesy of Archivo Histórico Jose Vial

Radical Pedagogies” is an ongoing multi-year collaborative research project led by Beatriz Colomina with a team of Ph.D. students of the School of Architecture at Princeton University. It has so far involved three years of seminars, interviews, archival research, guest lectures and almost 80 contributors from more than two dozen countries. In this, and similar research projects conducted by the PhD program at Princeton, architecture history and theory are taught and practiced as an experiment in and of themselves, exploring the potential for collaboration in what is often taught to be a field of individual endeavor.

The third edition of Radical Pedagogies' exhibition, titled "Radical Pedagogies: Reconstructing Architectural Education," is currently on show at the 7th WARSAW UNDER CONSTRUCTION Festival organized by the Museum of Modern Art in Warsaw. Earlier versions of this show were presented at the 3rd Lisbon Architecture Triennale (2013) and the 14th Venice Biennale of Architecture, curated by Rem Koolhaas (2014), where it was awarded a Special Mention.

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Cite: Ignacio González Galán. "Radical Pedagogies: School and Institute of Architecture of Valparaíso (1952-1972)" 28 Oct 2015. ArchDaily. Accessed . <https://www.archdaily.com/775162/radical-pedagogies-school-and-institute-of-architecture-of-valparaiso-1952-1972> ISSN 0719-8884

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