On the first of July 1999, five trucks transported five letters from Madrid to Castellón. The five letters had been built in white reinforced concrete, in the city of Madrid. The five trucks were the same, the five letters were different. The drivers carried telephones so that they could attend to the orders of the directors of the action. As they moved through the landscape and the towns, the five letters formed a word.
The emergence of a word, an intruder, implies a culturization of landscape through thought. A culturization in motion that leaves no lasting mark. An ephemeral action, limited to four hundred and forty kilometres and ten hours of travel.
Nature is what a person sees through experience. The task of art is to generate thoughts able to propose new experiences. The task of photography is not to represent or imitate what exists, but to summarize an experience. Therefore, the pictures of this travel reveal the process of a different experience – just a few documents are left as a trace that freezes time, catalyses memory and at the same time challenges the disappearance of the ephemeral.
The movement of the five letters on trucks must be understood as a “travel with weight”, reminding us of the mass of the earth that claims for itself everything that moves on its surface. The aim of this ephemeral installation has to do with the earth (two ways of colonizing: the gaze and the footprint) and with time (two ways of measuring: distance and movement).
The emergence of these intruding letters, before the changing eyes of people, provokes a transformation of the different territories that are crossed by the road. A sort of spatial appropriation through the footprint and the gaze –a material confrontation between the language of the particular and the language of the universal.
The continuous and accelerating frictions between the language of the particular and the language of the universal, between simultaneously being one and part of a group, inaugurate the moment of invisibility. The globalisation of culture and the respect to difference call for a wordless consensus. Today it is necessary to make ideas invisible, in order to clear the path for an architecture made from the frictions of living as presentation — not representation — of life. The architecture of tomorrow does not ask for forms, but for the marrow of forms, an architecture with a succinct body, just enough to stand up.
If something characterizes today’s architecture, it is the architect’s capacity to explore and exploit, with a critical and ironic attitude, preferably with a sense of humour, the apparent restrictions and difficulties of the profession in our time. Only he who considers the clusters of overlapping and conflicting building codes, the economic constraints, the diversity in the client’s agenda, the political cycles, the mutability of program, the speed of change in society or the unpredictability of human behaviour as opportunities rather than constraints, will be able to seriously pursue this profession.
Because of all of the above, today we need a non-theoretical conversational mode understood as a creative apparatus that realizes the frictions between objects and ideas, the client and society, work and the city, between the architect and his perplexed discipline; if there was a time in which architecture was about lowering tension, establishing correlations and reaching agreements — as there was a time in which the tension became noticeable — now it is necessary to make these tensions even more tangible and use them as creative material. In this way, we do not only accept contradictions, but the optimistic assumption of these frictions as the true trace of our collective unconscious. The true material is no longer private obsessions, but the hidden collective anxiety, the other face of an artificial everyday, which must be explored as if only in the unspeakable, in the invisible, other shapes of truth could take cover… That which remains after a conversation because it hasn’t been said.
Luis Mansilla and Emilio Tuñón are the founders of Mansilla+Tuñón Arquitectos. They are Professors in the Architectural Design Department of the Architecture School of Madrid, and have been visiting professors at the Princeton University School of Architecture.