SYMMETRIES can be framed within the growing interest and concern for the heritage aspects of architecture and the city, particularly in the context of the crisis of the prevailing urban models that has become so evident in the Spanish context of the last two decades making a reconsideration of old urban fabrics something relevant as an area of reflection with renewed interest.
The ability to intervene in the problems and opportunities offered by the contemporary city from within the study of the ancient city appears as a privileged frame of work for architects and students due to at least two apparent conflicts: first the constant decoupling between the need for preservation of many historic cores and the programmatic requirements imposed on these towards a proper functional performance (traffic, tourism, housing, etc.). Second, the constant dialectic between visions that value the freezing of historic cities in their current configuration against those who advocate for a continuous transformation, in order to adapt to ever-changing demands.
These concerns, coupled with the necessary containment in new construction investment required in the medium-term future due to the current economic crisis, which in turn will increase the importance of the disciplines of conservation and restoration, require a platform tuned with the University and architectural education able to creatively tackle these issues. A platform dedicated to thinking about the city of tomorrow from within the past, implement flexible learning formats and recover for architects and students a fascination with the past, understood as a privileged mechanism for reading the contemporary city.
2. ROMAN HERITAGE AS A CONTEMPORARY THEME
The recovery of “the Roman” still latent in many of the structures of Spanish cities and the rest of Europe, interests because a multitude of crossed factors. Regaining a dense historical view seems necessary in a moment of temporal smoothing and disregard for anything that goes beyond the XXth or at most XIXth century. The stubborn persistence of traces of Roman origin in cities currently subject to uncontrolled transformations and the urban legibility of these traces, often reused, reviewed, partially buried, but maintaining a structuring capacity within the urban experience suggests the need to “uncover” these traces and creatively reconsider them.
Unique experiences of ongoing re-uses and enhancements of Roman fragments within cities like Merida, Tarragona and Cartagena, to name some of those who have recently built upon their Roman preexistences in the Spanish territory with interesting results, demonstrate the need to extend the study and consideration of this legacy from an architectural stance. The validity in the presence of Roman traces within the urban structure of many European cities should still be considered an invaluable wealth, in the Spanish territory as in the rest of Europe. This requires specific organizations designed to work with this reality, something Spanish architecture schools are lacking today.
In this context, the notion of “symmetry” emerges as a powerful concept to revisit urban fabrics, particularly those which instead of encapsulating the past have opted for a dialectical relationship with it, as happens so eloquent in the above mentioned cities with a Roman origin, or others like Split, Rome or Coimbra. These places and many others are those on which SYMMETRIES aims to work and reflect upon. We establish the system of symmetry (comparison, homology, drawing lines of temporal and conceptual relationship between different times), as a working procedure for updating the Roman legacy. Taking as a starting point a fixed structure (the underlying traces and ruins), and projecting upon these contemporary realities, interests or geometries, the apparent disagreement between these two situations is considered a creative argument from which to obtain architectural knowledge which can make us see the past with new eyes or the present with greater depth of field.
3. THE “CONGRESS + WORKSHOP” FORMAT
The traditional format of the “workshop” as an intense and short-duration working experience for students is the core around which the SYMMETRIES initiatives revolve. A “workshop” produces interesting results in a short space of time, catalyzing ideas that can be developed by students in conjunction with teachers. The format also allows for streamline exchanges between schools and contacts between teachers and students given that the duration of the workshops (one or two weeks), easily finds a place in the course calendar. The scale of a workshop permits working simultaneously on the organization of several such meetings, each one dealing with a theme and a city. As a continuation and conclusion of every workshop held, SYMMETRIES organizes a Micro-Congress lasting two days, involving the teachers from the workshop and incorporating external guests. This allows for a critical reflection on what has occurred, exchanging ideas and giving shape to propositive conclusions. Congress and Workshop as a complementary pair of opposites (students vs. architects; action vs. reflection or speed vs. pause), provide a comprehensive framework in a short time span, an intensified instrument for analyzing reality.
With these intentions a Symmetries Architecture Summer Workshop was held in July 2011 at the Faculty of Architecture in Split, Croatia. The Workshop developed the idea of symmetry between the Roman trace and the current use of Split’s old centre, mainly touristic nowadays, organizing work teams from a total of 30 Spanish and Croats architecture students, in a game of symmetries which extended the dialogue between the two organizing universities (ETSAM School of Architecture of Madrid and GAF-Split Faculty of Architecture). This game incorporated two equivalent sets of prestigious guests belonging to each of the two faculties as either teaches, speakers or both.
If the first workshop was conducted in Croatia, we are now in contact with cities in Portugal, Italy and Spain as next targets, with Rome being the next stop for a Symmetries Architecture Winter Workshop in 2012. Inherent to this approach lays a certain pan-European and Mediterranean vision, integrating and sharing origins and common memories. The enrichment of relationship amid university communities with whom to share these periods of work is essential, and will produce a benefit beyond the specific limits of this initiative.
January 2012: Symmetries Architecture Workshop Winter 2012 Rome launch & candidate selection
February 2012: Symmetries Architecture Workshop Winter 2012 Rome
A maximum of 60 students will attend Symmetries Architecture Workshop Winter 2012 Rome. The division is intended to make 50/50 students from Spain and Italy, with an approximate number of 30 students per country. Students from ETSAM will be awarded 3 official academic credits for their participation in the workshop. Every student will be given an official certificate of attendance with ETSAM, Roma Tre and UEM stamps signed by school and workshop directors. Students are eligible from ANY EUROPEAN ARCHITECTURE SCHOOL.