deseo urbano

Valparaíso, 2000/ 2001


international symposium of architecture with the Universidad Católica and the Universidad Tecnica, Valparaíso/ Chile (organized by ACMA/ Antonio Angelillo, Milano), and a students' workshop, 2000

urban intervention "deseo urbano", 2001


with Paz Undurraga and Michael Bier

In January 2000 transparadiso was invited to participate in an international symposium on architecture in Valparaíso, which was organized by Antonio Angelillo (Milano) and Bruno Barla/ arqval (Valparaíso/ Chile) in cooperation with the three faculties of architecture in Valparaíso. We developed the topic of the workshop with students and young graduates from Italy and Chile as the starting point for two successive urban interventions of our “applied research” between artistic and urban activities. Valparaíso was to be declared “patrimonio”, cultural heritage, by the Unesco, which caused extensive discussions regarding “conservation” and “patrimony”. So our workshop, as well as our project in 2001, was based on questioning the role of urbanism within the larger context of society. Which voice could the inhabitants of Valparaíso acquire in this context without perpetuating European patterns of conservation?

In his text “experts and amateurs” Edward Said describes, how “intellectual concepts materialize in action itself, when the intellectual as amateur ruptures the professional routine in which most of us are enclosed and (can) transform it into something more vital and radical.” Questioning the distribution of the roles in the game of urban activities is the starting point of our interventions. According to Said, the architect/ urbanist would no longer be the “expert ” given knowledge alone, but would first have to demonstrate expertise in the new sense, as a conscious “amateur”. The architect can no longer hold a distanced position, but must assume the specific situation of the “consumer”, the user of the city. Only by taking this stance the architect can realize a truly radical approach, in the etymological sense. Expectations of the client have to be questioned in order to be scrutinized and then answered in a different way. Instead of emphasizing the preservation of buildings without considering the social context, we wanted to discuss the implications of economic exchange, including “cultural capital”, in an urban intervention.

As site of intervention we chose the Hogar Maria Goretti, a home for girls from age 5-18. Since they were interested in our cameras, we decided to make a film; the girls would assume all the roles - as actresses, directors, videographers. The students and we served as coordinators and assistants, whereas the tías, the matrons of the home, were interested spectators. The doors of the home were opened and the street became the set for one day. The video-project “lady arriba” was born. The students edited the video in one intensive session, showed it at the TAC (taller de acción comunitaria, a community center) and at the final exhibition of the workshop. Even though the intervention took place just in a single day, it left a strong impact on those involved. The benefit of living a different role for one day produced a specific cultural and social space.

in 2001 we returned to the same location which was also the beginning of the next project. The tiled floor of the atrium at the girl’s home established the connecting element between the two interventions: an artistic expression of vernacular design, realized without an architect, the  pragmatic use of donated tiles offered a poetic note. It was on this floor that the first encounter of the girls with the cameras had occurred. So we decided to show the video “deseo por venir”, which included the material of “lady arriba” as projection, first in this courtyard, and then at the Plaza la Matriz, in the middle of the old town, at the heart of the planned zone of patrimonio. There we presented “deseo urbano”, an urban game, in which we used the dynamics of games like “trivial pursuit”. The public sites where the game was played (cafés, parks, restaurants, community centers) were announced in local papers, by postcards and posters. Apart from these public events we played the game with the urban design department of the city of Valparaíso and the housing department of the 5th region of Chile. Playing the game with these diverse participants, their passion and active involvement, allowed for reconsidering the conventional practice of urban design and opened up the possibilities of negotiation with the planning authorities. The players noted their wishes and desires on postcards which were presented to Daniel Sepulveda, the director of the MINVU (Ministery for Housing and Urban Design). The questions and the wishes resulting served as a basis for developing a diversified planning process.

Paz Undurraga, an architect who helped us realizing the project, was then hired by MINVU as advisor for special projects.