Photo image Chakana Project: Eric Charles Tassel
A French artist, Eric CharlesTassel, conceived the idea that as Paris has its Eiffel Tower, La Paz and El Alto should also have an icon that identifies all Bolivians. It is true that one of the tasks of architecture and urbanism is to provide symbols to the citizens, recalling aspects of their civilization, their cultural values and aspirations, its mysticism and philosophies, their institutions and technology, indeed architecture as a cultural object in which the old and the new inhabitants are identified.
Today’s architecture is like many other products, a visual object; the building as a visual product is a result of the commercialization of the world. Everything is business, but is also a result of the speed of the world, everything must be quick and effective at the moment. This demand, led to the contemporary construction industry to a point of extravagance and virtuosity in which anything is possible, astonishing structures that instead of giving us a sense of novelty, frequently appear forced and alienating, such as is the case of the Chakana Project in the City of la Paz Bolivia.
This booming of architectural objects has become the perfect combination of demagogic politics, all the big cities or even small towns want to have their Gughemhein. Signature architecture, an exhibitionist and narcissistic art in which museums, ministries, bridges and even places have the primary function of calling attention, not on their function or for which they were built, but mostly about themselves and above all about the ingenuity and courage of its creators.
A spectacular architecture that thinks the city as the territory where the spectacle and the author will remain, and it will be the exception above the norm; thus the money, politics and the media are focus to create this new monumentality and a society where the stars shine. Most of these ‘star architects’ built strange buildings, saying that they do it because the technology makes it possible, an absurd, because to do something does not mean legitimizes it.
As a consequence, there is too much of everything, above all a lot of information about architecture, heavily publicized, together with the cult to the individual who created it. With projects that often exude an air of arrogance, selfishness and indifference to the prevailing realities of the place where they were built. An architecture that chooses to be a building instead of being part of the place and with it, part of the city’s fabric, a landmark building that has no relevance to everyday life. Architecture latest fashion hits the urban structure, because it is born from the object and not from the ground, it is spectacular and it can be located everywhere, but doesn’t have or grows roots.
The problem of the present architecture is not the absence of freedom, is freedom itself. Now our projects are more spectacular, and no one can say that there is no inventive or formal richness. But nevertheless, the problem is precisely that richness, the infinite variations that flood the world of architecture and the arts, creating a kind of collective blindness. At the end one wonders: how do we avoid that tyranny of innovation and creative?. Our inability to modernize our own concepts about the urban problems, have led to a terrible planning, which is everywhere, surrounding us with its mediocrity, with its green cynicism and symbolism of the worst nature.
My reaction against the emblematic work has nothing to do with being against its traditional role of propaganda or its contemporary function as motor of the tourism industry, but in their uncontrollable multiplication, with the spread of its uniqueness and low quality of their results, because most of those architects are neither on the level or have the quality of excellence of some of the “star architects”.
Umberto Eco, in his book “Between avant-garde and kitsch” in 1964 said, the avant-garde was born as a reaction to the massive artistic work of the late nineteenth century. The avant-garde had a secret language to separate themselves from the platoon of creators. Due to popular arts are quick to copy styles massively, making it accessible to everyone and reproducing it up to the boredom, any style soon becomes a kitsch, and if one really wants to be heard should speak louder and louder, embedding a mega structure on the mountains and perched it on the poor slopes of the city of La Paz.
To touch the world, architecture must abandon their narcissistic posture, involved more with everyday life and understand their work as a result not of a visual culture, but a vital culture.
Architecture needs to be re-order and measure, too excessive scenery, too much of extravagant styles that mixes science fiction and cartoons. It is time to preach the balance and simplicity in a world of cacophony and spectacle, in which only seems to be heard the one who screams lauder. At the end of this fatigue and in front of the multiplication of icon buildings, we must stand firm and say:
NO TO THE ABSURDITY OF THE CHAKANA PROJECT!