Querido Amancio, organized on the occasion of our new Amancio Williams fonds, featured a public reading of personal letters during which participants—Emilio Ambasz, Florencia Álvarez, Giovanna Borasi, Fernando Diez, Kenneth Frampton, Mario Gandelsonas, Juan Herreros, Martin Huberman, Cayetana Mercé, Inés Moisset, Ciro Najle, Ana Rascovsky, Claudio Williams, and Claudio Vekstein—commented on the legacy of Amancio Williams. We will be publishing all of their letters in the coming weeks.
Mario Gandelsonas shares a memory with Amancio Williams
I would like to share with you a memory that I carried with me since I first encountered your work in 1957. It is the memory of a crucial moment in my life when I decided to abandon music and dedicate myself to architecture. The story leading to that moment takes place in Buenos Aires in the late ’50s. It involves people and places. It is the story about the encounters that linked my trajectory to people who played a role in my development as an architect. It is also a story about two art galleries, Galeria Krayd and Ignacio Pirovano’s penthouse on Parera 3 that doubled as an art gallery, a space that you designed for him.
At the time when the story I am about to tell takes place, I was a student at the Facultad de Arquitectura y Urbanismo at the Universidad de Buenos Aires. However, my heart was not there. I was totally immersed in the world of avant-garde music. I started playing piano at 5 and composition as a teenager. One day I decided to study with the avant-garde musician Juan Carlos Paz but he said that I was too young and he was too old, so he recommended that I study with his most gifted disciple, Francisco Kropfl.
Francisco Kropfl became not just my music teacher but also my mentor and guide into the artistic avant-garde. With the encouragement of Tomás Maldonado, the leader of the concrete artists, Francisco opened Galeria Krayd in 1952, a place that became for a few years the epicentre of the young artistic avant-garde. Beyond painters and sculptors, Galeria Krayd opened its doors to the new world of graphic design represented by the magazine Nueva Vision directed by Tomás Maldonado, Alfredo Hlito, and Carlos Mendez Mosquera, as well as to OAM-Organizacion de Arquitectura Moderna, the architecture collective that helped with the design and the furnishings of the art gallery.
Galeria Krayd closed in 1955 just before Francisco Kropfl became my teacher and was still very present in his mind, so his classes alternated musical composition and stories about the European musical avant-garde as well as the latest gossip about the local avant-garde of painters, sculptors and poets. Francisco’s stories about Galeria Krayd led me to the magazine Nueva Vision and it was there, in issue #5 where I discovered your work for the first time in the article “Una nueva unidad estructural”.
In 1957, a year after I started studying with him, Francisco included me as a member of the board of ANM-Agrupacion Nueva Música, and the following year, when he created the electronic music laboratory at the Universidad of Buenos Aires, I became his assistant. So, while my music teacher was training me in the fundamentals of musical composition and in the latest techniques of electronic music, he was at the same time opening for me the door to the plastic arts to a point where it became my new interest, focus, and passion. I also started to shift my focus and to dedicate more time to architecture, no just completing my studies but also working as an assistant to Francisco Bullrich a member of the collective OAM, with offices in the top floor of the same building where we held the Agrupacion Nueva Música meetings in the Nueva Vision offices. I consider now in retrospect the time I spent at OAM the first step in my passage from music to architecture.
So now that I gave you this extensive background, I can finally tell you the story. Odile Baron Supervielle, the president of ANM, received an invitation from Ignacio Pirovano for the board of ANM to visit his new penthouse apartment at Parera 3, that had been designed by you. Pirovano was a unique figure, a painter, a manager and entrepreneur and a collector who took a big risk after meeting Maldonado in the mid-’40s embracing the radical concrete and abstractionist movements.
Pirovano’s apartment was my first experience with a modern space. I was overwhelmed by the beauty of the place, At the same time, I was in shock with the radical display of a bed screened by a diaphanous fabric hanging from a ceiling rail. I saw in that gesture–the display of an intimate space in the middle of a public place–a demonstration of the power of architecture to challenge convention by visual means while choreographing an aesthetic statement.
Dear Amancio, I wanted to let you know with this letter, the pivotal role that your design for the Pirovano penthouse played in my passage from music into architecture. The poetic atmosphere embodied in that space and the surreal gesture that challenged the conventional definition of a place of display opened for me the visual and spatial experience of beauty which up to that moment I only associated with sound and music. And in retrospect, I can see today that the experience of that moment was the definitive impulse that culminated in my decision to embrace architecture for the rest of my life.
With warm regards,
Princeton, 11 March 2020