Read in:

Researxting

Martin Huberman conceives a virtual conversation about the intimate nature of the metamorphosis of the architect turned developer

Researxting, Martin Huberman texting with Fernán Goldín
Pause
00:00:00
00:00:00

Martin Huberman texting with Fernán Goldín, architect from Estudio Dumont, 27 January 2021. Produced by CCA in the context of the CCA c/o Buenos Aires project, 2021

How to investigate the human characteristics that shape a discipline at a time when humanity itself poses a risk to our lives? When distance is the norm and the digital world has enveloped even the most physical of interactions, how do we investigate the intimacy of the stories that forged a moment?

In the period that followed the Argentine economic crisis of 2001-2003 the discipline grew, expanded, and acquired new languages and knowledge not from academia, theory, or scholarship, but from the level of practice. That process meant rebuilding from the rubble as a professional, self-management as a movement stands out, it is perhaps until today one of the most outstanding features of contemporary Buenos Aires architecture. Architects had to distance themselves, in record time, from a production model that renders the architect dependent on client requests in order to become saviours of friends and acquaintances encapsulated under the broadest definition of the concept of refuge, sheltering the savings rescued from the banking debacle in the form of residential ventures.

But where did that knowledge come from? What kinds of strategies were carried out in order to arrive at a professional trait that is still present today?

Where sexting becomes flesh, researxting is born: an essay on intimate investigations in a chat format. A series of digital conversations with architects of different genders, ages, and backgrounds who went through this common period.

Extract 1: The Craft

The research is inspired by a list of simple questions that explore concepts that are too intimate to be generalized. In an era governed by “everyone for themselves”, and with a crisis that affected the entire national socioeconomic spectrum, completely paralyzing professional activity as a result of brutal inflation, architects began to develop buildings on their own without formal preparation besides than their own willpower. But how did they learn to do it? How was the fideicomiso perceived as a tool to confront the void? The following excerpts from interviews highlight the more malleable nature of the discipline, which comes together and blends with the artisanal aspects of architecture. A new kind of knowledge surfaced for many architects, which was absent from academic and professional institutions, and was based on the liveliness of ancestral oral exchange where the classic dichotomy of teacher and apprentice persists. The stories of Ana Smud, Ana Rascovsky, and Pablo Ferreiro establish the origin of it all, far from books, classrooms, and academia but within a level of trust that, for some, can only come from family.

Texting conversation with Ana Smud
Pause
00:00:00
00:00:00

Martin Huberman, architect and curator of the CCA c/o Buenos Aires program, texting with Ana Smud, architect from El Estudio de arquitectura Ana Smud, 25 August 2020

Ana Smud

MH:
OK, next question…
MH:
When was the first time you heard about the fideicomiso?
AS:
Oh I don’t remember… but it was a long time ago.
MH:
Give me a date
AS:
Both my parents are architects and work as developers
AS:
I remember that from when I was a student
AS:
In my dad’s first development project
AS:
I don’t know what year
MH:
2004–2005?
AS:
Yes, probably
MH:
So, the first time you heard about the fideicomiso was from your old man?
AS :
Yes
MH:
OK. Is there something about that which you learned at university, or has it all been passed on to you as part of the process of craft, by word of mouth…?
AS:
I don’t think I learned any of this at university


Ana Rascovsky

MH:
How many units does it have?
AR:
Ten
MH:
How many of those units were for family or acquaintances?
AR:
One for ourselves. one for Irene. three for family. two for a friend. one for the development partner. The rest we later sold.
MH:
Eight for people you know and two for sale.
AR:
Yes
MH:
Of those eight, did they buy to live or as an investment?
AR:
Ours was to live, two for a friend, for herself and her daughter. The rest were for investment. But you know at the beginning it’s hard to know for sure.... for example my brother may end up living in my mother’s unit…
MH:
That’s true. Is there any difference in terms of design between the ones that were for living and the ones for investment?
AR:
At Vilela, hardly any difference. Because the owners were asking questions and voicing their opinion and participating (my brother-in-law bought two, which at first was one large one and he asked to divide it into two). They all participated. The only one where there wasn’t participation was the one for my aunt and uncle in Spain, because they weren’t here. It came out shoddy…in the end we bought it (it’s my studio now).
AR:
It was a family event, part of Sunday conversations, etc.
AR:
Comparable with Simona, who was born that same year. Two babies.
MH:
I like it, the building as a family cooperative.
MH:
In other words, the ones that were for a client benefited from the process?
AR:
Without a doubt. “The watchful eye of the owner fattens the calf.”
MH:
Ha!
AR:
Yes. That’s how it was
AR:
And for the closest family members we made it with the most love😊
MH:
Of course!


Pablo Ferreiro

MH:
I ask because I remember hearing about AFRA’s work as an intersection between typology and financial structure. As a type of housing, grouped housing, and a financing model with a trust format. I am referring to the post-crisis period of 2001. Around 2005-2006, when I was finishing university, you guys developed an architectural brand that was in high demand. Very few firms have achieved that.
PF:
Well, that’s connected to what I was telling you at the beginning. Post 2001, the great cultural, social, and economic crisis of our country, brought us to this point, without considering leaving like many others, and faced with the possibility of rebuilding, with the advantage of what was capitalized during the experience of hyperinflation in 1989. We were young, we were eager and, with that little bit of added experience, in addition to an obvious rebound after hitting the bottom, we found ourselves building on top of a growing city, on the new circuit created by the new highways, in two types of operations: the new neighborhoods of the eje norte (northern axis) (single-family housing for a wealthy and young middle class, the possibility of living in their own homes in “nature”), and the stock of land that became available after old and traditional production programs were displaced (nurseries, factories, stables connected to the San Isidro racecourse), which, due to the increase in the price of the land, moved 20 or 30 km further away, leaving potential territory vacant with unusual dimensions in the logic of 8.66, where we, as architects, were able to carry out a series of atypical projects, with new types of grouped housing that, on the one hand, generated new formats not previously contemplated, that were later incorporated into the San Isidro code, which created a kind of brand, which I think is what you are referring to.

All of us at the firm became sort of experts in financial structures, taxation, legal models, and that made us very reliable, and we were recipients of the trust of many small (and some not so small) savers who financed each building, and in some way they became developers, since we don’t have that figure of the developer: each investor was a developer; and we, although we were the point of reference, we convened and in some way administered, we used the format to generate work and control the projects from the architectural point of view, but we had nothing to do with the added value of the rent, if there was one, which was always left to the investors. And as I think I mentioned already, although each member of the firm became a kind of expert in the multiplicity of dimensions that give rise to a building (project, construction, purchasing, accounting, taxes, banks, finance, economy, etc.), the support of my sister Liliana, an economist, was very valuable to understand the mind of an investor, for whom dividends and profits are measured over time, and in comparison with other possible investments, of greater or lesser risk. In other words, understanding or trying to understand that mental matrix was very valuable to develop a position.
MH:
Were those savers/investors family or acquaintances?
PF:
It was like that with the first two or three projects. Very quickly that network expanded, in a very natural way. If I were to do the math today, we are close to forty group housing projects that were built that way, and of those almost forty, maybe three or five were made for a single client. The rest was for people who placed their trust in us and who allowed us to test, verify, experiment and, ultimately, gave us a lot of freedom to design during all those years. We were never able, in that state of autonomy, to become linked with the system of developers and real estate companies that have developed a good part of what has been built in these last three decades. We don’t belong to that category.


Extract 2: The Leap

What today seems like an organic transition to us in many cases meant a leap into the void, an experiment in sensibility, a never-ending metamorphosis. The force of this mutation lies, perhaps, in the profession’s intrinsic capacity to mould matter in space, at the same time we are moulded by the context. Partly out of necessity, partly out of ambition, and partly out of madness, the desire managed to materialize as management and development.

Texting conversation with Pablo Ferreiro
Pause
00:00:00
00:00:00

Martin Huberman, architect and curator of the CCA c/o Buenos Aires program, texting with Pablo Ferreiro, architect at AFRA Studio, 13 January 2021


Ignacio Montaldo

MH:
Let’s talk about demand. A classic imaginary is foreshadowed in a certain tension between the developer wanting one thing and the architect advocating another. Something that in recent times, when architects became developers, revealed that this contest is defined by nothing other than market logic.
MH:
Having been through these experiences, did you think about or want to build your own development?
IM:
Yes, it’s something that’s on the studio’s agenda as a future project.
MH:
What do you think would change if you developed your own buildings?
IM:
I find it interesting to be able to decide the entire chain of decisions…
MH:
Can you be more specific?
IM:
I’m not really sure, it’s not easy to put into words…
IM:
For a start, we’d have more freedom to define the project and the resolutions, from the choice of the site to decisions about materials.
IM:
But I don’t see developing our own project as something fundamental.
IM:
Up until now we’ve been able to produce projects we believe in, in which we are honest with ourselves, working for clients, both individuals and developers.
MH:
All the same, it seems like an interesting case to me. Those who made the leap into development as a strategy generally had no experience with developers. In your case, this idealism is persistent.
IM:
We’re interested in being responsible for development in the sense of being actors in the generation of the commission and not depending on a client’s commission. I think that’s one of the attractions.
MH:
Like you feel that you would do it better… or else differently.
MH:
Perhaps?
IM:
In this time I’ve seen the complexity involved in carrying out a development and, in this sense, I understand the difficulties entailed… It’s a very different type of activity to ours, a different mental approach.
IM:
I don’t know if it would be very different. In some ways, of course, but I don’t know if that much. I think the attraction is being able to generate work and not having to wait for someone to call you…
IM:
Obviously, on the one hand, in some decisions you have more design freedom because you don’t need client approval. But on the other, interaction with a client often allows projects to rub up against other ideas in a tension that benefits the design process…
MH:
That’s very true.


Pablo Ferreiro

MH:
It’s part of what you, in your blog, called operations within the “available building stock”. I am very interested in this overlap with financial terminology, because it implies that the project and the work are strictly linked to the mechanics of financing.
PF:
Yes. We’ve always known that architecture—or rather buildings or works of architecture, whatever their scale—is built with money, other people’s money, be it public or private. Of course, it was important to take care of that money and, where possible, use architecture to generate added value for those who put it up.
PF:
We always proposed the architecture project as a source of added value over and beyond the maximization of indicators.
MH:
That’s how this piece was born, right?

Metrific.ar, 2012 © Pablo Ferreiro/AFRA

PF:
Actually, the piece came about in a second or even third phase—by phase I mean each of the cycles between the cyclical crises that our economy produces. If you notice, we made this piece after the subprime mortgage crisis, in 2009 or 2010, and Vucotextil is from the late 1980s, perhaps 1989, with the fall of Alfonsín.
PF:
In 2012 we’d already realized that the business was not so much about bricks as clay, the state previous to brick, soil.
MH:
OK, so the learning process took three crises.
PF:
Of course, the big operators always had a clear idea of this; just look at the highway operation in the 1990s.
PF:
Right. And if it were possible, like in the games I grew up with in my childhood—El Estanciero, TEG and Rasti—and if I had the capital, today I wouldn’t set up a fideicomiso, I’d just buy and sell locations.
PF:
Fideicomisos are now a penance for our profession, for not acting as a union, together, to improve our role in public discussions about the best forms of dwelling.
MH:
Ha ha…
MH:
“A divine punishment.”


Extract 3: The Hybrid

Bicephaly as an architect/developer’s strategy outlined a kind of hybrid language, akin to market logics but utopian in its typological nature. The ductility of the language served to formalize searches and trials, project by project, into units and styles, in some cases leaving a distinctive mark on the resulting work.


Fernán Goldín

MH:
To end. In one of your works, you offer “house-type apartments.” I’d like to read your definition of this typological construction.
FG:
Good question…
FG:
Sometimes I think that when a unit has stairs, that makes it a house
FG:
I mean, vertical movement doesn’t usually happen in an apartment.
FG:
It’s like breaking a rule.
FG:
Breaking with “slices of 2.60 in height.”
MH:
Is it also about the realtor wanting to sell a housing unit in a market with fairly limited rules? Or as you say, part of the architectural idyll of redefining domestic typologies?
FG:
Let me see…
FG:
OK, the rules of the market are always the same, “supply and demand”
FG:
The property market is saturated, repetitive and stripped of emotion… Perhaps our formula is to try to empathize with the emotion of dwelling, the emotion that only a good architect can create… it would be like trying to make each unit bring this to the overall “building”, and the common spaces would ultimately define the “public space” that accompanies this search in each unit.
FG:
Private stairs/public stairs.
MH:
There is definitely an approach that reaches beyond the norm… maybe it’s a product of the architect-company trade.
Texting conversation with Silvana Parentella
Pause
00:00:00
00:00:00

Martin Huberman, architect and curator of the CCA c/o Buenos Aires project, texting with Silvana Parentella, architect at P/SG Arquitectes, 4 February 2021


Silvana Parentella

MH:
Could you define the concept of “urban houses” you refer to?
SP:
Yes, I’ll send you some photos and explain.
SP:
When we started studying the HP [horizontal property] typology, we decided to really enhance it. We realized it was a way of living with neighbors but sensitive to greater spatiality and greater interaction with outdoor uses. Like in houses, but with shared themes like in buildings. Urban houses are typologies inside a building but with the way of inhabiting and the shape of a house. They all have their private outdoor space, their private pool and, if possible, their own sky. But they live in groups, and they enter via a common circulation space like in regular HP.
MH:
Right.
SP:
For the price of a corner house with no land, you build yourself a house with a garden.
SP:
The ones on Belgrano R that sold went for twice as much.
MH:
Incredible.
SP:
We also allow for personalization, so people feel like they’re making their own home.
MH:
I’m asking because the other day in a similar interview, another architect mentioned house-type apartments.
SP:
Yes, now everyone’s building house-type apartments. It’s good, it’s a great option.
MH:
And I wanted to know if it’s a term that the developer imposed on the architect or vice versa.
SP:
I think it’s a new typology to emerge in Buenos Aires with our generation of architects, there are lots of good ones, and it’s been well received because it found a niche of people who don’t want a house or a building.
SP:
They feel safe.
MH:
So it has the architectural weight to redefine itself as a typology but it also has the developer’s weight to try and showcase it in a bit of a flat market.
SP:
Perhaps. But it’s already flagging.
SP:
Any terrace balcony is called a house now.
MH:
I suppose it depends on the case, on how it balances out.
SP:
The urban house has to have an important link with your outside and your landscape, potential to mutate, like houses on single-family lots.
SP:
A personal link.
MH:
So, in the case of your “urban houses”, is an extension considered…?
MH:
Or the possibility, at least?
SP:
Sometimes.
MH:
Like an old HP.
SP:
Exactly!
SP:
Some mutated quite a bit.
SP:
I think it’s important for properties to be adaptable.
SP:
Some use a few tricks, but I like that.
MH:
This is an interesting thread: the professional capacity to rename or reconceptualize things. From HPs to urban house, and from consortiums to trusts and corporations.
SP:
That’s how it develops.
SP:
You learn and correct mistakes as you go.
MH:
Because the Buenos Aires architect has a broad command of the city’s formal and figurative language.


Excerpt 4: Matter and Gender

The consolidation of the world of architecture as part of the financial world can be seen as an innovative turn from a linguistic-typological point of view, or even in terms of the capacity of the two disciplines to expand and accommodate self-taught learning, producing a mash-up of systems, instruments and mechanisms that facilitated and expanded the local design and construction reality. It also saw the entrance of female architects into the world of real-estate development, historically dominated by men. Exchanges with architect Paula Lavarello and developer Serenella Perreca, the only female CEO of a local development company in Argentina, show that despite the significant influx and participation of women in this sector, the hierarchical structures of the two disciplines continue to be strictly male.

Texting conversation with Paula Lavarello
Pause
00:00:00
00:00:00

Martin Huberman, architect and curator of the CCA c/o Buenos Aires project, texting with Paula Lavarello, architect at Zas Lavarello & Asociados Arquitectos, 4 February 2021


Paula Lavarello

MH:
I want to ask you two more questions and we’re done.
MH:
The first has to do with something you told me, that you were the only woman in a predominantly male environment. Do you think this gender inequality is responsible for the fact that today architecture is largely considered a speculative structure?
PL:
I wasn’t the only one, of 30/35 there were 4 of us.
MH:
Is that on the master’s degree or in developers’ meetings?
PL:
Master
PL:
Yes, I think it has a lot to do with it!
PL:
I used the subject of cars in a talk (some men set great store by them) You can’t talk about a 2-door or a 4-door car… it’s not the same thing They talk about the value of m2, but that has more to do with the finishes than with the design!
MH:
Before you were talking about developers and bank managers. Were they your clients?
PL:
No the people on the master’s degree.
MH:
Ah OK.
PL:
Our clients are all men of course!
MH:
Wow.
MH:
Have you ever worked with a female developer?
PL:
NEVER.
MH:
That’s definitely something I’d like to know. There must be… I’ll look.
PL:
There is one. Serenella Perreca. She’s at SOY ARQUITECTA.net and she runs a fairly big development company The others are women architects who set up fideicomisos to carry out their projects… more as a way to work.
MH:
Note taken! Thank you. I’ll try to contact her.
MH:
Last question.
MH:
Do you remember the first time you heard about Fideicomiso?
PL:
10 years ago?
MH:
In what context?
PL:
A developers’ meeting.
MH:
Where of course you were the only woman…
PL:
Ha ha, yes, without a male partner I think I could NEVER have done what we did Though many of the clients were personal acquaintances.


Serenella Perreca

MH:
Paula said that in many cases she was the only woman, so much so that when she presented proposals to her clients or on a master’s degree she did, the numerical superiority of men over women was almost absolute.
MH:
I wanted to start there, since she called you the only female developer…
MH:
How does that title feel?
SP:
I’m not the only one by any means, there are lots of women developers. Perhaps I’m one of the few to front a company. Perreca Serenella: I’ve run RSK for 13 years.
MH:
I understand that Paula was distinguishing between women who are developers and perhaps involved in other types of project at the same time. But as you say, you’re the CEO of a firm dedicated to real-estate architecture…
SP:
yes, we work exclusively on developing horizontal property, though we also design, manage and sell the buildings.
SP:
I decided a long time ago not to be tempted by other kinds of commissions.
SP:
and to concentrate on one area.
MH:
And in this role, do you have female colleagues?
SP:
there are lots of teams with women colleagues on them.
MH:
I see. Are they in managerial positions? Because the development companies I know are run by men, the management teams are predominantly men… your case seems quite unique to me.
SP:
that’s right, it’s mostly men who run them.
MH:
quite.
MH:
In architecture in general something similar happens, locally at least. Few offices are run exclusively by women… there are teams, but it’s hard to find practices made up exclusively of women.
SP:
in this and in other disciplines.
SP:
there aren’t so many CEOs.
MH:
How does this affect your career as an Architect/CEO?
SP:
I’ve never found it a handicap, I just set to work and got on with it, I’ve never seen my condition as a woman as a limitation.
SP:
I do admit it’s a challenge, because from the outside people view it differently.
SP:
I know some people feel uncomfortable or insecure.
MH:
when they find out a woman is running the company?
SP:
we once lost a client who said he couldn’t talk money with a woman.
SP:
but that’s an exception.
MH:
Wow that’s tough.
MH:
It’s madness.
SP:
in general, I handle it just fine.
SP:
though there are prejudices. Women are hysterical, or innocent, or less skilled at negotiating.
MH:
I don’t think they are, but it’s what we were led to believe for a long time…
SP:
as I said, I don’t go around in a state of permanent tension with this type of mentality. I do my job with the assurance that I do not deserve or accept any different treatment for being a woman.
SP:
over the years it’s become increasingly clear.
SP:
because I had to deconstruct myself first, like many of the women of my generation.
MH:
Do your developments have a particular gender-based focus on space?
SP:
as developers we don’t do specific work on gender issues, though as an architect I did approach spaces to reflect on thatdid bring this approach to spaces.
MH:
Do you mean women architect collectives, like SoyArquitecta?
SP:
yes I am in fact a member of SoyArquitecta.
SP:
it’s a great space.
MH:
Well, its militancy is revising a big part of the history of local architecture, restoring the role of women architects who were historically invisible.
MH:
Do you feel that anything of this agenda is present in your developments?
SP:
buildings are imbued with the interests of each epoch. In this sense, home offices and other amenities have emerged as elements that work well.
SP:
I was a bit skeptical when I began this journey, but the power of statistics has opened my eyes.
SP:
the gender issue made me stop and think about the way I put work teams together and the way I see my women collaborators and their needs.
MH:
So as regards the teams within the company, what’s the percentage of women/men today at RSK?
SP:
the team that directs RSK is 50% women and 50% men
MH:
That’s great.

(…)

MH:
Do you think property can be something other than a safeguard of value?
SP:
it’s good business in dollars.
SP:
and a target for anyone’s life plan.
MH:
Isn’t it more of the same?
SP:
perhaps.
MH:
Couldn’t it be an organization for militancy?
SP:
I don’t build houses…
MH:
you build properties… but even so. Beyond the intrinsic quality of the property, couldn’t we think that this structure helps to undo things that are entrenched in the market?
MH:
Helps to think of new ways of life…?
SP:
it’d be fantastic. I admit that having an SME sometimes makes me more conservative than I’d like…
SP:
we try to push the limits by millimeters.
SP:
and I accept that when we get going, it works.
SP:
with resistance from real-estate companies, but it works.
MH:
The market at its finest.
SP:
we sell what we do and defend our buildings to the death, but we are super professional. There are people around us who do the same, but I know that not everyone is.
SP:
we’ve faced difficulties for a long time.
SP:
it’s not easy!
MH:
You certainly are unique. I hope you won’t be for too much longer, so that those millimetres become centimetres and so on. Development in this city definitely needs a female perspective.
SP:
luckily I’m not. CEO or associate, it doesn’t matter, THERE ARE LOTS OF US
1
1

Sign up to get news from us

Email address
First name
Last name
By signing up you agree to receive our newsletter and communications about CCA activities. You can unsubscribe at any time. For more information, consult our privacy policy or contact us.

Thank you for signing up. You'll begin to receive emails from us shortly.

We’re not able to update your preferences at the moment. Please try again later.

You’ve already subscribed with this email address. If you’d like to subscribe with another, please try again.

This email was permanently deleted from our database. If you’d like to resubscribe with this email, please contact us

Please complete the form below to buy:
[Title of the book, authors]
ISBN: [ISBN of the book]
Price [Price of book]

First name
Last name
Address (line 1)
Address (line 2) (optional)
Postal code
City
Country
Province/state
Email address
Phone (day) (optional)
Notes

Thank you for placing an order. We will contact you shortly.

We’re not able to process your request at the moment. Please try again later.

Folder ()

Your folder is empty.

Email:
Subject:
Notes:
Please complete this form to make a request for consultation. A copy of this list will also be forwarded to you.

Your contact information
First name:
Last name:
Email:
Phone number:
Notes (optional):
We will contact you to set up an appointment. Please keep in mind that your consultation date will be based on the type of material you wish to study. To prepare your visit, we'll need:
  • — At least 2 weeks for primary sources (prints and drawings, photographs, archival documents, etc.)
  • — At least 48 hours for secondary sources (books, periodicals, vertical files, etc.)
...