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“It is not about designing windows, but perforating walls”

Clorindo Testa

In recent years, rapid socio-economic changes are giving birth to unprecedented architectural assemblages in Buenos Aires. These changes are affecting the way in which the city is politically managed. Transformations and adaptations occur freely towards the inside, within the urban blocks, while the urban phenomenon as a whole is weakly united and managed by the generic and diffuse urban grid. The exploration of this urban reality has focused the unit work led by the design of a mix-used city block in Buenos Aires. The premise for this block was its inscription within the 100x100m city grid, being followed by different design explorations to asses the tension between block and grid by radical programmatic mixtures, reversibility between inside and outside and interchange between public and private domains, and to address the recurrent confrontation between the stability aimed by governmental powers and the need for change of economic processes.

The structure of the academic year was divided in three interrelated parts. In the first part students researched on Buenos Aires socio-cultural and economic realities, processing different data through mapping, urban analysis, and bringing some material aspects of the city to fill with content the programmatic brief of their blocks. Students developed a vast range of interests including recent migration waves, food consumption, borders with slums areas, religious conflicts, political expressions, and other aspect of Buenos Aires everyday life. In a second stage students worked with different diagrams of spatial configuration to articulate a structure to these different programmatic contents, challenging relevant aspects of block such as the of inside/outside, public/private or programme/circulation relations. Common references were the analyses of Clorindo Testa’s National Library and the Bank of London in Buenos Aires, as well as some recent block designs examples relevant to their interests that helped students to explore different spatial relations for their blocks. Latest stages of the design were devoted to the transformation, adaptation and responsiveness of the block, related to circulation, users’ activities or economic changes.