Cristina López Uribe



We are mimetic beings: we have an existential need to present and represent reality. Graphics have accompanied human beings since prehistory when a fundamental part of their expression and communication was made graphically on the stone caves where they lived. Therefore, they have also accompanied architecture since then, if we understand it as the first refuge against the forces of nature. During the Renaissance, with the invention of perspective, it was possible to express an idea of depth in two dimensions and this transformed the way that architecture was produced –another type of artistic, space emerged both graphically and in buildings. These representations of space included supposedly objective images of the constructed environment, as well as imaginary reproductions in which the possibility of altering the reality was at play. In this way, the graphics became a powerful cultural phenomenon. In cities in the twenty-first century, today’s technology constantly replicates worlds in two dimensions –perspectives, photographs, videos, simulations– that make us believe that they are three dimensional or even reality itself.


When we proposed this topic for Bitácora we knew that it was a challenge and a provocation; a challenge because the limits of graphics are not clear as well as their differences to art –as it is in other design cases. For some, it might seem that what distinguishes it is its industrial character but this does not appear to be enough distinction after Duchamp’s questioning of art in the early twentieth century, and where the value of the craft and the importance of uniqueness as characteristics of art ceased to be decisive. The topic is also a provocation because we live so immersed in the world of visual communications that these sometimes go unnoticed. From modernity, we live surrounded by different types of graphics that bombard us in our daily life.


However, in the prevailing chaos of modern cities, graphic design can guide, re-symbolize the environment, and provide meaning beyond obvious signage cases. The clearest example for the Mexican context is that which is referred to in the cover of this issue in which we recreate the Cartesian space on which our present form of representation is based and, at the same time, allude to the union between Huichol art and Op-art that characterized the design idea for the 1968 Olympic Games in Mexico.


A graphic image has a communicative power superior to any building; it speaks directly to the people and, as a result, it also threatens the communicative capacity of architecture. As Venturi observed, since the 1960s the building has become the advertisement of any brand. However, in the anonymous and uniform world of objects manufactured in series within which we live, the ones we use every day are not so impersonal when they have some graphic element that gives them meaning.


Even when we may understand the power of abstract space, any of us before a bare wall cannot avoid seeing it as a canvas for any expression. The clearest example of this is the phenomenon of graffiti which is as common as it is natural in our cities. Many times this natural need has been translated into artistic expression as in the case of muralism and other explorations –such as those of Daniel Buren– where the lines, points, and rhythm of the graphic expression on buildings coexist with the perspectives, sequences and sets of walls and buildings in the urban context; producing new and surprising sensations. Siqueiros’ proposals for his Ciudad Universitaria murals and, above all, his investigations inside the Casa de Arte Público are like this: the studies on the walls of that orthogonal interior for the Poliforum are much more interesting and stimulating than the murals on the actual building. There we see an intersection between a reality in motion and the simulation of perspectives drawn on its walls creating, in the experience, new dimensions and even spaces between dimensions.


The prevalence of the two-dimensionality in which we live is so ingrained in our culture that architects and designers of objects, the city and the landscape are trained to and believe that designs can be represented in two dimensions. Even models have been replaced by renderings. As Alberto Pérez-Gómez explains in his article, the use of descriptive geometry in the methods of design, which have been in use since the nineteenth century, has resulted in a practical and simple methodology in accordance to our technological and philosophical world. This conceptualization of our disciplines, however, has strong implications in the shortcomings to achieve the goal of improving the life of societies; they change the way we think and understand things. The representational tools are not neutral; the intentions of the authors and of the world in which they lived can be understood by the way in which they decided to represent their designs. The tools we use today cause us to ignore that emotional meaning is given in the actions and daily use of the inhabitants and never in a static image: plan, section, facade, or video; much less in a simulated perspective of reality. Inevitably architecture, as something habitable, will be very different from its representation in the most orthodox set of building plans. There will always be a translation process between the drawing and the building and among other works that we know almost exclusively through their representation and their influence on our proposals. It is necessary to critically note and analyze these translation processes to understand their reach.


The artistic avant-gardes of the twentieth century experimented with a different use of abstractions developed by geometric projections which, in turn, implied a criticism of the techno-scientific world. These tactics –the search for spaces between dimensions– can enrich the creative process and adapt it to our present. We cannot blindly accept the instrumental aspects of our representation, we must develop a critical position towards them in order to create new tools that will allow us to expand the analysis and pursue a truly meaningful architecture. Beyond the technological potentials of current architectural representation, beyond instrumental reason, architecture needs to find ways to critically represent temporary and existential human space.


Cristina López Uribe


Palabras clave

Arquitectura; diseño gráfico; arte

DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.22201/fa.14058901p.2016.34.58414

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BITÁCORA ARQUITECTURA Número 39, marzo-julio 2018 es una publicación cuatrimestral, editada por la Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México, Ciudad Universitaria, Delegación Coyoacán, C.P. 04510, Ciudad de México, a través de la Coordinación editorial de la Facultad de Arquitectura, Circuito Escolar s/n, Ciudad Universitaria, Delegación Coyoacán, Ciudad de México, C.P. 04510, teléfono: 56 22 03 18. URL: http://www.revistas.unam.mx/index.php/bitacora. Correo: bitacoraunam@gmail.com Editora responsable de la revista digital: Cristina López Uribe. Certificado de Reserva de Derechos al uso Exclusivo del Título No. 04-2018-041915414800-203. ISSN-e: 2594-0856, ambos otorgados por el Instituto Nacional del Derecho de Autor. Responsable de la última actualización de este número, Coordinación Editorial de la Facultad de Arquitectura, Circuito Escolar s/n, Ciudad Universitaria, Delegación Coyoacán, Ciudad de México, C.P. 04510, tel: 56220318, Fecha de la última modificación: 01 de Abril de 2019.

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