2G 56 Ábalos+Sentkiewicz: Multimedia presentation of four works and projects by Ábalos+Sentkiewicz with an introduction by Andrés Besomi
In a precarious environmental context, in which the building industry heads the ranking of activities with the highest carbon footprint (even over and above others, such as transport), sustainability has become the new buzzword on the international architecture scene. As often happens in such cases, the market has beaten theory to the chase and a shift has taken place which, in the words of Iñaki Ábalos, describes a swing between romantic, low-tech origins and a “technocratic”, high-tech conception.
Immersed in this context and conscious of this shift, Ábalos+Sentkiewicz's work—on the theoretical, technical and aesthetic level—seeks to shed light on the rules of the game and put the architect in his rightful place: “Only if a genuine aesthetic discussion takes place, if there is a concept of beauty tied to sustainability, can the latter be of interest to architecture in any non-circumstantial way and can any meaningful response to it be formulated” (Iñaki Ábalos).
The work that Ábalos+Sentkiewicz have been carrying out since 2006 aims to contribute to this debate by postulating as a solution an interplay of trinomials—an algebraic equation comprising three terms connected by plus or minus signs—which could be summed up as follows: technical rigour + formal complexity (architecture + landscape + environment), a trinomial within a trinomial.
The idea of architecture put forward by Ábalos+Sentkiewicz is not far off the one expressed almost one hundred and fifty years ago by Viollet-le-Duc: “Architecture is the art of building. It consists of two parts, theory and practice. Theory includes: art itself, rules governed by taste, derived from tradition, and from science, which is founded on constant and absolute formulas. Practice is the application of theory to specific needs; practice is what bends art and science to the nature of materials, the climate, the customs of an era, and the needs of a period.” For the Madrid-based studio, this theory is construed as technical rigour and formal complexity and this practice reflected in the integration of architecture, landscape and environment. This second trinomial of practice “subjects” art and science—formal complexity and technical rigour—“to the nature of materials, the climate, the customs of an era, and the needs of a period”, that of the present day, in which we are called to promote sustainability without it ever being really clear what it is exactly that this means.
Until very recently, this contribution to the architectural debate could avail itself of two primary means of communication: images and words. Works and projects, together with written accounts, made architectural publications the medium par excellence for gaining an insight into a studio's work. However, the advent of new technologies has been accompanied by the emergence of new media which enrich our understanding, such as video, which unites words and images, thereby narrowing the room for interpretation. In a conversation with an editor from the Chilean site Plataforma Arquitectura, he told me that the new generations would sooner use Youtube than Google when searching for something online. In the face of this reality, the new online era of 2G magazine combines new formats of information with the written publication, a move that enriches both the discourse and the content. The fact that it is the edition of 2G devoted to the work of Ábalos+Sentkiewicz that is responsible for ushering in this new era is another clear proof that the “customs of an era” are very much in tune with “the needs of this period.”
Interview with Iñaki Ábalos, February 2010
Renovation and extension of the Fundació Antoni Tàpies, Barcelona, 2008-2010
Osmose Station, Grand Paris project, Paris
Ábalos+ Sentkiewicz, Jasper Morrison Office for Design, 2010
Workshop Four energy observatories on the island of La Palma
Iñaki Ábalos (with María Auxiliadora Gálvez, Miguel Kreisler, Luis Ortega, Renata Sentkiewicz)
Gran Vía Laboratory Exhibition
Fundación Telefónica, Madrid