31 March 2012

Aikido Architecture

Ivan Hernandez Quintela

I like to think of myself as a Japanese warrior, who moves so slowly that you do not see me coming.
~ Ivan Hernandez Quintela,  

In the martial arts of aikido, one learns to use an opponent’s strength to create one’s own strength. I like this because it offers tactics to people that might seem as the weaker player to confront bigger opponents. I have always thought that a similar tactic could be used in the practice of architecture – a practice where one single individual could impact the city one gesture at a time. This individual would work with his or her body, one spot at a time, but that each small gestures could be contagious, could be reproducible, could spread all over the city; a sort of acupunctural architecture where one invades one zone of the city but could actually get to affect a much broader area. One would use the existing patterns, habits and idiosyncrasies of the city towards itself.

I picture myself as an aikido-architecture practitioner and intervene the city with small projects called urban prosthetics. These projects attempt to shake the city one spot at a time. I would like to use one example to explain what I mean by aikido architecture. The Insinuated Furniture project attempts to call attention to a lack of pubic furniture in Mexico City at the same time that it draws attention to the way inhabitants empower themselves against it. The project consists first of walking around the city noticing architectural surfaces that people use to lean and rest their bodies even though such surfaces where not designed for that purpose. I then draw over those surfaces, with masking tape, silhouettes of familiar furniture, such as the silhouettes of a chair, a bench, a table or a bed in order to call attention to them. I feel that such an act makes visible the creativity that everyday users of the city practice.  I feel that my silhouettes could be drawn by anyone, and that soon, the entire city could be drawn over, making all surfaces inhabitable. I feel that such acts make anyone feel that they can conquer space. I feel that such gestures could provoke a new participatory attitude towards the city, where each inhabitant could construct little by little alternative ways to interact and inhabit their city. I feel that all of us have an aikido-practitioner within us waiting to be released – that all of us are makers of our city.  

Ivan Hernandez Quintela is a long term contributor to On Site – the first was in issue 4, a shade arbour framework for roadside vendors.  His studio, Ludens, is engaged in low cost, low technology, sophisticated thinking around furniture, education, community needs and urban social relationships.  Ludens' Learning and Innovation Network is written up in Architecture Record this month, and their RIA classroom project for rural Mexico will be in On Site 27, out later this spring.

Ivan Hernandez Quintela.  'Aikido Architecture.'  On Site review, no. 23 Springl 2010
©Ivan Hernandez Quintela and On Site review

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