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the way things touch

House in Lutry, Switzerland

1.
Our teachers repeated the same two or three simple formulas, over and over, to our lazy, sleepy brains. “Symmetry is impossible,” they said under the burning heat of the tropical noon; as was cutting windows out of walls and being “dishonest” in the use of materials (whatever that meant).
While composing a project, it was always clear that circulation was useless, and had therefore to be trimmed and cut until only the absolutely indispensable remained. And then there was this other issue they all agreed on: “Things,” they said (speaking about volumes, surfaces, planes), “should never (ever!) meet at a point.”
Yes, we were taught about architecture with a very precise indication of how things should touch. Overlapping was considered interesting, superimposition was nice. Intersecting planes were forced to either retreat or continue in order to produce open corners or surface extensions defining a longer line on the plan. But the subtle touch, the tension created by masses that meet but for an insant, the expression of life’s fragility and love’s ephemerality; all this was wrong.

German Pavilion, Ludwig Mies van der Rohe

2.
In the end, it’s all the same. Life, and architecture as part of it, is a game of relationships. Forbidden or not, what we do is join: things, to one another, just as ourselves. Stone touches glass either roughly, like biting on sandpaper, or softly, melting on a line of neoprene that absorbs differences in hardness, roughness and grain. Silicon is viscous, steel is sharp; wood is fibrous and bricks are porous, like petrified sponges.
Shadow and air work as lubricants, allowing solids to establish different gradients of friction with/without drama or pain. And then, there is the way things touch, ranging from full penetration to the slightest caress.
Yes, with time I’ve discovered that beyond the limitations imposed on us by our teachers, the beauty of touch, of simple, evanescent touch is the true realm of revelation: that which sees everything as a process of becoming, instead of being; that which can only be grasped when total focus (the point) is achieved. 

Beyond the aspiration to impregnate, or the vane illusion of permanence, buildings can remain suspended in a frozen present, as if congealed on the exact instant following an explosion meant to blast them apart; as if stopped from closing themselves immediately before completion.
Forever impermanent and fleeting, things can be understood as they really are: infinitesimal points in time and space where objects touch, and then go.

Habitatges Barceloneta - José Antonio Coderch

photos: J. Mejía Hernández (1, 3), D. Bright (2)

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