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Torrado: «It would be amazing to have a place that exclusively displayed all facets of design and its agenda: it would show the field’s value in terms of its quality, history, and cultural influence»

–I–D–A Foundation’s consultant in the area of Architectural Design explains the importance of using “common sense” when designing and reflects about the relevance of design collections as a tool to understand the motivations and interests behind each production.

Martín Torrado is the Managing Director of Architecture and Urbanism Projects of the Buenos Aires City Government and he co-heads, alongside Ligia Gaffuri, the studio Torrado Arquitectos. As a member of the latter firm, he has won several contests, like the expansion projects for the National Fine Arts Museum and the Bus Station in Tucumán, and has participated in national and international biennials.

He taught in the School of Urbanism and Architecture of the University of Buenos Aires and the University of Palermo. Currently, he is a professor at the School of Architecture and Urban Studies of Torcuato Di Tella University. He co-authored Patrimonio Moderno 1940-50-60 (Buenos Aires, University of Palermo, 2012), a thorough classification of more than two hundred residential buildings in the city of Buenos Aires that was awarded the First Prize in the Research section of the Biennial SCA-CPAU (2012). In the interview he gave for the Expert Opinion section of September’s Old&Newsletter, the architect talks about the convictions and longings he has regarding the past, present, and future of the discipline.

–What is your experience in the field of design?
–As an architect, I have a multiple perspective regarding design. The discipline implies design. Design, in its broader conception, has an embedded project in itself, thus the practice of projecting is common to all professionals in the field. Project strategies are the departing point of any object regardless of scale or size. Every design is a project and to project means to think ahead of time.

–What features define pieces that possess a fine design?
–Fine design has one condition only: common sense. Common sense is everything practical, spontaneous, impersonal, and timeless.

–Is there a unique “Argentine design” identity? Is there a single “Argentine design”?
–Design is universal but means of production and context differentiates it. For example, weather and traditions define and explain the characteristics of a veranda found north east of a small house in La Pampa, while the same veranda, located in an Oslo house would be completely different. In both cases the structure is part of the house’s design but their significance depends on their context and production. The same thing happens with every object: a corkscrew in Mendoza city will not be the same than a corkscrew in Moscow.
Therefore, there is a very particular Argentine design, simple but not minimalist, rough but not pure, basic, without excessive ornamentation, of great cultural influence, and with a long vernacular tradition. A good example of this is the wicker armchair (1954) by Horacio Baliero, which, to me, is one of the most interesting pieces of furniture produced during the 1950’s.

–Is design socially valued in Argentina?
–I think that design has always been socially valued in different ways in different historical contexts. Today, information, globalization, and offer surpass critical skills and confuse the value of fine design and its true aim.

–What is the significance of archives and design patrimonial collections?
–Clearly, future planning is impossible without the preservation of a patrimonial archive. Knowledge and final products are not the only key elements in this respect, processes, discarded projects, and searches are also crucial. Integral collections –including archives, sketches, processes, and bibliographies– enable the understanding of motivations and agendas behind every production.

–Why is it necessary to preserve the memory of design?
–Preserving the memory of design is crucial to expand cultural heritage. Design, in all its variants, represents our traditions, habits, weather, and surrounding environment.

–What institutional conditions are required to accomplish it?
–Responsibility is the attribute any institution should possess in order to preserve the memory of design. I am certain that responsibility leads over all other aspects and work areas in IDA Foundation. Preservation, curatorship, and outreach show the same commitment and permanent effort that has made the foundation grow exponentially in the past few years.

–Why is it that in Argentina, in contrast with the rest of the world, there are almost no museum spaces devoted to design?
–In our country, museums still follow 19th century guidelines, centered on exhibition rooms that display static art pieces. Nowadays museums have transformed into true cultural centers, meeting spots, and generators of information, thematic exhibits, and temporary exhibitions; their souvenirs and product brochures shops are, in effect, design showcases within each institution. It would be amazing to have a place that exclusively displayed all facets of design and its agenda: it would show the field’s value in terms of its quality, history, and cultural influence.

–What future challenges will be faced by the design community?
–Looking into the future, we, designers, must adjust our focus and avoid subjectivity to stand out. We must be able to enhance our neutrality and efficiency skills by keeping a low profile, in anonymity, retracted, and going unnoticed.