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De Tezanos Pinto: «I am not a fervent advocate of tradition as such, of the indiscriminate repetition of images,...; however, it motivates me to think that we can achieve new experiences and create a new order departing from those origins»

The architect and designer Arturo de Tezanos Pinto analyzes how much environment, traditions, and other identity elements influence a creative process.

Immediately after graduating from the Catholic University of Cordoba, in 2001, the architect Arturo de Tezanos Pinto (Jujuy, 1977) founded the furniture brand Usos, alongside his former classmate Carlos Ernesto Gronda. His first collection, Atada (2002), put forward an alternative way of conceiving and producing local furniture: it displayed the influenced Andean culture had upon contemporary furniture manufactured with local woods, leather ropes and hand-made pelts.

The firm, which was established in San Salvador of Jujuy and operated up to 2016, merged local concepts with innovative design. Labeled as disruptive at the time, the company equipped sites in different provinces and participated in American, European, and Asian exhibitions, thus “adding” Jujuy to the national map of design.

In 2017, De Tezanos Pinto, interested in advancing integral proposals, founded the studio Atmosphera with the goal of carrying out development, architecture, and interior design projects focused on territory and its potential. That explains why in every step of his work, he researches identity elements and, later, he re-formulates them in order to use their semantic significance at a macro and micro level; while this process is centered in local imprints and the conceptual ties that bind them, it does not derive in a traditional, canonic aesthetic.

As a guest collaborator in the “Expert Opinion” section in the July issue of the Old & Newsletter, the architect, native of Jujuy, shares his personal experience and reflects about the linkage between design and tradition.

–Can we rethink or redefine the meaning of design based on tradition? And redefine tradition from design’s perspective? Can either one be separated from the other?

–First, I would like to share what means to me the bond that exists between tradition, design, and architecture. I believe that the knowledge attached to specific places, the formats developed in different building techniques, the connections to its particular essence, the morphological patterns, the customs and habits, the memory of the landscape, in sum, the Genius Loci I constantly refer to, provide a flow of information that becomes fundamental during the design-creation process. To me, those elements are the true origin of everything I am compelled to project in my work. Without that, I would inevitably suffer from the blank sheet syndrome.

I am not a fervent advocate of tradition as such, of the indiscriminate repetition of images, of affairs with specific ‘styles’, of senseless decoration, of comfort zones related to all of the aforementioned elements; however, it motivates me to think that we can achieve in the future new experiences and create a new order if we depart from tradition itself.

I cannot conceive architecture without that explosive factor or, in other words, that conceptual and creative big bang that originates from the incorporation of traditional attributes in the generation of an idea and always derives in the foundation of a new design pattern. The process emerges from the specific points where those elements merge together: in such a way that the sensory “Aleph” becomes the initial kick in the endeavor of imagining new, inclusive proposals aware of their own place and space, creatively unrestricted; proposals that could potentially become avant-garde architecture, maybe resembling science fiction imagery but with such solid roots that the outcome can convince, touch, and thrill the future inhabitant of that innovative space…; that is, ourselves.

The research of those imprints is the support I rely on to create new shapes, bonds, and formats of creative expression, always from a contemporary perspective that provides meaning to each idea and becomes the soul of every project I develop.

Therefore, based on my personal experience, my particular understanding of tradition, and the respect I have for the roots that support each project, the process I have previously described cannot be separated from the final product.

To me, the practice of designing in an integral way implies a deep dive in tradition in order to lift the creation to a new dimension.

–What cases, actors, products or elements related to Argentine and international culture embody an uplifting experience of that sort?

–There are certainly many instances where these experiences clearly manifest themselves. Even though I am very interested in current events, I do not consume much publications about international architecture, I try not to overly look at what happens in other parts of the world. Instead, I search for inspiration and common ground in movies, as a broad resource and, particularly, in science-fiction productions, as well as in books, documentaries, art, etc. I keep finding more and more evidence proving that contemporary architecture acquires its meaning when the message becomes visible through the masonry, when a well-connected structure tells a story related to its essence.

If I were to mention someone in particular, I would have to refer to my student years. Back then, one architect grasped my attention: Amancio Williams. Even though I know he was not the most prolific creator, I remember I could picture his historical context, Argentina’s modernist period, just by looking at his bridge house project. It moved me. That particular piece originated in me an idea of architecture I had never conceived before. An intimate communication established between the architectural work and its building place; between the spirit of the place and the simplicity of its morphology.

**–Has the bond between design and tradition changed throughout the XXI century as a result of new technologies and new ways of teaching, living, consuming, and interacting? **

–This relationship is always evolving and, I think, that is what lures me about the tension among all those elements. There is hardly anything as inspiring as aiming to develop a generative idea, based on foundational features, through technological alternatives and improvements that respect the environment.

On the other hand, I am convinced that in this peculiar juncture, which we experience as a global community, projects will acquire a more human character, adapted to a more amicable scale, where the way in which we “experience” the spaces we inhabit will become the most transcendent goal. I envision that the magical result of this dynamic will hardly be achieved in inert, anachronistic, and almost aseptic environments that lack connections.

Today we witness a world with new rules of coexistence. We fear that we will have to abide by those living norms from now on but, at the same time, we have become aware of the new ways in which we must interact and move about each space, of how important it is to preserve an optimal environment for future generations.

To me, space is much more than walls and rooftops: I conceive space as the atmosphere needed to improve. Thus, I believe that we are immersed in a very interesting transformative process in which we, ourselves, are the main protagonists.

–How can we boost the potential of this pairing in order to produce innovative solutions that foster improvement in such areas as social inclusion, cultural diversity, gender equality, environmental care, and access to education?

–The way to do it is probably by encouraging people to inhabit spaces organically. To achieve it we must design places from a critical perspective that considers the differences we experience, we must put ourselves in the shoes of others, in the position of our fellow human beings: that will bring us closer as a society.

The world is currently reacting to unfair situations. Globalization turns whispers into cries. Architecture must play a role in the transformation of living conditions for everyone, it has to provide practical solutions to complex problems and it has to aim at solving the daily inequalities we face through the functionality, morphology, and optimization of resources.
I think that significant projects that are capable of moving, uniting, and promoting interaction, definitely, are capable of educating.