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Fuzs: «It is worthless to search innovative, technical solutions deprived of innovative, political solutions»

The architect, professor, and researcher from Cordoba, Gonzalo Fuzs, analyzes the intense relationship between communities and territory through design.

Gonzalo Fuzs holds a degree in architecture from the School of Architecture, Urbanism, and Design of the National University of Cordoba (FAUD-UNC) and a PhD in Architectural Projects from the Technical School of Higher Studies in Architecture of the Polytechnic University of Catalonia.

In 2005 he co-founded Furograma Architects studio, which has developed dozens of buildings and landscape interventions, both public and private. Alongside other authors, he has participated in more than 25 provincial and national contests, several of which he won. As a professor at the FAUD-UNC and the Blas Pascal University and a researcher of modern architecture in Argentina, he has presented exhibitions and given lectures in multiple countries both in the Americas and Europe. He has also co-authored many specialized articles and books.

IDA Foundation summoned him to participate in the “Expert Opinion” section of the Old&Newsletter with the aim of learning Fuzs’ thoughts about the intimate connection between design and territory.

–Can we rethink or redefine the meaning of design from a territorial standpoint? And redefine the territory from design’s perspective? Can either one be separated from the other?

–They are closely tied. Territory does not work as a mere “context” where design just happens, on the contrary, there is an interaction that constantly reshapes and provides feedback to both elements. That process always originates something new, with unique identity, historical, and environmental features. In that respect, it is interesting to analyze the reflection behind the concept of cultural landscapes, which is understood as the dialogue between landscape’s “natural” element and the “artificial” human activity.

Now, if we are much more specific about this relationship by taking into account the relevance of cities as territories (disregarding the conception of territory as something “natural”) and considering design as a cultural expression, then, the different ways in which both elements impact each other would resemble the “cultural arenas” proposed by the architect, urbanist, and historian Adrián Gorelik, where processes of “mutual activation” take place.

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

–Modernity reshaped the teaching and practice of design’s multiple aspects: object, architectural, and urban. All three instances contributed, from different perspectives and scales, with solutions to specific problems attached to contemporary, mostly urban, lifestyles. Linked to such an integral understanding of design, I would highlight the ideological, theoretical, and practical proposal of Austral Group, an architect conglomerate —including many disciples of Le Corbusier— that, from its headquarters in Argentina in the late 1930’s, reconfigured furniture, buildings, and cities based on critical premises that announced many of the modern principles that quickly acquired a canonical status. The group’s proposal boosted a reformulation of the role territory plays in relation to design, in which our unique weather, material resources, and technical possibilities were considered while aiming at developing innovations that enabled and encouraged different ways of inhabiting the territory itself.

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

–New technologies always appear: the history of civilization is the history of technological development. Said this, the connection between design and territory (mediated by technology) has never been static, since it is part of a process that reconfigures itself based on the changes in the relationship between both elements. I do not think that is a unique characteristic of the century we live in. When the plough was invented —incorporating farming technology—, the interaction between communities and territory mutated in a drastic way. As a result, economic, social, and cultural relationships changed in such a radical way that could be compared to the changes boosted by the internet in our time frame.

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

–I do not consider it a technical problem but a political one. It is useless to search for innovative, technical solutions if they are not tied to innovative, political solutions. We have human capital and technological resources to design medium and long-term policies aimed at connecting design and territory and making significant contributions in all of the aforementioned topics. That requires a State that not only prioritizes and guarantees the social rights proclaimed in our Constitution and in international treaties but also generates an appropriate framework that merges individual and collective efforts from a diverse set of actors —organizations, cooperatives, companies, foundations— that seek to achieve common goals from their particular perspective.