Samar: «Having left behind ‘mandated proposals’, the design that is currently created in Argentina validates and reveals itself as a product of the diversity that inhabits our territory»
The Cordoba native architect, teacher, and researcher, Lidia Samar, analyzes the complex relationship established among the educational, professional, and productive fields.
Lidia Samar graduated as an architect from the National University of Córdoba (UNC) and she holds a Master’s in Educational Planning and Management from the Diego Portales University in Santiago de Chile. She is a professor in the School of Architecture, Urbanism, and Design of the UNC, where she teaches courses such as History of Architecture, History of Industrial Design, and other classes in the specialization program in Furniture Design, besides being the head of the graduate program in University Architecture and Design Education.
She has co-authored, among other books, El diseño industrial en la historia (Córdoba, Ediciones TEC, 1994), Osvaldo Pons (Córdoba, I+P, 2001), Cuando el patrimonio se convierte en fuente de revitalización: el caso del norte cordobés (Córdoba, FAUD-UNC, 2006) y Cuando la idea se construye: procesos de diseño en la arquitectura de los siglos XIX y XX (Córdoba, Color Magenta Gráfica, 2006). Samar writes on a regular basis articles about industrial design and cultural heritage for specialized magazines and journals. On this occasion, she participates in the “Expert Opinion” section of the Old&Newsletter July issue, in which she explains the current position design holds in our society.
–What is your personal experience with design?
–Even if I started to teach Architecture at the university since 1978, it has only been since 1991 that I have performed as a professor and researcher of the Industrial Design program in the FAUD-UNC.
–What features must a piece possess in order to be considered a good design?
–Many factors must come together: the piece must clearly and effectively match with its intended use to guarantee that people will incorporate it to their daily life; it must imply a contribution in terms of technological resolution and/or typological innovation; it must improve the consumers’ quality of life and/or boost the commitment to sustainable development; and it must clearly reflect the historical and cultural context of origin, thus disclosing the role of the designer as an interpreter of the social reality he or she addresses to.
–Is there an identity in “Argentine design? Is there a unique “Argentine design”?
–Having put aside ‘mandated proposals’, the design that is currently created in Argentina validates and reveals itself as a product of the diversity that inhabits our territory.
–Is design socially valued in Argentina?
–I consider that design has been gradually positioning itself in our society. Little by little, it has become an important variable when it comes to buying a product and to being recognized by producers as a key element of competitiveness and market entry. A clear example, within Cordoba, is the organization of exhibits by FIMAR (Argentine Furniture Hall). During the first exhibitions held at the Design Room –a section of the showcase–, a universe of proposals completely disconnected to the context that surrounded the huge exhibition space filled with products from several companies were displayed. A few years later, these companies began to incorporate designers and, as a result, their production acquired a different mark, one that strongly resonated with the audience.
–Why are design archives and patrimonial collections so important?
–They constitute an important part of the historical and cultural heritage and they provide a landscape that reveals the meaning of design to both professionals and students of the field, as well as to society in general. In the case of professional practice, archives and collections expand project design culture by presenting reference lines, strengthen appraisal criteria, and enable the integration of different sensibilities. In the field of academics, they encourage us to value our familiar world of objects as a cultural asset, highlight the social and cultural relevance of technology, and assert the role of the designer as a mediator between social and technological variables in order to solve specific problems. Finally, in the social field, they contribute to consolidate a technological culture in citizens and to recognize design as a historical and cultural expression.
–Why is it necessary to preserve the memory of design?
–Basically, because in order to value something we must know it first.
–In order to fulfill that task, what are the conditions institutions must comply with?
–To have the will, to possess the resources, to be recognized by all actors related to the field, including public organisms without which institutions can barely survive –unless they get integrated to other pre-existent ones–. A clear example of this is the Museum Ingenium and the Center of Technological Culture founded by the engineer and educator Aquiles Gay (Córdoba). After his death, and despite his son’s will and efforts, it was very difficult to keep those spaces permanently open without economic support.
–Why is it that in Argentina, in contrast with the rest of the world, there are almost no museum spaces that integrate?
–Because despite the fact that the concept of Industrial Design was introduced in our country during the 50’s by Tomás Maldonado along with the creation of the first Design programs, many decades went by before it was recognized as a discipline. In a similar way, it is still difficult today to persuade society and governments that design production, in particular industrial design, is an historical and cultural expression.
Nonetheless, as Córdoba native, I can proudly claim that our city is privileged. It has two museum centers devoted to industrial objects that have transcended beyond borders. I already mentioned one of them, Ingenium Museum. Due to the hard work of its founder Aquiles Gay, Doctor Honoris Causa by the UNC and Distinguished Citizen of Córdoba City for his contributions to technological sciences, culture, and education, it hosts a unique collection. The other one, the Municipal Museum of Industry Brigadier Mayor San Martín, holds a collection that showcases the heavy industry production during the import substitution period. It also encourages valuing the relationship amongst production, trades, and work culture, something that unfortunately we are currently forgetting in our country.
–What future challenges will the design community face?
–To grow stronger based on a conception of design that encompasses two essential dimensions: the social and the technological. Our designers must focus on the reality of the society they work for. They must understand its idiosyncrasy, the challenge imposed both by technologies and available resources, and provide solutions that show that their aim is to improve everyday life through proposals that are meaningful to their intended audience and are not only created to satisfy personal quests and interests.