31.5.06




En este mes de Mayo se publicaron tres artículos míos ya antes publicados en este blog. Quiero agradecer a la revista Cuarta Pared por publicar la conversación que tuvimos Catherine Herbst y un servidor, a la revista MAS + Arquitectura del Colegio de Arquitectos de Aguascalientes por publicar el articulo "Urbicidio, El fenómeno de la Vivienda de Interés Social en Tijuana" y al Museo de Arte Contemporáneo de San Diego por publicar el ensayo " Desbancando la Utopía: Las Vicisitudes del Modernismo en Tijuana" en su catalogo/libro de pasta dura para le exposición Strange New World Art and Design from Tijuana.

se pueden conseguir en:

Cuarta Pared en Sanbourns

La revista MAS + Architectura, del Colegio de Arquitectos de Aguascalientes en masarquitectura05@gmail.com

Catalogo para Strange New World Art and Design from Tijuana en Amazon.com

30.5.06

I think, actually, that if Blade Runner was once the imaginative icon of our urban future, then the Blade Runner of this generation is Black Hawk Down – a movie I must admit I’m drawn to to see again and again. Just the choreography of it – the staging of it – is stunning. But I think that film really is the cinematic icon for this new frontier of civilization: the “white man’s burden” of the urban slum and its videogame-like menacing armies, with their RPGs in hand, battling heroic techno-warriors and Delta Force Army Rangers. It’s a profound military fantasy. I don’t think any movie since The Sands of Iwo Jima has enlisted more kids in the Marines than Black Hawk Down. In a moral sense, of course, it’s a terrifying film, because it's an arcade game – and who could possibly count all the Somalis that are killed?

Mike Davis

read the complete interview in bldgblog

24.5.06

Instalacion de generica para la exposicion
Strange New World Art and Design from Tijuana
Mayo 20 - Septiembre 03, 2006








Imagenes Pablo Mason


René Peralta (generica)

Nacido en 1968, Tijuana, Baja California; generica fue fundada en 2000


contain(mex)3=contiene(mex)3


Colaboradores de generica:

Karlo de Soto, Miguel Franco



Paneles de madera cortados con laser


Courtesy of the artist


contain(mex)3=contiene(mex)3, 2006, es una instalación de sito específico que establece una conversación con el espacio en el que se encuentra. Construido usando una estructura modular cúbica cubierta por una delgada capa permeable de plywood cortado a láser, la pieza juega con la idea de la galeria como "cubo blanco" dentro de el cual ciertas maneras de ver son privilegiados. Interesando en extender la idea de contexto a raíces históricas, y particularmente las de la arquitectura tijuanense, el arquitecto René Peralta desarrolló estas ideas con un diseño para la competencia de la sala internacional para el Centro Cultural Tijuana, 2004. Ahí Peralta envolvió el programa publico de la galeria dentro de una estructura de reja de metal para diferenciar el espacio privado de la galeria de el espacio publico abierto, y hacer referencia a la construcción local.

En MCASD Peralta también se dirige a la separación entre el espacio privado y el espacio publico pero aquí al desvanecer los límites entre ambos. La galeria Fayman de MCASD Downtown está compuesta por tres ventanas grandes que transforman el espacio en un tipo de vitrina pública. Utilizando la transparencia para provocar una experiencia fenomenológica, contain(mex)3=contiene(mex)3 crea una sensación de ver desde exterior a interior, pero dentro de la galeria misma. El visitante mira hacia una malla de capas de madera que, en un sentido poético, parecen darle cuerpo al vacío. Y al igual, vista del exterior del edificio, la estructura enrejada contiene aperturas que ligan el interior del museo de una ventana a otra, haciendo que el edificio en sí desaparezca. Los patrones curvilíneos de las superficies de madera cortada son una cita directa de las rejas de metal usadas por todo México como decoración y resguardo. Elegante pero absolutamente común, este motivo le recuerda a Peralta las proporciones de la Espiral Dorada, una forma que en su pureza geométrica imita los patrones auto-similares de los fractales.

Lucia Sanroman

Agradecimientos especiales:

Woodbury University School of Architecture. San Diego, Catherine M. Herbst, Sebastian Mullette-Siemer, Daniel Campos, Nathan White, Salvador Medina; RMS Laser, Michael and Mary Scarpati.



René Peralta (generica)

Born 1968, Tijuana, Baja California; generica founded in 2000

contain(mex)3=contiene(mex)3


Generica collaborators:

Karlo de Soto, Miguel Franco


Laser cut wood panels


Courtesy of the artist


Constructed using a modular cubic structure of thin wooden beams covered by a permeable skin of laser-cut plywood, contain(mex)3=contiene(mex)3, 2006, is a site specific installation made for this exhibition. The piece plays with the idea of the gallery as a "white cube" within which special modes of viewing are privileged. Interested in developing an architecture that extends the notion of context to historical sources, particularly of Tijuana’s architectural history, René Peralta first developed these ideas with a project design for a competition for the new international wing of the Centro Cultural Tijuana. In that work, Peralta enfolded the public program of the gallery within a permeable metal fencing structure that differentiated between private gallery space and open public space, while addressing local building traditions.


For MCASD, Peralta again addresses the separation between inside and outside space, but in this case not by emphasizing differences but by blurring the boundaries between the two. The Fayman Gallery at MCASD Downtown is defined on three sides by large glass windows that transform the interior into a public vitrine. Utilizing transparency to provoke a phenomenological experience, contain(mex)3=contiene(mex)3 shifts the experience of "outside-looking-in" to within the gallery walls. The gallery viewer looks into a varied mesh of wooden skins that, in a poetic sense, seem to give body to air. Likewise, when viewed from the outside, Peralta's filigree-like structure leaves openings that transverse the interio from one window to the other making the Museum structure itself seem transparent. The curvilinear pattern of the wooden skin is a direct quotation from the vernacular metal fences used throughout Mexico for both decorative and protective purposes. Elegant yet utterly common, this motif reminds Peralta of the golden section spiral, a form which in its geometric purity emulates the self-similar repeatable patterning of fractals.

Lucia Sanroman

Special thanks:

Woodbury University School of Architecture. San Diego, Catherine M. Herbst, Sebastian Mullette-Siemer, Daniel Campos, Nathan White, Salvador Medina; RMS Laser, Michael and Mary Scarpati.

11.5.06

Con la prisa de terminar la instalación de Genérica para la exposicion, Strange New World en el Museo de Arte Contemporáneo de San Diego, que inicia el 20 de Mayo, no me queda tiempo para postear algunas ideas. Pero por lo pronto les dejo el texto del catalogo de dicha expo ya antes posteado en español, lo paso en ingles con algunas postales y discos de mi colección.





Debunking Utopia: The Vicissitudes of Tijuana Modernism.

Rene Peralta

As the concept of cities are redefined, urban centers are in a state of entropy. Downtowns are becoming vertical suburbs, or undergoing a thematic renaissance of simulated street attractions. Downtown Tijuana, El Centro, has had its share of thematic attractions since the days of prohibition. Avenida Revolución, the main tourist party-strip, has become the sole urban experience for visitors to Tijuana. Curio shops, bars, ”zonkeys” (donkeys used to take souvenir photos with tourists), and other hybrids of commercialism and folklore occupy and perform in buildings that conform the scenary of a Latin house of mirrors where everything that is supposed to be grounded floats, life is depicted in satin, and miniaturized in plaster. Yet, to the west beyond old Olvera Street, a series of anonymous buildings exists, veiled expressions of modernity and border culture that intended to drive Tijuana into the paradox of universality and regionalism.

Since the execution of the ill-fated Plan of Zaragosa—a copy of a city beautiful model executed somewhere in the mid-western United States—these bastards of modernism have existed as the apotheosis of the knockoff, “architecturesque” designs. Pseudo-modernist or provincial habitational machines, utopias or junk space, buildings that in the past were part of the city’s “good life” and an obscure, idiosyncratic modernist avant-garde are now artifacts, ghostly reminders of a lost downtown. However, they still play a role in the city’s daily urban effervescence, and their full splendor is still visible in the numerous postcards sold in the shops of Avenida Revolución.

These pseudo-modernist relics act as lattices correlating with pedestrians, neon signs, the mini buses called Calafias, street vendors, and all the other programmatic manifestations that El Centro invents. You find them on corners, as full blocks, or fill-in constructions, often invisible to the naked eye, hiding behind layers of paint, advertisement, and neon. Only a trained or nostalgic architect would find the buildings among all the glitter. Because most of the buildings were erected between 1930 and 1960, their designs are an eccentric and hybrid arrangement of Art Deco motifs with a high modernist sensibility. The buildings feature a modernist repertoire and an eclectic mix of utopian idealism: Corbusian free facades and garden terraces as well as Gropius glass corners, all combined with imitation Mallet-Stevens grand interiors and other spurious combinations.

The Calimax building on 5th Street was the first major store of the local supermarket chain; with its soft round corners and the streamlined effect of its bands, as well as the curvy font in its signage, it is one of the purest Art Deco-ish buildings in town. Today it still functions as a grocery store, and its upper floors are used as office space. Further north on 5th, the Downtown District Building is an interesting take on Corbusian principles, with its roof garden and strip windows. The building sits proudly on a street corner and, oddly enough, it is this site condition, which necessitated the chamfered corner, which denotes its status as an architectural phony.

Signs, air ducts, and recently added appendages penetrate these buildings’ facades acting as life-support. The buildings are monuments to their own demise in a forgotten downtown. And yet, they seem to be in a mode of perpetual recycling instead of decay, as we might expect. They function as artifacts, as Aldo Rossi would define any construction that played a role in contributing to the collective memory of place.[1]

A shoestore named Zapatería Diseños Variety operates from a white box building on Avenida Constitución that boasts an appliqué of advertisements and graffiti that declare the “variety “of functions found in the building’s interior. Situated in the middle of the block, the building is practically invisible from the street due to the large awning that blocks its view and creates a spatial disjunction between circulation and transportation at street level, as well as with the building’s interior program. The elegant glass block corner unconsciously alludes to those found on Bauhaus style buildings.

Modernism was never a part of a national ethos in Tijuana, as it was in other cities in South America, where it embodied a project for the future. Only the tropical modernism of the city of Havana might compare to Tijuana’s, given that the buildings are in reuse and were the product of the economics of tourism and casinos built in the Batista era.

The national architectonic ethos would arrive in Tijuana from Mexico City during the 1970s and ‘80s with a patriotic modernist brutalism of efficient cast concrete construction and labor-intensive chiseled facades—a resurfacing intended to bring out the coarseness and grain of the aggregate, emulating a nostalgic building craft. The Centro Cultural Tijuana is the foremost example of this national modern philosophy. It is a building contextualized in a seamless fashion, without the author’s consent..Like the city’s other monuments of deceitful origin, CECUT is seen as a “knock–off,” specifically of Étienne-Louis Boullée's Cénotaphe de Newton.

Tijuana’s urban center was stripped of its political, religious, and financial cores, along with their encompassing ideologies, by the creation of the Zona Río and its intention to Mexicanize Tijuana. A center to some, and a periphery to others, psycho-geographic rather than geographic, the origin of Tijuana is always half-baked and transformed while in the midst of becoming. Today, the downtown economy is made up of clusters of restaurants, small businesses, and pharmacies, while at night, bars, strip clubs, and massage parlors cater to the imagination of the forbidden. El Centro was once part of a vision of a city beyond border rhetoric, despite its interesting proximity to the border. Today, it is the urban space of desire.

Downtown was the place where cabarets featured big bands, jazz quartets, and other musical manifestations rarely seen today. It was home to the “good music”—as a well-known cantinero who tended bars at Aloha, Club 21, Frenchis Bar, and currently at the Coronet Piano Bar—once exclaimed. Yes, Tijuana has been a jazz hub since the 1920s. Musicians from New York, San Francisco, Los Angeles, and San Diego crossed the border to play a gig, have fun, or drown their sorrows at the local bars. The famous jazz bass player Charles Mingus dedicated an album to the city, “Tijuana Moods,” a musical orgy of jazz, rhythm, and musical representations of city sounds and verve.

All the music on this album was written during a very blue period in my life. I was minus a wife, and in flight to forget her with an expected dream in Tijuana. But not even Tijuana could satisfy—despite the bullfight, jai alai, anything that you could imagine in a wild, wide-open town.[2]

Born in Nogales, Arizona, and raised in Watts, Mingus died in Cuernavaca, Mexico, and was haunted by Tijuana’s dislocated border as a dystopic city in a phantasmagoric country.

The music of El Centro became an international phenomenon, creating the “Tijuana bandwagon” as it was called when someone wanted to recreate Latin sounds heard in the many bars of the city. The scene was so popular that in the 1930s the city of Baltimore had a jazz joint called Club Tijuana. In 1921, Jelly Roll Morton obtained a visa to work in Tijuana and composed the Kansas City Stomp and The Pearl, titled after a beautiful waitress named Perla who worked at the Kansas City Bar. Gary McFarland and Clark Terry recorded their “Tijuana Jazz” record in1965, and between 1962 and 1968, Herp Albert won six Grammies with his famous band Tijuana Brass.



Downtown is where music and urban living were one. The Escamilla Photography Studio, located on 2nd Street, boasts an early modernist interior within a grandiose and theatrical space. “The studio was designed as a scenic space to show off the artistic qualities of the architecture,” Carlos Escamilla explained describing the building his father built between 1950 and 1953. “Patrons would ‘dress up’ in evening wear as if going out for a night on the town and walk through the double doors to have their portraits taken.” Today the studio’s upper floors function as storage space for bygone memories recorded on celluloid, and most of the portraits Escamillo takes are Polaroids of walk-in customers.

Walking the streets of El Centro you become conscious that Tijuana desired at one time to be an ordinary city. The singularity of its buildings and the ill-fated Beaux Arts planning were the spirit of Tijuana’s cultural zeitgeist before the shantytowns, cartolandias, junk space, and other ad-hoc patterns emerged as the contemporary urban and artistic paradigms. Today the buildings are still modernist, although minus the lifestyle; they have incorporated themselves into the pluralities of the post-modern city.

As you make your way through sidewalk vendors, street merchandise, shoeshine stands, and pedestrian traffic, movement unfolds. El Centro is a “practiced place” where the entire urban space is experienced through the multiple layers of constructions and events. Fake, albeit ill-conceived or not, the buildings of Tijuana’s downtown are part of a notion that fluctuated between the universal and the local, emerging as a cultural product difficult to surpass, even by the contemporary conditions of border phenomena.


[1] Rossi, Aldo. "The Structure of Urban Artifacts." Chapter 1 in The Architecture of the City. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 1984

[2] Mingus, Charles. Tijuana Moods LP, 1962 RCA Records, Jacket Cover