IN AN ALMOST TARKOVSKIAN WAY, Juan Benavides taps into the subtleties of seemingly stationary environments. It is not until we are placed in these slow environments that our reception becomes conscious of the minute details. Consequently, the smaller events, context and occurrences are magnified.
As Tarkovsky slows down the camera in the starting sequence of Nostalghia (1983), we become immersed in a novel that begins with the close observation of grasses in a river. We are slowed down to a pace which enables an understanding of the new reality. It is a threshold moment which helps us immerse ourselves into the fictional environment. In the midst of this meditative state, we are suddenly interrupted by a leaf, cutting into the sequence and introducing the film as a close observation of subtleties.
In Tarkovsky's case, he wanted to "make a film about Russian nostalgia – about the particular state of mind which assails Russians who are far away from their native land." In accomplishing this, he adopted a style which very boldly established a strong sense of place. The cinematography, prolonged and continuous, allows a habitation of the scenery. In this way, we are transported into the new reality. This creates a virtual extension of the self and an understanding of the essence of dwelling.
SIMILARLY, BENAVIDES IMMERSES US in the small moments of a new environment though with the use of prolonged shots to create a particular awareness of space. The slow cinematographic style of Benavides captures the moments of spectacle within the presented projects and enables the viewers to develop their own interpretation of the space. Benavides presents a series of prolonged scenes, cut to the advantage of the narrative and so that the spectator may better understand the subtleties of the presented project by jumping from one small experience to the next.
These clips capture the moments at which the inhabitants and the home engage with one another and, in doing so, frame the way in which these homes mediate the temporality of their context. After all, "spaces are the realisations of those who are its inhabitants" (Henri Lefebvre, The Production of Space, 1974), meaning that architecture is the framed understanding of the environment in a reality which is anything but fixed. It possesses the ability to assert a state of permanence in the midst of human activity which tends to be temporal in nature.
In the case of "Casa Atlas" designed by Estudio Macias Peredo, the permanence of the architecture affords the interpretation of its context. It creates a starting point from which to understand the nuances of the surrounding environment. One may look into the minimally composed courtyard, and become immersed in the shadowplay caused by the movement in the sky. Benavides captures these sorts of subtle characteristics with the stationary positioning of the camera. A similar experience is captured in "Casa RM" by ARKRAFT Studio. One can appreciate the refuge of home in an urban context, but also observe the chaos of the outdoors within the shelter, upon entering the top floor of the home. The inhabitants are able to open themselves up to the context in a covered terrace which extends out of the home while still remaining in the secure and filtered environment.
In contrast, "Casa Narigua" allows itself to be fully penetrated by the context. Its location in the beautiful mountains of Nuevo Leon allows it to be woven into the landscape with many immersive vistas within the circulatory paths of the home. The home blurs the lines between inside and outside and provides a different type of refuge, one which is dependent on the meditative beauty of its context. In these moments there "is always space as interval, and in this interval in turn there is space as pure extension" (Martin Heidegger, Being and Time, 1927). In this way, the space of dwelling becomes an extension of the location and the event of our own extension, allowing space to become refuge.
In other instances, this immersive threshold may be found in the user's participation with the space. The movement of the home's shading and dividing panels allow the creation of a new space, one with an identity reliant on the conditions of the outdoors as in the case of "Casa SJA" by Regaa Estudio. Other times it occurs with the removal of whole wall panels, creating a new type of space which exists temporarily and which depends on the needs of the inhabitants such as in "Casa Roja" by Dear Architects. In "Alexanderson Arquitectos, the participation results in the melding of environments. One may fold glass doors and suddenly the living room is a covered extension of the outdoors.
THESE SORTS OF MOMENTS make these homes reactive to their environments in unique ways. Benavides's ability to capture the fluidity of space helps us understand the value of architecture in the face of ephemerality. This ephemerality may consequently be seen as an emergent property upon the underlying constructs. Without the point of reference, fluidity can not be understood, and without reactionary architecture fluidity cannot thrive to its full potential. On the topic of ephemerality, we are reminded of Francisco Varela's commentary on identity in The Emergent Self, in which he describes his sense of self to be dependent upon his interactions with others. "My sense of self exists because it gives me an interface with the world. I'm "me" for interactions, but my "I" doesn't substantially exists, in the sense that it can't be localized anywhere." (Francisco Varela, The Emergent Self, 1995).
The projects, in a way, exhibit a parallel dependency. The residential projects, all located in different cities within Mexico and designed by up and coming architectural firms in the country, are clear in their delivery, simple and intimate. Most importantly, they are not designed as the protagonists of the story. Rather, they are hosts to an array of situations and allow themselves to become used as stage props, for the benefit of the actors.
JUAN BENAVIDES, the director of these films and the founder of the filmmaking group Filmática, received his Bachelors in Architecture at Universidad de Monterrey, Mexico in 2014. Upon graduating, he began to work as an architecture filmmaker in Monterrey, Mexico. The films referenced here are a few out of a 12 part series of films which document the emerging architectural design scene in Mexico today. A few of which were a part of the Latin American Architecture Biennale of 2015 in Pamplona, Spain. Music for all of these films was composed by Gerardo Orozco.
What value can the fluidity of life have on the way in which we perceive space? What can the subtleties of the temporal offer to the permanent?
The protagonist of Casa Atlas, a residential project located in Guadalajara, Mexico and designed by Estudio Macias Peredo, is the nature which surrounds it. It is the movement of the trees, palms, and clouds in the sky. As we transition between rooms, we pause to open up to the exterior and get a glimpse of the immersive meditative spaces. As we observe the stairwell, we are witness to the changing sky of the day through the shadow work in the courtyard below.
Casa Atlas not only offers a point of reference, it mediates this reality. It does so by offering opportunity for engagement. The opening of apertures into introspective spaces on the exterior makes it a residence concerned with the state of refuge. It does so by filtering context through the use of surrounding vegetation. In this way, views are contained within the minimalist walls or the density of the vegetation.
Home as refuge is accomplished in a very subtle and elegant way allowing it to become the background on the peaceful performance of a day's passing.
This short film was directed by Juan Benavides of Filmatica and is part of a series of videos on 12 houses including projects in different cities around Mexico.The music was composed by Gerardo Orozco. Casa Atlas was designed by Estudio Macias Peredo.