Ábalos & Herreros: Grand Tour

Introduction. Alicia Chillida

Ábalos & Herreros. Grand tour is an exhibition-itinerary through the work of this Madrid-based architectural firm, which generates two journeys: a geographical one that allows us to travel to other museum venues, and another into the interior of the constructive work itself, since through a precise cartography we can read the fundamental axes of its architecture and the essentials of its practical and theoretical research. A taxonomy that unfolds through well differentiated typologies in which each type incorporates a research task on itself, on the specific context in which it is inscribed and on the possibility of generating a whole operative idea on a territorial scale, that is, the possibility of creating a built world from Pavilions, Observatories, Recycled landscapes y Links.

From 1997 to 2002, these architects collected in manifestos a way of doing architecture that they called "the way of doing architecture". New Naturalness. This Naturalness, based on the "attraction to build a new notion of beauty", dissolves the disciplinary boundaries between architecture, art, landscape and thought; it dwells on negative places such as wastelands, which the architects call "areas of impunity", spaces on the periphery turned into places conducive to emerging forms of socialization. A naturalness that allows them to establish the codes of a monumental and artificial architecture, in terms of a possible future landscape: "In recent years we are witnessing a significant transfer: every place has come to be understood as a landscape, whether natural or artificial, and this has ceased to be that neutral background on which stand out artificial architectural objects more or less vocationally sculptural, to be the object of primary interest, the focus of the architect's attention".

One of these forms of architecture, the Observatories, is developed in the city of Las Palmas de Gran Canaria, in the Woermann Square and Tower. The observatories respond to a type of vertical building, marked by a desire to go beyond the limits of human experience. They are intermediate mechanisms between man and the surrounding nature. They explore, in turn, technology at the service of architecture. The area of the Links is materialized in this case in the paving of the square, through the collaboration with the German painter Albert Oehlen, as it happened in a previous collaboration in the Parque Litoral Norte of the Forum of Barcelona.

The architecture of Iñaki Ábalos and Juan Herreros is always a tactical game, an exchange of roles that formulates nature and artificiality in terms of reunion or mystification. Their proposals are almost always multidisciplinary and come from a renewed and inevitable desire to enrich the project through collaboration with visual artists, philosophers, biologists, art historians or economic analysts. In this exhibition they project a look at their own work, transferring the atmosphere and concerns of the studio to the museum space, in the case of CAAM, a 16th-century courtyard house in the heart of the Vegueta neighborhood, the Palacio Moxica, a domestic environment that the architects turn into a new project opportunity.

Exhibiting the grand tour. Iñaki Ábalos & Juan Herreros

To exhibit is to face the need to rethink the work done -and to rethink it is always to represent it, to present it again through an exhibition, that is, by putting it outside itself and ourselves, its authors-. This also means the possibility of rewriting it, of revisiting efforts, ideas, places, everything that builds the great conversation that architecture establishes with the world and with itself, to show that apparently confused amalgam, as a path or, better, a project: something launched through or forward, not lacking direction or destination, but quite the contrary, obeying, we do not know if blindly, a plan. A plan that materializes in a map. To exhibit is precisely to construct that map that gives us back the world of experience represented. Representing the world, just like remembering, consists of that pleasure that the mind and fantasy provide by returning to us the primordial chaos of the world, its simultaneity and confusion, as subject to an order, organized into a coherent whole, we humans the masters of their destinies. Such is the pleasure of art: to provide us with the comfort of revisiting reality by reinventing it through the projection of fragile human subjectivity, opening trajectories, reconciling fears and apprehensions, and closing the phenomenological complexity in the form of a cycle, with an end or a finality, thus giving shape to the beloved teleological time, as present in our biological existence as in the Christian or Marxist tradition: the great representation. (...)

Why have we organized the work into four categories that do not respond to a programmatic, material or formal taxonomy, although they do have a relative dimension and above all a different topological condition? What is it that we manage to represent with such a basic organizational proposal?

This organization introduces in principle a minimal order in the set of projects and other activities deployed. But it introduces a much greater virtual order, the result of extrapolating the four categories used for the occasion -observatories, pavilions, recycled landscapes, links- to the whole territory of architecture and the city: as if these categories were enough to give rise to a complete universe. (...)

(Excerpts from the catalog, ed. CAAM, Las Palmas de Gran Canaria / Fundación ICO, Madrid, 2005).