Interviewed in Vilafranca del Penedès on 28 November 2014
Art historian Alicia Guerrero Yeste and architect Fredy Massad have been reflecting on architecture together since 1996, when they founded ¿btbW/Architecture. Having grown from the specific context of contemporary Spanish and Catalan architectural culture, defined, among other things, by a dynamic publishing scene, Yeste and Massad are one of the rare intellectuals who make their living from teaching and an uncompromising critical practice. They are interested in architecture as a discipline immersed into the social context and with equal precision they dissect completely diverse phenomena, like architecture as spectacle and the trend of new modesty. Aware of the need of the wide scope of criticism, they use all available media and address different audiences. Their analyses deeply examine the effects and interpretations of architecture in order to reach the ideology behind it, but they remain true to the foundations of the discipline and its lasting values.
ORIS: You combine teaching and extensive critical work. What do you teach at the Faculty?
Fredy Massad: The subject we teach at the architecture school of the Universitat Internacional de Catalunya (Barcelona) examines the different aspects and situations that define the current global architectural scenario. The purpose of the subject is to provide students with a critical perspective on this context so they can develop their own approaches and consistent intellectual resources to interpret it and the dynamics around it and the new emerging phenomena.
Alicia Guerrero Yeste: Our key goal is teaching them how to analyze, and mostly to inject in them the conviction that there is a need of discipline, gravity and consistency whenever it comes to discussing architecture or constructing any thought about architecture. After the digital media boom, the quality and depth of critique has been visibly decreasing, even in the well established referential magazines. They are often merely reproducing the project description sent by the office and don’t engage into any criticism, no further analysis about the project… Everything has tended to become a worrying kind of marketing or pr business, so we feel it is essential to encourage students to read between the lines of any given statement, to interpret texts, not to take things literally and get infatuated at first glance. The subject we teach is about a wider analysis about society and culture and how it is shaping the state of architecture at the moment. Through every assessment, we encourage students to develop through writing their own concepts, insisting about how important it is to argue them very carefully.
Fredy Massad: The last paper we ask them to write is an assessment about the course, what they think they have learned. It’s encouraging for us to see that most of them admit they were seriously naive about the architectural scenario and its strategies and dynamics before undertaking the subject and that it has helped them to increase their awareness.