Day 36 :: Solano Benitez

A selection of work by Solano Benitez (all photographs courtesy of the architect himself or his photographer, Enrico Cano – sorry but those that I was able to see, I couldn’t take photographs and the rest are totally private).

As I mentioned, Solano came to my hotel to pick me up and take me to his studio to show me a variety of things – the studio itself, his staff, current and past projects. Even though he had a very early flight in the morning for Patagonia and spent the entire day in studio reviews, he still took the time to sit down with me and shoot-the-shit, as we say. What an incredible architect. The first project pictures was his first work out of school (now torn down), completed at the age of 25. His work largely revolves around the ingenious utilization of the simplist and most universal of materials – the brick. The reason for this material choice is simple; in inventing a new discourse for its use, building upon the formal tropes of Modernism, he is able to successfully engage in projects of any scale for any demographic (and effectively, in any part of the world). In a country wrought with corruption and a general inadequacy in technological evolution – but with an abundance of human labor – architecture can be highly personal, albeit in the face of ‘poorer’ construction standards.

The soulful man in his late 40’s now and the center of a lot of attention on account of winning the 2008 BSI Swiss Architectural Award spoke about architecture like a true poet. I tried to convince him to write about his work, as I am a firm believer that writing is the only way to really understanding one’s ambitions in the built world. He gestured for me “to get the hell out of here,” and explained that there was too much to do.

In large part, he is very right, and I understood what he meant. Architects here are treading on virgin soil. There is so much rebuilding that needs to occur, so many social problems that need to be addressed, and a sharp increase in cultural awareness that architecture, above all, is/will be the answer for. Having all learned from the masters of Europe and America in school, the entire city is their playground and they have the privilege of escaping the dogmas of the profession (and all of the dense historical baggage that comes with it). My suspicion is that as the Euro-American theater sees a rise in even more theoretical hogwash or digital eye-candy (often conflated as the same garbage), the South will pioneer in some capacity a new thread in the discourse of architecture. Jean Nouvel has said it. Casabella, amongst other Italian and Spanish publications have said it. And seeing the work for myself makes me believe it.

Some hours later, Solano drove me back home and said farewell. In the morning I got in touch with my friend Lolia who invited me to meet another architect here, Jose Cubilla – the third of the Paraguayan triad with forays to Italy and the US. He drove me to his many projects on the outskirts of the city and we discussed the usual. Formally he operates more like Mies with a vernacular bent. After I sort through the photographs of today, I will post his work.

Another long but very fulfilling day; tomorrow will be a longer than usual day traveling, as I will be making my way to Rio de Janeiro.


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