I´d rather be horizontal ¹

At the beginning of the project for the Centro Andaluz de Accesibilidad y Autonomí­a Personal in Cordoba, the most suitable thing seemed to provide it with two or three floors. In this way the programme of uses would have been shaped in a relation of hierarchical heights, according to the conventional stratification: the most public places (function room, events room and library) would be placed at the ground level, concentrating the bustle of visitors to the centre, while the most restricted uses (offices and bureaus) would be placed at the superior levels. However, instead, the proposal was disposed as horizontal, connecting all their places at the same level, like a mosaic where the outside paths, the pond, the vegetation at the entrance, shaded walkways, parking lots, etc., would be equivalent to the inside gallery (the “treet of senses”) to the offices or to the rooms for the public. Just a horizontal level which could be extended without boundaries, connected by multiple routes.

The ceramic shell of the building is not the usual ensemble of facades and roofs, but it works like the wall of a bubble that selects a field of the mosaic, from that geometric landscape, in order to give it the position of an inside space with its controlled atmosphere, following the model of B. Fuller’s geodesics, proposed as a volume of air protected in the middle of the horizontal extension of the natural terrain. Horizontality, in a wide sense, is usually attributed to the modern space that gives priority to the openness and continuity “in contrast with those isolated and almost independent “places” that formed the special structure of the worlds of the past. (…) the relation with the heavens, that “sacred dimension” of the cultures of the past, tend to be forgotten when the earth opens like a horizontal extension” [2].

Mark Wigley, in his essay “The Architectural Brain” has taken the interpretation of the inevitable “horizontality” of the modern space, on its more and more intense unfolding of fluids, nodes, parallel processes, nets, bandwidths, interfaces, etc. to some antecedents located in the 17th century, when the comprehension of the universe started to be shaped as comparative charts, tables, dictionaries, ledgers and calculations in which each interconnected entry had an equivalent status. A new democratic freedom was born to stand against the old hierarchy of authority and knowledge. In our contemporary architectural culture the extreme consequence, more or less conscious, is that the logics of that net of communication of horizontal systems ends up reaching buildings. The interiors aspire to be diagrams, or better, integrated circuits. The “mat-buildings” of the Post War period (The Free University of Berlin, the Hospital of Venice…), or the educative spaces set on infinite nets by Konrad Waschsmann would be the most classic materialization of the concept.

But the origins of the Cordoba project have a more physic, conceptual component. It was conceived as a centre exposing all the progresses of personal accessibility and autonomy means which had accepted, as a natural and desirable thing, the novelties in lifts, platforms and artefacts that allow disabled people to avoid gravity. But we rather preferred to do the contrary: there would not be gravity to avoid by anybody. All the visitors would share the same horizontal level without accidents, taking advantage of the suppliers’ sound of the pond, of the shaded walkway, of the smell of aromatic plants, of the different intensities of natural light, of the different textures and geometric pictures of the road surface, and they would let themselves be guided through their available senses. A unique street of almost urban dimensions forms the inside, a unique space of meeting without enigmas and with intuitive keys of use. At the solar of CAAAP there will not be hierarchies in front of a staircase or a maze. Just for a moment, and under a unique ceramic vault, we all will be horizontal.


[1] The experienced reader will have recognised the borrowing from Silvia Plath’s poem “I am vertical / but I would rather be horizontal”. It is a commonplace to assign the text to an implied lurking sense (under the influence of the final end of the writer) but it may be just a treacherous psychological interpretation that does not take into account other more interesting suggestions: the tree is vertical, hierarchical and it symbolizes the unquestionable paternal authority that transcends generations, while lying among flowers means to establish an “open conversation with the sky”: “(…) It is more natural to me, lying down. / Then the sky and I are in open conversation. / And I shall be useful when I lie down finally: / Then the trees may touch me for once, and the flowers have time for me”.

[2] La cita es de Norberg-Schulz, Christian. The quote is from Norberg-Schulz, Christian. Los principios de la arquitectura moderna. Editorial Reverté. Barcelona, 2005.

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