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Round Table Discussion

Speakers: Ariadna Cantis, Felipe Correa, Belinda Tato, William Saunders & The GSDLatino Collective.

Moderator:  Ana María Durán

Date: October 28th 2010

Place: Room 112 (Stubbins), Gund Hall, Harvard Graduate School of Design

It is signifcant that the Nobel Prize in Literature has been awarded this year to Mario Vargas Llosa, a Peruvian writer, almost thirty years after Gabriel García Márquez, a Colombian, was the recipient of such honor. Within the realm of a design school, it makes us wonder what has become of what García Márquez established as the archetypical Latin American settlement: Macondo, the incestuous town where families dwelt between magic and realism, amidst ghosts and the warm blood of living beings, trapped between the forces of the past and what seemed to be a lonely, hopeless future.

Has that small, low-density, semi-rural Macondo, “a village of 20 clay brick and reed houses built on the edges of a river of diaphanous waters  that precipitated along a ledge of polished stones, white and large like prehistoric eggs” 1 transformed itself into a vast, indomitable, fully con-urban, contaminated and promiscuous MACROndo, closer to the harsh realities announced by Vargas Llosa´s  La Ciudad y los perros (The City and the Dogs)? Has what García Márquez described as our “larger-than-life”  reality -stemmed from the crudeness of our once savage and unnamed landscapes and the indeterminacy of our hybrid identities- transformed itself into a “larger-than-life” metropolitan and global condition, the very nature of which links us to the rest of the world, having cracked the egg of our solitude?

It is at this juncture, when we shift at lightning speed from solitude to solidarity, that the “West” and the “North” turn their gaze upon the South, as the humongous realities of garbage piles, extraction landscapes, global warming, river-sewages and slum expansion bridge the gaps that used to divide us, and weave us into one whole humanity that inhabits one to-be-shared planet. In the midst of the current environmental and economic crisis many have turned to the South, in the hope that rethinking its design and future may hold some keys as to how we may begin to redefne development, economic models and paradigms for spatial intervention.

The question remains: What is the South about? Specifcally, what is Latin America about? Ariadna Cantis began to curate exhibitions on emerging Latin American architecture (defned in a broad sense) at a moment in which the establishment paid little or no attention to it. Her work has acquired a particular signifcance, since it begins to portray the contributions of the South: a web of  collaborative individuals who point to the importance of joining forces in times of crisis; of scavengers, who use refuse in creative ways; of pragmatic romantics who seek in the defense of remote and wild landscapes more than the preservation of exotic entities; of skeptics, who have lost faith on development models that have found their borders in the limits of consumable energy and matter.

We hope that this round table discussion will provide a suitable arena upon which to ponder -however fragmentarily- the spatial and cultural constructions of the South, as they interrelate to twin practices located throughout the world, and are often the result of trans-national collaborations among members of a generation that shares a common culture in ways that were unthinkable before the internet and the world wide web became accessible.

Ana María Durán Calisto & the Latin GSD Collective

Organized by GSD Latino & the Loeb Fellowship Program

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