Bringing things into focus

Monday 12 Mar 2012

OBRA's work involves a continuous process of deliberately unleashed interruptions in the design process

OBRA Architects work proposes the design of buildings as a way of developing a clearer awareness between ourselves and the world we create and inhabit. In an effort to bring this world into sharper focus in all its mysterious complexity and variety, "OBRA" deliberately avoids the development of a "personal architectural language" as a tool of analysis and synthesis of a design problem, reasoning that such formal consistency on the part of the designing subject, is an imposition and a violation of his/her object of study and creation: the world. OBRA's work involves a continuous process of deliberately unleashed interruptions in the design process, with the aim of shortcircuiting the linearities of our acquired design habits, a process they hope creates a space for a project to come to be, as if by itself. Their aim is to finish with form, not to start with it.

The firms process tries to take advantage of a "partially obstructed view" of architecture, to create an architecture as if generated from within itself, not the creation of an object distinct from ourselves, observable and defined from without with the perfect clinical precision of the technician resolving a problem. Architecture considered this way might be more part of the problem than part of the solution. A problem is a good thing and can never really be fully solved, only postponed. An architecture aware of its reality attempts not the resolution of problems, but their articulation into our lives as a factor of enrichment, as an opportunity to transcend our situation.

The poetic load of a particular architectural proposal resides in an apparent contradiction. Architecture as an eminently pragmatic art with a vocation to make the world a better place for human habitation has, at the same time, the power to represent, to become the embodiment of our situation in the world, as individuals within society. As a language then, architecture is the eminent creator of homes for the body and the vehicle of the expression of the essential homelessness of the soul. Today's architecture derives its beauty from the misfortune of this missed gap, desencuentro, the space between body and soul.

The submitted images range the length of the practice's journey to date, from their first "winning" competition entry for a museum and memorial in South Africa [2003], their PS1 MoMA installation that opened to the WarmUp crowds in the summer of 2006 as an outdoor interiority for the artist in everyone, the URBIA Furniture System for Small Apts in Big Cities complete with prefab load test [built 2007], the Great Hall at Grace Farms providing a community sanctuary space on an beloved horse farm [designed 2008], a weekend retreat in the Hamptons [built 2008] overlooking  a reserve and encouraging indoor-outdoor living, and finally their first school campus in progress, the Sanhe elementary school in Beijing, for which they are scheduled to break ground later this year.

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OBRA Architects

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