Sections: Building sections of the present

Juan Herreros 

Architectural production has become an increasingly complex process. In addition to the supposed creative energy of the architect at work, he or she seems to have a heroic capacity to direct the titanic task of designing buildings and managing their construction as a single person leading the process.

This reading does not do justice to the difficulties, the compromises and the innumerable decisions influenced by contingencies of every type which accompany the design process, especially when the scale of the project requires the participation of many people in its development.

These groups of people, who form part of project teams, bring to the table an overwhelming amount of information that has to be analysed, interpreted, sorted, and with which the work of synthesis that is architectural design has to be composed.

The importance of the building section lies precisely in its nature as the document in which all of these knowledges are concentrated and diluted into a comprehensible grammar, with its own rules of the game. These are not details of what is spoken, that perverse drift of the fetishism that abandons the project as a whole in order to get excited about short-lived matters, meetings and affectations, but of the importance of understanding construction design as the science of inventing and establishing systems. These systems are the project’s genetic code, a set of equations that allows us to resolve specific cases, make spatial decisions, confront changes and accept the limits of circumstances, all of this within a logic that defines that situation as unique, even while its objective is to shine light on something generic, simple, natural, comprehensible, which erases the trace of all conflicts that have taken place during the process.

In the building section, the architect represents the coinciding of all the dialogues that accompany the project, from structural to regulatory criteria, including budget limitations, acceptable construction periods and the unexpected confluence of a thousand subjective ingredients. We could say that what appears to be the most architectural document is actually the accumulation of knowledges and peculiarities of “others”, and what appears to be the most precise and pragmatic document is actually the most subjective one, one which allows us to identify new sensibilities, new intelligences.

All architects have access to the same information, they can approach the same consultants and access the same industrial houses and their catalogues, and they have to comply with the same regulations. Nevertheless, it is precisely the selection and specific organisation of the massive amounts of data that are managed in the search for a logic that is assumed to be universal, although we know that it cannot be so, which is the most creative, most design oriented, most committed act performed by the contemporary architect. All of this is concentrated in building sections that appear before us as a compendium of interests and discoveries, of ideas of beauty and efficiency, of social, intellectual, cultural and political commitments. This is why we say that building sections can and should be read as records/x-rays of an instant, and that a large number of them make up one of the most accurate and enigmatic descriptions of the present.