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A book on new Colombian architecture

Archipelago Architecture/Archipelago de Arquitectura. Edited by Miguel Mesa, Veronica Restrepo and Veronica Betancur

The first thing you notice about this handsome bilingual paperback are the four holes drilled through the pages, and the scattering of confetti that ornament the cover. Is this a symbol of the ties of family, friendship, and affinity that bind these seven fledgling architecture firms in Medellín and Bogotá? Or a warning that this is not a conventional beauty parade of completed buildings, but an analysis of the creative process in which each participant is rigorously questioned by his peers?

Archipelago Architecture is the printed equivalent of a symposium plus a collage of sketches and photos, all elegantly presented. Some of the texts are wordy and unfocused as insider discourse so often is (especially in the land of magical realism) but it’s worth the effort of reading. The book provides an alternative perspective on some of the buildings reviewed in this issue, and amplifies the coverage to include exhibitions and installations, ephemeral structures and visionary projects. It’s a snapshot of a generation, mostly in their mid-thirties, who went to school together, and are moving from small experiments to larger commissions.

This is the latest publication by Mesa Editores, one of the seven featured firms, which create books rather than buildings. Each is a work of art, inventively laid out and assembled, that explores the activities of a different Colombian architect. Recent titles include: Hand Luggage: the Architecture of Camilo Restrepo, Awaiting Architecture: Plan:b Architects, and Alphabets: Variations in Giancarlo Mazzanti’s Architecture.

Miguel Mesa likens a book to a CD or human brain that gathers a lot of information efficiently in a small space. He tries to engage his readers in a dialogue: ‘What’s important, beyond cultivating informed opinion towards formal architecture, is promoting aesthetic sensibility in people at many levels, which may lead to a broader valuation of architecture and life.’

+ A snaphot of a generation
- Some texts lack focus

Archipelago Architecture /Archipelago de Arquitectura

Edited by Miguel Mesa, Veronica Restrepo and Veronica Betancur

Publisher: MesaEditores, 2010

Price: $63

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