Cow with Buckets of Milk, Etching, 1985, Francisco Toledo
This August 2022, Tropicality will be hosted by Casa Wabi at their Tadao Ando-designed foundation based on the Pacific coast in Oaxaca. Through fieldwork, filmmaking and architectural drawing in tropical, post-colonial contexts, Tropicality collects stories and closely reads how they are entangled with space, technologies and practices, routines, and rituals. Our inquiries help us to deepen fundamental investigations into architecture in its entanglement with forms-of-life and social relationships in their perpetual unfolding. In the many houses, neighbourhoods, cities and landscapes of past years, we encountered singular, beautiful and often tragic stories. Despite their uniqueness, they often share things in common with each other, and have given us new insights into our own architecture and selves.
Oaxaca has experienced waves of colonisation from the pre-Columbian and Spanish, to Capitalism and tourism. To literally and existentially overcome uprooting, subordination and inquisitions that began as early as the 16th century, pre-Colombian indigenous knowledges and practices were hidden or syncretised with colonial Spanish architectures, technologies, religion, objects, rituals and symbolism. This process has of course accelerated in parallel to globalisation. A resulting ‘continuity’ of the pre-modern in parallel to the contemporary, and an uncanny combination of the familiar and the ‘other,’ may begin to offer an explanation as to why, since at least the 1950s, ‘uprooted’ people from ‘technologically developed’ countries have boarded ships and jets to venture to Oaxaca. What do we seek? Sun, alien food and vegetation? To remedy our alienation, to take refuge in ‘craft’, tradition, in sensory overloads and in people who are apparently not so completely uprooted? To come into contact with or recover something we have ‘lost?’ Despite a search for the authentic and rooted – or for therapy or escape – we might also encounter something unexpected and challenging.
This year we travel to Oaxaca with a particular interest in daily practices of caring for architecture, plants and animals; in those practices associated with the diagnosis, assumption and prevention or healing of physical, mental and ‘spiritual’ illnesses. This broad scope of course only opens the terrain for an inevitable encounter with the unexpected. Describing and communicating some of the stories, architectures, objects, designs and methods we discover might help us to expose and suspend some of our own biases and habits, and offer us new perspectives on, and strategies for our own architectural practice.
Hombre con Cola De Caballo 2012, Ivan Hernandez Gutierrez