SUPERNATURAL ¹ ²
In Panama, nature is always present. The cities and man-made environments constantly battle the invasive force of nature. During millennia, man has sought to tame and conquer nature, to harness it, to control it. This has caused a long standing conflict between the natural and the urban, where the constant search for everything bigger, faster and better has led to the precarious situation we find ourselves in today.
Panama epitomises this extremely fragile equilibrium between nature and architecture that sometimes unravels in specific geographic scenarios. The two forces, one ancient and unexpected and the other based in knowledge and strategy, sets up a dialogue from two radical positions. As a result, life in Panama is expressed in extreme forms, where the physical world emerges as a stage for confrontation. The power of nature imposes rhythms and effects on our environment, while architecture too often reacts in a violent way. Panama today is a clear example of this: A place defined by beautiful woods, rainforests, the ocean; in amidst commercial sky- scrapers jutting out of the earth surface and the (in-)famous channel, which appears as a scar on the skin of the planet.
At the same time, man’s constant search for development and evolution has given rise to incredible inventions, events and places, and as a unit we are strong believers in progression and a constant search for the new and unseen. Our aim this year is to find a balance between both forces, a middle-way towards a state of co-existence that allows both realities to be possible, making them compatible and complementary.
However, Panama is not only defined by its nature, it is a worldwide scene for economics and trade, where most of the Atlantic – Pacific traffic passes through. The narrowest piece of land in all of the American continent is the most trafficked one. Nature, Economics, Geography, Architecture, Engineering and Trade have made Panama one of the densest places on the Earth, where everything is happening at the same time and in the same place.
We are looking for projects that challenge the boundary line between natural and man-made, between organic and synthetic, and between architecture and environment. We will seek to question the architect’s role, responsibilities and potential in the manipulation of natural environments, and whether we can find an architecture that is derived from an augmented, technologised nature; a super- nature. We want students that are curious about the world, hungry for knowledge, hard-working, and willing to take a leap of faith with us in order to discover something new, unseen, strange and wonderful.
The year will be divided in the following stages:
1. Understanding Panama, its territory and Panama City
2. Research of opportunities, identifying key pressure areas where humans and nature fight against each other. These conflict spaces will be understood as opportunity areas, places where projects for the future development of Panama could take place.
3. Workshop in Panama together with the local office Salcedo-Carballeda. Verification of the hypotheses identified previously and initial development. 4. Main design project
Unit 16 wants to exist in a close symbiosis between academic research and architectural practice. Our way of working is close to how projects exists in a practice, with constant testing and “reflecting through action”, in order to challenge the limits of architecture. Our work is centered around the production of buildings, landscapes and spaces, with a clear understanding and interest in their relationships with the city. We see architecture as an act of realisation; of making something real, which was only previously a brief thought, a vague concept, a utopian dream. Through this act we have the power to transform the world around us, and with that, the responsibility to make sure we leave something positive behind. We are a unit that believes that action speaks louder than words, and we seek to educate architects that will use their proposals to challenge the lives, habits and actions of the world’s inhabitants.
¹ Very, very, natural.
² Unreal, otherworldly,