Give me the Lightness and I will raise the World


Conférence 21 mars 2012

“Give me the Lightness and I will raise the World”

Rafael Beneytez Durán, Architecte et Professeur Associé au DPA ETSAM


Conférence pour Lecture@SAUL “Spring Series” en SAUL 21 de mars 2012

Limerick, Irlande


In the next 45 minutes and perfectly aware of the university context in which I’m in, I will theoretically and schematically thread six projects currently underway in my office. In order to achieve this, I will refer to the Paris born French philosopher and 1927 Nobel prize winner, Henrí Bergson and his motivating philosophical theory on the nature of the universe. This theory is both pragmatic and dualist and is supported by two clearly defined interpretations: Life and Matter, a crossroads of two distinct movements.


On the one hand, Life is the result of an originating and continuing vital impulse.

Matter, on the other hand, represents the descending obstacle against which the former collides.


If this concept is to be developed further, and allowing for free interpretations of Bergson´s thought, energy can be considered a direct result of life and its originating impulse, whereas matter cannot only be considered purely as a product of substantialism but as a solidification process of molar nature with a tendency towards formalisation.

I will now describe architectural methods that I apply to solve projects in which I activate both these ideas:


“Life understood as energy that is provided, flows and is administered through a gradient that is able to measure the potential energy that is contained in matter.”


This potential energy can be low or high profile depending on the way it is applied through building systems and processes.


This will therefore acknowledge the following diagram:


- At the lower end, the PCH project represents a full formalisation of matter, an inert solidification of low potential energy, timelessly exposed.

- At the top and heading towards progressive dematerialisation, the Listening Tree project, a “meta stable” structure, charged with internal energy through its own geometry to obtain self stabilisation of shape and form without which it would fail and cease to exist.

- Also at the top and descending towards a stable structure, the Listening Post project, with the same structural base, although with a lower potential energy that I will later explain.


In a cyclical and circular movement and in between the two previous extremes:

-Again at the top and originating from the field of inert matter, El Parque de las Mártires, a project that is conceived as a supply base through its own interpretation of an architectural project that is to be used as a starting point for reutilisation of materials.

-At the bottom, still in the context of matter although ascending, a stock of conformed matter that can be transformed through recycling and reutilisation in the context of the project.


Finally, patience and time permitting, I will describe one last project that is situated at the top of the diagram that will speak of an architectural concept that abuses of the artistic nature of architecture itself escaping from material postulates in order to become pure energy. It may not be as exact as this, although it is to a high degree correct: it is in essence a thermodynamic construction in the form of a cloud that critically questions in atmospheric terms if “architecture” is at the service of matter or, in the contrary, at the service of the atmospheric context in which it occurs. If this is to be so, architecture has then been spearheaded by non substantialist ideals that are now open to the domain of thermodynamic beauty.


PCH project

History has generalised the nature of architecture to the point of providing a definitory base on which constructive methods have developed. Construction systems will thenceforth emphatically insist on the permanent, solid and precise nature of this concept. If mass is to collapse and pile up, inertly submitting to gravity, it is representing continuity and therefore stability. Here, Bergson’s idea of mass losing energy as a result of physical sedimentation implies the creation of rhythmical horizontal lines that are able to describe the nature of associated materials that are being implemented. A geological metaphor within the project.

All visual information provided emphasizes this concept. Project decision making is related to this basic idea, given that the architectural proposal is centred on building concepts that are originated on permanent and inert constructions that can withstand time. Abstraction and organisation define shape and form as the essence of the archaeological footprint of the program. Only if it is to be understood as an institutional landmark that can be repeated in time and place. Unchangeable contents of program and type.


This project is to be considered as a stock management process. Crushed concrete that is reminiscent of an urban past, awaiting a renewed constructive context in which to act. All the potential energy of a building of the past has disappeared and is now concentrated in ruined ruins, as an expression of entropy at its fullest. New potential has been nonetheless obtained, there is now produce stock and energy has been saved in order to, in this case allow a public park to develop inside. Storage of debris will produce thermal inertia. New areas free of temperature changes will arise, and although exposed to misuse and possibly extinction, will nonetheless geologically protect hillsides from the glacial age that are characteristic of Aragonese landscape. These hillsides remain as humungous age old quarries and strongholds of local fauna and flora. In themselves monuments in two ways: in geological terms and in a context of modern recyclable rotation of products that rise and then fall. Energetically gaining force to then give it up. Entropy increases progressively throughout its lifetime. Obsolescence best defines the process. This is activated and elevated by project development, introducing a new technical and energetic element in the nature of the material.




PCYL project

The shape and form of reusable material as a merchandising product is dependent on management and use. Follie at the very centre of product negotiation. A perverse way of understanding building materials that criticises the undefined space that such products occupy. In line with “new realists” such as Arman, architecture must now focus on the uneven equation between recycling processes and the reduction of energy bills that in actual fact, render in a progressive shrink of the life span of building materials. The greater the production the lower the durability of materials. An overall equilibrium is dependent on this. Stacked bottles prevent buckling effects and help to stabilise the main structure. Any visitor, nevertheless, can intervene by taking away one only bottle in such a way that a sum of such interventions can actually create a structural crisis that can end up effectively destroying the pavilion and thus represent an outright downfall, a loss of vital impulse and ultimately, death. It is matter and its continuous use that results in such a death. Small doings through the work of many.

Listening Post project


As opposed to the preceding project, Listening Post is an object that contrasts with the volumetric mass of the PCH proposal in order to emphasize the ascending line within the diagram.

Lightness, transparency and internal energy to obtain self stability as opposed to mass, opacity and gravitational potential energy intrinsic to a building. This contrasted dialogue is the base of my proposal: The concept of mass and organisation according to inherent force principles on the one hand and the idea of the introduction of self stressing internal energy that provides equilibrium to the whole, on the other. Load versus internal energy. Both will have to deal with own weight.

This project originates in a tensegritical structure defined by Le Ricolais. His proposal for the French army for the design of a high precision canon consists of a very long cylinder with integrated structural rings and a set of steel cables surrounding it in order to compress the overall structure along its axis helped by lateral and radial steel bars that reduce buckling. Le Ricolais’s aim was to increase rigidity. Using this as a reference, I myself travel in the opposite direction in a search for the limit of equilibrium. Removing components from the structure, the model progressively enters a state of equilibrium that is indeed peculiar. The possibility of deformation has increased, maximum buckling has almost been reached and the geometry of the structure has therefore submitted to the extreme distortion resulting from external loads. Structural nodes are nonetheless rigid, which together with the bars that make up the rings, avoids any internal entropy in the system, or in other words, the structural position of the object will always go back to its original form regardless of the deformation or distortion that may occur.


The Listening Tree project is designed following the three premises set forward by Le Ricolais, although, in this case, a new condition is added:

Potential entropy can be increased through two new components:


  1. The structural nodes are geometrically placed, or to put it another way, the stability of the object is dependent on the strict geometric positioning of bars and nodes in order for the structure to function uniformly both in continuous traction and discontinuous compression.


2.-The structural bars are made of wood and are in open air hence deformation through shortening, lengthening and torsion is possible. The structure will remain rigid if the bars gently and uniformly deform and in no case loose self stabilisation stress. As one might expect, the line that separates success from failure is indeed thin given that the geometry/load limit is only 1.5 mm from total collapse, a margin that is automatically absorbed by the reaction of wood to outdoor conditions.


The referential concept of the Listening Tree encloses architectural, engineering and artistic postulates. This goes in line with the idea of afunctional structural architecture. It may almost be considered a “follie” in the context of both mass and form, worshipping the idea of reasonless space, a pictoric Frankenstein.


A fragile artificial presence is introduced into the territory very much within the concept of landscape as a Spaesamento (sudden loss of landscape). The failure to do this gives way to the disappearance of the newly constructed landscape.


Gin Tonic Cloud


Ascending through the thread of energy, the Gin Tonic Cloud attempts to understand the cloud as a building, developing a specific technique and allowing the onlooker to take part in the experience.

Very much like the postminimalists that were able to dematerialize the artistic object in favour of an artistic experience in order to create an atmosphere.

Always in the context of architecture, it is like returning to square one: the principle of determining the temperature of air. Once achieved, it evokes the premature redefinition of the composition of air particles to guarantee a future for “good breathing”.

What remains is the hegemony of matter in architectural thought as long as my premises are accepted.


1.-The creation of atmospheric conditions understood as a life support system:

2.-It is for this reason that a cloud is nebulised in order to persist in form and space

3.-It is described as an experience: a.-respiratory, b.-figurative (defined in every case – in the context of the immensity of infinite space),

4.-A high degree of potential entropy is achieved as a result of a high content of energy

5.-It is a dematerialized architectural action.


Give me the ligthness and I will raise the World introduces these concepts at the centre of the diagram in an attempt to lighten, gain energy and cling on to a vital whole that Bergson manages to set forward in the context of his evocative explication of the nature of the universe.


Thank you for your attention