dialogue #15 ‘sequence of abstractions’

Abstraction as a tool

Since modernity cities have been subjected to growth processes; since then they have been studied from a technical and scientific perspective. Abstraction can be understood as a tool that helps to simplify the complexity of what exists and to generate an intentional proposal for a possible urban transformation. The representation is where the abstraction take place. This sequence of drawings exposes a set of representations of the city of Barcelona, showing different types of abstraction that are the result of a certain look related to the time and to the author.  The first image is a redraw of the Pla Cerdà (1859): the winning project for the expansion of Barcelona. The three following images are redraws of Pla Macià (1933): a rationalist project that was never built. The last two images are an interpretation of the sequence by the author where the abstraction is more extreme.

23/02/2018 Barcelona

The sequence shows the interaction between two different urban morphologies. The first one, that is represented with the same color throughout all drawings, is the preexisting Vila de Gracia urbanization (1855), before the Pla Cerdà growth. This is the result of a spontaneous evolution with a high-density edification, irregular grid, narrow streets and small-scale squares. The second one, that is represented by lines in the second drawing, is the Pla Cerdà grid, that was designed in 1859 in order to expand the city of Barcelona. This, had different characteristics: it was isotropic, regular and with wide and bright streets. The preexisting towns in the plain of Barcelona, like Vila de Gràcia, were reached by the city growth and had to be integrated. The juxtaposition of the two morphologies represented, generated indefinite edges and empty spaces due to the different formal nature. Over time, these empty spaces were filled generating a gradual and natural transition, like the third drawing shows (1933). Finally, the both morphologies were sewn coherently without generating abrupt changes.

16/07/2018 Barcelona

  • Author: Maite Moreno
    dialogue #15 ‘sequence of abstractions’

  • Keywords: abstraction, Barcelona, certain look, collage, design, representation, round I, simplify, spontaneous evolution, technical, time, urban transformation

  • Medium: Drawing

  • Location:

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47.372604 8.532485

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„Counter Space Incubator“ was an inhabitable 2 x 2m wide and 3.5m tall sculpture, similar to a a balloon with the thickness of 2-5cm, constructed in concrete. Spontaneously cast by the architecture office in a cheap plastic foil, the resulting shape reminded of a huge creature’s sock. Its intention was to announce and simulate a new building for the independent art space „Counter Space“. It was neither clear where this new building could be built, nor how it would look, but it was an 1:1 quest on what the art spaces’ core values – process orientation, spontaneity, ephemerality and collectiveness – could mean in spacial and constructive terms. The resulting model was not literal – the project of the art space that is now in planning will most probably look very different – but it was opening possibilities and manifesting an idea.


In the context of Act I, the painter Dominique Jehle investigated the above described urban situation of Stich & Oswald „Counter Space Incubator“ intervention at Haus Konstruktiv. Viewed from above, buildings, spaces and focus points became layers of the white paper. The paper relief composition was new for the artist as a medium, but it continued the careful and personal way she uses when observing the surroundings depicted in her paintings. As a response to the collage that she later sent by mail to the Stich & Oswald, an interpretation of the paper composition in concrete was cast by the architects. The 60x90cm relief resulted in only three hours and only used scrap material from architectural models and prototypes. It was sent back to the artist and regarded as her work.


The process of repeated observation and interpretation – applied on an architectural project, a paper collage and a concrete relief – is like a transformation of an urban context through an intuitive copy machine that strangely appears to be simultaneously individual and collective. Even though its result might seem intuitive and formal, the transformation of an urban context into a deliberated, non referential object, works through a strict and tested set of rules by the authors. In this sense it can be seen as an interdisciplinary mute discourse on the work of the heroes that founded Haus Konstruktiv for their art in 1989.


47°27’48.6“N 8°57’55.6″E
Like in the round before, a paper collage was composed by the painter Dominique Jehle, using as inspiration the areal picture of the site of a project by the architects Stich & Oswald. Again it was sent by mail to the architects and interpreted by them in a fast concrete relief, using modelbuliding left-over materials as formwork.
Unlike in round I though, in this round, there occurred a misunderstanding: Where as the paper collage depicted the site of an unbuilt project close to Basel, it was interpreted in concrete as another (built) project, 140km away, close to St.Gallen.
The simultaneity of representation of spatial conditions and intrinsic qualities of the resulting objects is common in architectural plans and in painting. The method of the repeated mail communication produces a cadavre-exquis-like transformation of a site, or a transformation of the perception of a site. Context becomes intention, which is again the context for an intention, and so on. And due to the misunderstanding, this transformation happened in its extreme: Textures grew into buildings, spatial proportions became soft and water was solidified as trees.

The „error“ was only discovered weeks after the relief was sent back to the artist and regarded by both parties as an enrichment of the work. The miscommunication raised the question to which extent our production is real by itself or only becomes real through the perception of the spectator.


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