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ETTORE SOTTSASS


I believe that such a quest for a constant state of fluidity, such a percep­tion of existence as an ever-changing process pervades everything that Emilio has ever designed. In his architectural work, for example, there are almost never objects plainly resting on earth, as is usually the case in more conventional architec­ture where buildings are just a statement, and that is all. Emilio's architectur­al creations are a bit outside the earth and a bit inside it. They are like stone slabs emerging from the earth, or fissures cracking the earth open, rather than attempts at controlling the universe by means of logic or agreed upon signs. His is an architecture seeking, almost always, to represent the internal and eternal movement of an all encompassing planetary geology while at the same time respectfully reflecting its local pulses, explosions, contractions, tem­pests, and deeply welled mysteries.


Visions come to my mind when looking at his building for the San Anto­nio Botanical Center, his terraces and entry lobby for the residential zone near Lugano, his project for a Cooperative of Mexican-American Grape Growers, his project for the Center for Applied Computer Research, his house in Seville, as well as many other projects Emilio has created. Looking at all the projects, I have come to think that Emilio's buildings certainly cannot be called monuments, even less can we call them literary ex­ercises. By that I mean to say they are not exercises in architectural composi­tion; they are not even intellectual conceits or objects; still less can one cata­log them as attempts at technological rhetoric. I would call Emilio's architec­ture propitiatory designs seeking to invoke the presence of architecture. Each element of his edifices is a bit like a talismanic instrument of a wager, of a hidden ritual to fascinate some immense natural divinity. Maybe they are as­pects of a liturgy, performed to obtain forgiveness for the scars we inflict everyday on the planet, or, maybe they are part of a magic ritual performed to re-establish harmony with those strange celestial rotations which Indians and Greeks, a long time ago, had already intuited.


This is a unique way of imagining architecture, certainly a new way, a spe­cial way, or perhaps it is a very ancient way. Perhaps this new way belongs to those very ancient times when, in order to found a city, an animal, perhaps a bull, was let free and the city became established wherever the bull, after a while, stopped to drink. Maybe the difference between the ancient propitiatory processes per­formed to secure the planet's good will and then that of the whole universe and those new propitiatory processes Emilio performs today lies only in the different technologies and in the different gestures he uses to satisfy archetyp­al longings.


Like very few architects, he senses the emergence of a technological mythology, fully aware of all that it may bring with it. I also know that he is very knowledgeable and that with relentless precision and painstaking pa­tience he pays attention, as do very few, to the possibilities of technology as an irreplaceable device for bringing about that rare existential event that is architecture. All of this I know already, and all of this that I know is also known by others, as we also know that it is not here that the root of his great original­ity lies. The thing which is original with Emilio, and which is very rare, is that technology is for him an instrument for suggesting architectural pres­ences; that for him it is the architectural event, when it occurs, which serves as the magical instrument to bring about that still larger and even more com­plex event which is our spiritual experience. I imagine Emilio Ambasz to be a man outside the norm, at the cutting edge, and therefore, under surveil­lance. I see him as an imaginative and illuminated young man, resembling some old Chinese priest who, first for months, and then for years, uses an­cient techniques to polish the surface of a great disk of green jade which will allow him, perhaps, to penetrate beyond the 'daily,' or better still, which will allow him, even for just an instant, to place daily existence in some exalted architectural domain.





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