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Nómade

Inhabitation as a Form of Territorializing Nomadism

07/02/2024

by Pia Milesi

and Juan Emilio Mazzucchi

Nómade is a pedagogical architectural project seeking to reflect on the conservation challenges of the Parana rainforest, located in the northeastern province of Misiones, Argentina. It derives from Pía Milesi and Juan Emilio Mazzucchi’s undergraduate thesis proposal at the Faculty of Architecture, Urbanism and Design of the National University of Córdoba. This gave way to new projects and research aimed at exploring the architectural practice from a strong environmental awareness, revaluing the oral knowledge of native cultures, and reaching out to other disciplines to learn to "pronounce the world, to later utter new pronouncements."

Education

Formation

During our years in the Architecture program, we shared an interest in social and environmental concerns, which gradually increased over time. But there was a decisive experience that marked and mobilized us to work together. It was in the Pampa de Achala Provincial Water Reserve—a territory that has lost large areas of native forest due to deforestation and fires caused by climate change. We were invited there by the Environmental Agenda of Córdoba to collect seeds for a future plantation of tabaquillos. We had the opportunity to talk with a lot of people who had the same concerns and we discussed and exchanged ideas on how to address the issue. From this experience, we embarked on a deeper research process on the subject. 

That is how we landed in the Parana rainforest. It is located in the province of Misiones, which houses Argentina’s largest biodiversity reserves, as well as the largest carbon sink in the country. Within this context, we learned that the most affected by this problem are the Mbya Guarani community, who are the original inhabitants of this region, now displaced by the loss of forest lands. Deforestation processes at the hands of large pine monoculture companies are responsible for this situation, which makes it impossible for the Mbya Guarani to settle and grow their food. Given the circumstances, we set out to find context-based architectural answers from these places, engaging the community in the process. This is how we decided to undertake the project "NÓMADE" (nomadic).

Pia Milesi & Juan Mazzucchi / "Ñande Yvyra" visitors' center proposal for the Salto Küppers Reserve, Misiones, Argentina, 2023.

Courtesy: Nómade.

Nomadic, for it is based on the theoretical proposal of nomadic territorialization, which is not about carrying your house on your back. We don’t mean the wild nomadism of contemporary deterritorialization either; on the contrary, we speak of a territorializing nomadism. Nómade is inspired by the continued search for the Tierra sin Mal (Land without Evil) of the Guarani peoples. We aim for nomadism as movement, even while standing still.

Teaching

The main lesson we have drawn from the pedagogical practice has been to make architecture a collective creation, being open to dialogue and debate in order to achieve richer and deeper results. To be in tune with the people who participate in the workshops is to be in artistic and architectural dialogue. We believe that educational practices are a fundamental factor in arriving at better projects. Also, that teaching does not mean transferring knowledge but creating possibilities for building knowledge ourselves. For us, art is a form of active communication, a process that offers significant space to encourage critical reflection.

Learning

Nómade is a project that seeks to provide answers based on the architecture and art of the Mbya Guaraní community. These processes range from understanding the ancestral construction methods—which are completely in tune with their specific climate and environment—to proposing new solutions that can integrate some of our architectural knowledge into theirs.

In addition, we constantly seek to learn and build drinking from different sources, such as art, philosophy, music, science, and nature. We understand knowledge as a constant construction process.

Process

Beginnings

We believe that the beginning of something new never occurs in isolation; on the contrary, it is a continuity, a variation within the same. 

For instance, our searches always start from a will to provide answers to problems, but they are always linked somehow. Ours is a constant search around the matter of inhabiting. Inhabiting not only understood from an architectural notion of home or shelter, but also as a way of being in the world. A way of being a world, being with the other, being with nature.

Human existence cannot be mute, silent; nor can it be nourished by false words, it requires true ones, in order to transform the world. To exist humanly is to pronounce the world, to transform it. The pronounced world, in turn, comes back problematized onto the pronouncing subjects, demanding a new pronouncement from them (Freire, 1975: 71).

Questions

Whenever we face a new project—or any moment of thought, for that matter—it is a process of constant doubt. There is no reflection without doubt, and therefore, "error" is always a possibility.

When we set out on our journey to the communities of Misiones, for example, we encountered other worlds from a territorial, normative, and urbanistic point of view. And that encounter with otherness was an encounter with doubt. However, in this doubt or error—understood not as failure but as a breaking point—the new befalls.

Thus, we understand the knowledge building processes as a constant movement based on reflection. Furthermore, we believe that inhabitation must be constantly traversed by different kinds of knowledge, so that the answer we give today will hopefully continue to grow tomorrow.

Pia Milesi & Juan Mazzucchi / Mbya Guaraní housing.

Courtesy: Nómade.

Strategies

We usually allow plenty of space for conducting previous research in the collective work; we ask questions and dialogue with different actors. Individuality emerges later, from the effects derived from collective work.

We believe in approaching projects collectively, then reflecting individually, and then return to collectivity to build together. 

An amazing thing about inhabitation practices is that they can never—nor should they—be a self-absorbed thinking, out of a purely individual expression. Architecture is—and should remain—a collective construction process, for giving collective answers to collective problems in an environmentally conscious way. Our search as architects is that the act of making spaces is always more important than our individualities.

Procedures

Our work process as a team usually starts with a question. This can be directly related to habitation, for example: What could the home of these people be like? Or it can address a broader sense, such as: How can we do less damage to our environment?

Whichever question that may arise, we begin to approach it by seeking answers from different fields of knowledge, and then we seek our active participation from the perspective of inhabiting. We turn to artistic, philosophical, social, and even bodily knowledge, given that the body shapes the space it wants to inhabit.

Dialogues

We can only understand the quest into a territory through collective participation. That is why we constantly involve other people in our processes, mainly through questions in the research processes. Also in cooperative ways throughout the entire project development in site-specific proposals for a given territory.

Works & Projects

Currently, we continue to carry out research processes linked to the different ways of inhabiting and its territorial challenges, in both urban and rural areas, mainly in Latin America.

As young architects in a mutilated and mutilating world, we are constantly searching for loopholes through which we can build the new. We truly believe in collective spaces as a way to build, and we hope to continue growing in order to do so. All previous processes brought us to where we are now, and we hope to keep moving. By looking for discussion spaces, contests of ideas, and so on, we’re able to get closer to others in a world of individualities.

Contexts

For us architects, the context (whether geographical, political, social, or cultural) is so important that none of the projects we have developed could be transferred to another place, because its context is fundamental for the development of the architectural response. We don’t believe in universal and general answers, since the environment is the main factor for the development of a project.

Well-designed context-aware public spaces play a key role. As they not only serve the functional needs of everyday life, but can also become part of the identity of each context. In addition, these spaces can contribute to the construction of social identity, a sense of belonging, and collective trust. These kinds of public places allow for creation, protest, and cultural transmission.

Reflections

Does what we create justify what we destroy?
Every single creation—whether intellectual or material—entails the destruction of something else. From the chair you are using to the knowledge being displaced.So, we come back to this question to know from where we want to build.