A MEDIUM FOR THE SPIRIT OF THE PLACE
(1) Médium © Mauricio Lacrampette Z. for LOFscapes.
In October in the context of the second version of Proyecto Norte (Project North) – a program of artistic residences in the North of Chile – architect Mauricio Lacrampette was selected to participate with his work “Médium.” The location chosen for this version was the Oasis of Niebla (The Fog Oasis) in Alto Patache in the Tarapacá Region, an area protected by the Ministry of National Assets and characterized by the abundant presence of coastal fog.
Managed by the New Mediums Area of the National Council of Culture and Arts in conjunction with the Master of Architecture Program at the Pontifical Catholic University of Chile and the Atacama Desert Center, the work “Medium” (1) arises from the understanding of landscape as the field where different factors interact in a given territory. These factors could be climatic, cosmological, geological, biological and/or artificial, and it is precisely the interactions of this set of phenomena that qualify a given landscape. Theorist Christian Norberg-Schulz refers to this quality of a landscape as genius loci, a term used in Roman mythology to refer to the spirit of a place (2).
(1) Médium: “(Del lat. medĭum, medio). 1. com. “Person who is considered to be endowed with paranormal powers that allow him/her to act as mediator in parapsychological phenomena or hypothetical communications with spirits.” See https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/medium
(2) See Christian Norberg-Schulz,Genius Loci, Towards a Phenomenology of Architecture (New York: Rizzoli, 1991).
The Oasis de Niebla of Alto Patache (The Fog Oasis) offers an ideal setting to put this reflection into practice because of the clear and even aggressive way the forces that define a landscape manifest themselves here. Open sky and arid soil, radiant sun in the day and total darkness at night, life in resilience and a scattering of technological devices (antennae, mist traps, high voltage towers, atmospheric measuring devices), constant wind from the sea located just a few kilometers away and the scarcity of water, a resource that manifests itself almost completely in the form of fog called camanchaca (3) during the night. These are the phenomena that together give Alto Patache its distinctive character: its genius loci.
(3) The camanchaca (from the Aymara kamanchaka, “darkness”) “is a type of dynamic, copious coastal fog. It is condensation at an altitude that moves to coastal areas by wind and is particular to the Pacific high-pressure zone. During the day the sea absorbs heat radiated by the sun and acts as a thermal moderator to create this phenomenon. During the night and early morning it releases this heat, which at the same time produces vapor. The morning vapor does not rise enough because of the Pacific high pressure zone and remains (…) As the day wears on the mass is heated by the sun and rises (…).” See Wikipedia <www.wikipedia.com>
From the observation of the phenomena that make up a full day cycle in Alto Patache, an apparatus capable of coupling and actively participating in this cycle was designed and created to synthesize a new phenomenon that interacts with the existing ones and that in turn gives this link its own value as a landscape generator.
A solar panel connected to a set of batteries that feed a head with three laser pointers with 1W of power, mounted on a support system, form the principal mechanism of the system. The rest consists of a series of six mirrors 30X40 cm mounted on frames and pivots that move with the wind. These devices are located in different parts of the landscape (separated by distances of approximately 80 m) so that during the day the main mechanism remains off while charging its batteries with the sun. Then, at night it is automatically turned on with a photovoltaic sensor, projecting laser beams towards the mirrors, generating multiple reflections and making a figure of light appear in the midst of the desert’s darkness. The luminosity, crispness and stability of the light are also affected by the wind that makes the mirrors vibrate and by the density and movement of the camanchaca that acts as a natural diffuser. Then, a dynamic dialogue arises between the pre-existing phenomena and the phenomena generated by the device − with the camanchaca as the center of attention. At dawn, thanks to the photovoltaic sensor, the device shuts off its beams and automatically returns to its passive state.
In short, the installation operates as a self-regulated system that each day translates the energy of the sun into a figure of abstract light at a territorial scale that emerges during the night. This figure interacts with the wind and the camanchaca to generate a dynamic, immersive environmental phenomenon, which is synthesized from the phenomena that qualify the landscape of Alto Patache as if it were a medium to manifest the spirit of the place.
Architect Stan Allen proposes the idea of “field conditions” in certain spatial configurations where relations between the parts of a whole prevail over the unstable total figure (4). What “Medium” seeks to do is precisely to show the field conditions in Alto Patache by inserting a mechanism that interacts with and within this dynamic field to act as new elements of the landscape without substantially modifying its organization. In fact, the system reveals the forces that generate it.
(4) See Stan Allen, “Del Objeto al Campo: Condiciones de Campo en la Arquitectura y el Urbanismo” (From Object to Field: Conditions in Architecture and Urban Planning) (ed.), in Iñaki Ábalos Naturaleza y Artificio: El Ideal Pintoresco en la Arquitectura y el Paisajismo Contemporáneos (Nature and Artifice: The Picturesque Ideal in Contemporary Architecture) Barcelona: Editorial Gustavo Gili, 2009.
Mauricio Lacrampette is an architect of the Pontifical Catholic University (2013) and a self-taught artist.
(2) Area Plan Alto Patache © Mauricio Lacrampette Z. for LOFscapes
(3) Mauricio Lacrampette, Médium (2013) © Francisco Navarrete Sitja for LOFscapes.
(4) Mauricio Lacrampette, Médium (2013) © Francisco Navarrete Sitja for LOFscapes.
(5) Mauricio Lacrampette, Médium (2013) © Francisco Navarrete Sitja for LOFscapes.
(6) Mauricio Lacrampette, Médium (2013) © Francisco Navarrete Sitja for LOFscapes.
(7) Mauricio Lacrampette, Médium (2013) © Francisco Navarrete Sitja for LOFscapes.
(8) Mauricio Lacrampette, Médium (2013) © Francisco Navarrete Sitja for LOFscapes.
(9) Mauricio Lacrampette, Médium (2013) © Francisco Navarrete Sitja for LOFscapes.
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