Javier Sánchez Merina

Collaborative work between students of Carleton University (Ottawa, CANADA) and University of Alicante (SPAIN)



Reality: ordinary life can make extraordinary architecture 



We do believe that architecture is part of specific stories, of affections and dreams, of interpersonal projects, as well as a result of negotiation and the unexpected. The course is built around the series of articles, “Stories of Houses” (http://storiesofhouses.blogspot.ca). We will deconstruct these single-family houses that are classified in architectural books as works by specific authors, and give value to the origins that belonged to cultural realities.

Since these dwellings were built during the 20th century, the meaning of the cultural concept that generated them has changed in our contemporary society. This will allow us to rethink their architecture and update through transformations, extensions, demolitions, etc.


                  1. Read STORIES OF HOUSES and make a selection of two Stories. They are examples of built architecture originating from the clients’ life.

                  2. Create a presentation video addressing your Spanish collaborators, explaining the criteria of your choice.

                  3. Look at the culture that generated the houses. From here you are asked to create a photomontage extracting the cultural element that generated the house.

                  4. Observe the evolution of the culture in the last 30 years. Understand the passing of time, from the day the house was conceived and today, and how the understanding of these cultural concepts has evolved during the past 20-30 years. Examples are: the concept of access, the period of mourning, family structure, building methods, ways of working, communication, nutrition etc.

                  5. Add a new End to the Story. This is based on specific facts you will have acquired through your research.

                  6. Draw an action/activity, according to the requirements of this cultural evolution.

                  7. Achieve architecture that fits the new action/activity.

This is a working method that allows the student to go beyond a formalistic approach and offers confidence when the moment comes to “improve” the architecture example.

The final exercise is to create a Manifesto where the students are asked to document the process of working and to reflect on the results. The Manifesto should be presented in the format of a book, clear and well edited. The model to follow is VERB, a series of books by Actar (Barcelona): fonts, layout (way of communication + the relationship between text, photos, schemes and drawings). Attached is a link to the publisher’s website http://www.actar.es/

The content of the individual book should show the process of working during the period:

                  0. The original story of the house and its drawings.

                  1. The initial presentation to the Spanish team, extracting images from the video productions.

                  2. The reading of the stories and the criterion for selecting one particular one.

                  3. The photomontages focusing on concepts of the chosen Story – 20th century concept and its transformation into the 21st century.

                  4. The drawing of the action the demonstrated the Cultural element that turned the 20th century house into a 21st century house. Each student must show clearly his/her contribution to the proposal. Therefore, individual drawing and collective drawing should be included.

                  5. The technical drawing – A SECTION OF A DETAIL – of the action in the space of the original house. In this point you can include those details by your partners in the case you consider them important. Also, feel free to edit them to make them better.

                  6. The most interesting conversations between the members of the team, how they built the arguments and came to a consensus of how to move forward with the proposals. Finally, include a short evaluation/reflection on the teamwork/team effort.

                  7. Bibliography.

                  8. Manifesto: you should finish summarizing your vision for Re-reading architecture.


Take on a path around the following public interests:


– Detect new social patterns and organization by linking production with consumption, acknowledging how the different articles are built up, from the primary material to the final product.

– Gain confidence in working with unknown partners abroad and establish multidisciplinary relationships.

– Furthermore, this exercise provides two focal points: It is a reflection and meets the need of editing the drawings. The student is asked to go back to the original story and reflect in a critical manner what his/her proposal offers/adds to the original house. The drawings can thus be redefined if needed, considering the feedback from the CRITS.

– Additionally, the student is asked to think as an editor working for Actar. This means to follow the layout of the publishing company and be critical in the way of deciding what and how the drawings/writings are selected into the book. The style of writing should be academic, not to write in first person or in a way of a diary.


It is continuous, a valuation of the projects every fortnight, carried out by the professor as well as fellow students:

– Skills of analyzing and deconstructing a text.

– Identification of the culture concept in a dwelling.

– Ability to draw that concept through an action/event within the dwelling.

– Ability to develop an idea through different techniques, scales and materials and gain different perspectives of the project.

– Achievment of skills to work in a team on an international level. Use shared drawings, googledocs, googlegroups, and videoconferences.


10th of September to 31st of October 2012.

Classes: Fridays from 16:30 to 20:30 in Alicante University (Spanish time).


– Series STORIES OF HOUSES (http://storiesofhouses.blogspot.com.es/)

– Ettore Sottsass. Video Interviews Alessi. 2008.

Five Obstructions. Film by Lars von Tier and Jørgen Leth, 2003.

Teddy house by Andrés Jaque. http://andresjaque.net/wordpress/proyectos/teddy-house-coruxo/

– Cedric Price: The Fun Palace.

Koolhaas Houselife. Film by I. Beka & L. Lemoine.


Collaborative work between students of Carleton University (Ottawa, CANADA) and University of Alicante (SPAIN)




If the first part of the year, RE-READING STORIES OF HOUSES, can be understood as a “theoretical” course, this second part is pure “production”. We will focus on executing the previously studied concepts into built architecture spaces, under the heading, BUILDING EMOTIONS.

In its annual report, the Spanish College of Architects announced the following reality: “Since 2007, the profession has reduced its volume of work more than 95%”. Such a brutal decrease obliges the professional collective to question its role. The College concludes its report by claiming: “We must recover our professional, social and personal dignity.”

At this point, the first question that came to mind was: How do you define the dignity of the professional? The report never aroused this question, and let alone any possible answer.

Undoubtedly, architects, builders, manufacturers of building materials and even requirements imposed by building regulations, have more techniques than ever. Thus, what is missing is not knowledge of technology. The “lost dignity” lies in the origin of our profession: Through history we have been able to differentiate architecture from any other construction for its added value, that is, emotions.


Every Friday evening we will finish the week with the celebration of an event, both in Ottawa and Alicante. The students will build an installation generated from the emotional qualities of our homes. By means of recreating different possible activities of social character taken place in the dwellings, we will produce 5 architectures:

                  Area to Relax / G1

                  Area to Dine / G2

                  Area to Converse / G3

                  Area to Welcome / G4

                  Area of Dreams / G5

The members of each group will not only design the event itself but, most importantly, they will go beyond it to generate architecture. All the events/installations will start keeping in mind an exceptional guest: Prof. Roger Connah in Ottawa and Prof. Paco Mejías in Alicante. Being such a different environments, the groups require adopting the building techniques that are specific to the local sites. Therefore each group will have to draw the same project accordingly.

Also, since this is a collaborative exercise between all the members of the class, each group in charge of the event will give instructions on the execution of the installation to the rest of the class, who will be the builders that week.

                  – This is a new exercise, so you can choose whatever emotion you wish, independently from your former house.


That is to say, from inside to outside. Please, avoid the idea of building a space and, afterwards, accommodate the action. We have already worked for a month and a half under this method, so it should not necessary to go back to this explanation, JUST JUMP INTO PRODUCTION.

                  – Every group will pay for its installation and the rest of the class will build it (one in Ottawa, another in Alicante).

                  – The role of each group consists of:

1) Designing the installation+event. Drawings and details, also calculate its cost.

2) Distribute with precision the task given to each student/builder (I have just created a post in the weblog where you have to write down your skills and also the materials you could obtain free or very economical. Please, try to get sponsors; we will recognize the donors’ names in the installations).

Although the Alicante School of Architecture has not got the incredible workshops for wood and metal of Carleton University, the Alicante team is much more numerous that the Canadian. Definitely it will be very interesting to see how you take advantage of both characteristics.

Don’t worry if you are allocated an emotion you did not choose initially: Every emotion is incredible. The exercise consists of showing your generosity towards your guest. Offer Roger/Paco your most incredible construction of an emotion.

Also, it is evident that the first groups will have less time than the last ones for building their installations. Again, don’t worry, we are working as a complete team: like in every building construction, the best results belong to the workers, clients… and architects working together. The architect alone does not built.

Every group will finish the course and upload the Final Drawing of the installation. (It consists of a board 10″ x 10″ with drawings and a short description of the project, where the technique of the drawing itself has to refer to the aim of the project. That means; each group has to find the most appropriate design of the board to communicate the most).

Finally, every student will describe the most positive points of this international experience, as well as comment on what can be improved in case we repeat the collaboration.



Not to look at the installations as finished objects, but as a way of thinking by producing them. The aim of this exercise is to deal with known activities at home and to generate architecture from them.

It is crucial to avoid any general saying like: “Let’s be realistic, in a week we can only build something known and easy”. Your Reality, as students, is that your time in the School of Architecture has to be a magic moment for experimentation. Do not be afraid to reinvent yourselves, to dare to dream, since without an internal change in you, an external change in a project will be so much harder.

RE-READING STORIES OF HOUSES started working with Reality, with examples of existing houses that owed their origins to the specific culture of their clients. This is clearly an intellectual position that defends architecture as a Comparative Study. The exercise consisted of upgrading architecture from the 20th century to the 21st. It is true that at the beginning some of you considered it as a very theoretical course, although we finished even designing a technical detail drawing and a manifesto where all of you acknowledged the importance of this Method.

And this is precisely our key word, Method, which we have tried to develop in the Studio.

The second part, BUILDING EMOTIONS, is a course for full Production. Starting from very well known activities at our homes, the research was developed when constructing an installation. The agreement is that you had to take a Risk, to work with the known but to go beyond and into the unknown. Therefore, you would need to ask for help to an Expert.
This exercise will make you Reflect: Although Canadians live in a very safe and stable society, the world is changing dramatically. Think that Athens was celebrating the Olympics just eight years ago! … And, all of us already know what is going on in Spain.
Still, even in the case of Canada, a country starting a new present full of opportunities, you, as architects, will be asked to participate to construct that new future.
Therefore all these changes, for bad or for good, oblige you to learn a method for going beyond, seek assistance. Imagine that once this course is finished, you could design and build all your installations again and question who would be your collaborators: engineers, industrial designers, sociologists, artists or professors of theory.


From the first day we will value the Risk, the necessity of Learning and the obligation to consult the unknown with an Expert.

That is a methodology all of us need to learn and practice in order to evolve in architecture, otherwise we will repeat again and again what we already know. Time runs and what is valid today can stop being tomorrow, making reference to Reyner Banham’s conclusion to his PhD thesis, Theory and Design in the First Machine Age.

When preparing the aims for this course, it was important to bear in mind that it consisted of an exercise of just one and a half months.

One is used to formulate a course spanning a whole year, giving importance to the Process and, from there, to the Reflection. Also it is common to be invited for a week-workshop, or even only two-days workshop, just a weekend, when one values the process.

In our case, 6 weeks gives no time for Reflection, so the aim was to establish a Process that will make you reflect as soon as the course is finished: a Retroactive Reflection.



2nd of November to 14th of December 2012.

Classes: Fridays from 16:30 to 20:30 in Alicante University (Spanish time).


In collaboration with Paco Mejías Villatoro. Architect.

In collaboration with Dr. Halldóra Arnardóttir. Art Historian specialized in Architecture.

STUDIO 5 – UA 2012/13



The term democracy was coined in Athens, in the 5th Century BC, from the words demos (which can be translated as “people”) and kratos (meaning “power”).


In that historical moment, the urbanism of the city of Athens materialized its democratic social organization. The Acropolis, or upper city, was characterized by its dual function: defend and host the main temples. The Agora was the centre of business, social and political activities, and it was originally located at the Northeast of the Acropolis. In its slope, the Theatre of Dionysus was settled, while the Long Walls, for the safety of the polis, kept the port of Piraeus separated from Athens.

It should be stressed that these arrangements were not only the result of social relationships. They respond to an understanding of the world as a whole, including its environment. This is an important reading we can make of Greek myths: how, through the divine, they integrated man with nature, making him share her mechanics and harmony. A balance with her geographies characterizes the Greek urbanism.

Now, the above-mentioned buildings are the ruins we are going to visit on our course-trip. They are remains that alert us of our civilization’s fragility and remind us that the historic achievements they represent, are ephemeral. Therefore, we must defend them every single day.

In our trip we will interview Athenian intellectuals on the loss of the original meaning of democracy. There are already many Greeks who denounce how the political power in their country is currently subdued to the economic one, which in turn brings another loss of original meaning: the word economy (oikos, “house”, with the sense of heritage, and nemo, “manage”). That is, the way of managing the house. The Greek reality of today shows those who control the financial power are gaining the political power through the creation and exploitation of the public debt. This is happening with the complicity of the government and the lack of an organized response by the citizens. The result is: the European financial rescue plan does not end this spiral system of debts, but feeds and perpetuates it.

This makes it necessary to restore the democratic politics, which requires demos. That is, people and virtue of its citizens. This is precisely the revolutionary idea inherited from the ancient Greeks. It consists of creating a free and active citizenship (see in the bibliography the interview and video by the Hellenistic Pedro Olalla).

Contemporary Examples of Citizen Resistance

Ancient Greece’s ever-applicable lesson lies not only in having given us their democratic heritage but also challenges us to be its followers.

The “Potato Revolution” that emerged in Thessaloniki is a good example of the Greek solidarity. At the same time in Athens, in Omonia Square near Syntagma Square, potatoes were distributed free, or at very low price, thanks to its direct sale without intermediaries. Oil and lamb meat are other products farmers have also started to sell directly. This situation to bring closer production and consumption is spreading and consolidating throughout the country, to the point that in the city of Volos, its 180,000 inhabitants have established the barter system with a social currency called TEM.

Another important example of citizen organization is located in Exarjia neighbourhood: the Navarinou Park, also called the Parking Park. It was created when its neighbour occupied the car park and transformed it into a garden, with playground areas and open public space. There, meetings, parties, projections and talks are organized on political aspects on the national and local situation.


In Studio 5 we will work from the local culture, mapping existing values, connecting actors, designing exchange services as well as shaping social innovation labs in order to generate and identify new situations in the city.

After the courses, Studio 2 and Studio 3, characterized by intimate architecture, Projects 4 introduced us to architecture understanding it as an essential part of comparative studies:





Now we begin a journey into the following public aspects:

– To detect new social and organizational forms, from linking production to consumption and to recognize how the different items are made, from its raw material to the final product.

– Awareness towards sustainability: to develop territorial concepts established by social and environmental qualities of consumption.

From these premises, our course will establish a new reading of the city of Athens that advances a future organization for/by its inhabitants. This planning, besides restoring the inclusive and respectful relationship with nature, will include the use of collaborative webs, neighbourhoods taken by the anarchist movements, process of regeneration, strategies to combat gentrification or even something as symbolic as changing names of squares and vials, such as the street Alexis Grigorópoulos.

Tasks associated to the trip to Athens

The worrying economic situation in Spain, with a direct impact on our discipline, demands revising the way of teaching architecture and to propose new social commitments.

Greece started suffering the crisis well before us and in very devastating way. It is a suffocating situation against which intellectuals are emerging, and local associations, looking for solutions. In Athens we will meet architects who have had to reinvent their architecture in order to remain active. For example, architects who have created new relationships with neighbourhood associations or certain social groups leading them to implement new democratic projects… or, without going any further, the group of architects, Alternative Tours of Athens, who collaborate in organizing our trip. The course aims to contribute to the work of these Athenians architects.


The approach to Reality through a journey involves different phases. First, you create the expectation, followed by the experience of the emotional impact, to reach finally the project that is driven by the emotional memory.

Projects 5 starts in Athens, revising the city always with the idea of elaborating a retroactive manifesto (see Delirious NY, by Rem Koolhaas). This is a trip to a place, very far from our reality, which will bring out a real need to learn from the local, its technology and social culture. In so doing, it will help us to adopt the relationship, Architecture and Democracy, and understood it as future possibilities.

Since we will communicate in English and consider this trip as a generator of knowledge, it is advisable to have an intermediate level in English language.

The students will be organized in groups of 3, incorporating an Erasmus student in each of them. An exchange of information is encouraged, establishing a basis for a stimulating architectural production. The weblog of our class will collect all exercises, plus crossed comments made by each student of the work of their peers. 


Studio 5 begins on the 01/02/13 and ends on the 24/05/13. We start with the study trip to Athens that takes a week, at the beginning of March. This is a unique experience to the class members as a tool for tackle the subject. The student’s goal is to learn and find opportunities for the coursework. In Athens, members of the School of Architecture at the National Technical University of Athens (NTUA) will guide us, together with the group of architects, Alternative Tours of Athens.

Once we return to Alicante, the students will work with the travel details, reinventing a new social structure defined by its uses and materials. In previous years, always appeared suddenly a factor of “real catastrophe” that roused this work. Just as it happened to us in:

– Iceland, with the appearance of the volcano:


– Istanbul with the Islamic revolts:


– And during the past year, in Naples, with the economic crisis:


In this course this factor is not necessary since the crises is already fully installed in Greek culture.

All this must be specified in drawings and the brief, thereby acting as documents that guarantee the proposals.


It is continuous, with monthly assessments of the work by the teacher and fellow students (80% of the final grade) and a final course portfolio (20% of the grade) delivered to the teacher.


– Greek Mythology.

– Olalla, Pedro. Why Greece?


– Olalla, Pedro. Words from Athens.


– Olalla, Pedro. Say no!


 – The Cross Border Project.


– Alternative Tours of Athens (Vasiliki Arampatzaki & Co)


– Barthes, Roland. Mythologies. Vintage 1993.

– Sudjic, Deyan. The Power Architecture. Ariel 2010.

– Jaque, Andrew. OIP.


– Lopez Plazas, Ana Belén and Ortega, Miguel. Cartographies of Desire.

            http://cartografiasdeldeseo.com and http://cartografiasdeldeseo.com/post/40165069628/cartografia-del-deseo-video-resumen-diciembre-de

– Lopez Plazas, Ana Belén. Patterns of Intimacy.


– Dragonas, Panos y Skiada, Anna. MADE IN ATHENS.



Imagine the City





buergerkatsota architects

Point SupremeArchitects

AREA Architecture


RETHINKATHENS architectural competition

Encounter Athens

Crisis Regimes and Emerging Social Movements




Preparing the Journey



Each student will choose a myth, study and later explain in class through an original illustration.

Explanation of the Myth + image: 01/02/13


Next, the student will recreate the story of the mythin in today’s environment of Athens, using the technique of a comic. Format: 1 DinA3.

Submission of comic: 05/02/13

– PRESENTATION of “FERÐAST”, by Andrés Llopis, Jose Manuel Cámara and Jose Bertomeu, architecture students.

19:30 – 05/02/13



Describe and draw with precision a contemporary mythological sequence, taking place in Athens. The aim is to establish relationships between man and nature.

Technique: comic style. Group work.

Submission: 15/02/13

– LECTURE by Antonio Cobo, architect.

“Devices for Change in Times of Crisis”

16:00 – 15/02/13

– LECTURE by Giuseppe Parità, architect.

“Liminal Architecture”

17:00 – 15/02/13


Technique: Video, comic style. Group work.

Submission: 19/02/13


Technique: Video of 5-7 minutes, comic style. Group work.

Submission: 21/02/13


The student will make a kite of the mith, work to be done in collaboration with the course of Structures.

Kite flying: UA and Filopappou Hill (Athens).


Search project opportunities through a video: create a tour of the city in which you are representing divinities of your myth (Exercise tribute to Pilar Cos, Eva Prats and Laurie Anderson).

Group work.


Group work.

Submission: 26/02/13

– PRESENTATION of “THE BEST MOMENTS”, by Salvador Serrano Salazar, architecture student.

19:30 – 26/02/13

– CINEMA FORUM with Juan Antonio Molina Serrano, architect.

“Mighty Aphrodite”, by Woody Allen (1995).

Film show: 01/03/13

Trip to Athens 05-12/3/13


Rehearsal and recording. Drama and dance teachers: Eva Andronikidou and Julie Archontaki. Rehearsals take place in a theatre located in a refurbished industrial zone.

Group work.


As well as visiting Acropolis, its surrounding and Posseidon Temple, the field trip consists of the following list of lectures and interviews with thinkers and social collectives who are proposing the basis for a new city: Panayotis Tournikiotis (Rethink Athens), Pier Vittorio Aurelli, Alfredo Brillenbourg, Vanessa Carlow, Vasilis Ntovros (Imagine the City), Prof. Demetrios Issaias, Prof. Kostas Moraitis, Prof. Valentini Karvountzi, Prof. Nikos Belavilas, Paschalis Samarinis (Encounter Athens), Penny Koutrolikou (Encounter Athens), Thomas Doxiadis (Doxiadis+), Atenistas, Areti Drossi, Eva Andronikidou, Vasiliki Arampatzaki, Panos Dragonas (MADE IN ATHENS), and Prof. Michael Koniordos (TEI of Piraeus).

Post-Travelling Phase


Video editing of the most precious memories. Work done by the whole class, 5 minutes.

Submission: 22/03/13


Video editing. Duration: 7 minutes. Group work.

Submission: 26/03/13


Mapping of Athens as guarantor of proposed urban construction. Group work.

Submission: 16/04/13

CONFERENCE by Ana Belén López Plazas, architect.

Cartographies of Desire + Patterns of Intimacy. 19/04/13


Construction details associated with the new plan. Individual work.

Double technique: technical scale drawing and drawing of use.

Submission: 10/05/13


Exemplary perspective section of your collaborative constructive proposal, putting together the technical drawing and the drawing of use.

Group work.

Submission: 17/05/13


Technique: Editing the portfolio following the guidelines of RE-READING Manifesto STORIES OF HOUSES.

Group work.

The Manifesto ends with an Apendix, which consists of a MANDALA of Studio 5 (individual work that contains: Vision/Learn/Unlearn/Energy, besides the Personal Credo).

Final Submission: 30/05/13

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