Alturas de Macchu Picchu
The Canadian Centre for Architecture
On view: January 26, 2012 - April 29, 2012
Alturas de Macchu Picchu features historic photographs and travel sketches of the ancient Inca ruins.
Siza's sketches always occupy the right hand page of his
notebooks while the left hand side is left blank. Once finished,
the drawings are never retouched or modified. Siza usually sketches
seated, holding the notepad on his knees and using a simple
ballpoint pen - often a Bic Orange and preferably with black
The exhibition displays sketches from Portuguese architect Álvaro Siza's 1995 trip to Macchu Picchu alongside 1920s photographs from the CCA Collection by Peruvian photographer Martín Chambi.
Separated by an interval of more than half a century, Siza and Chambi both visited Macchu Picchu with a similar approach of active participation. In this exhibition, Macchu Picchu is presented as a landscape of their invention./Fabrizio Gallanti, Associate Director of Programs and exhibition curator
Producing images means taking possession of reality, appropriating what unfurls before our eyes and turning it into a subjective account. Some modes of representation, although mechanical or otherwise considered objective, possess a narrative force that allow us to share an individual's viewpoint. While we recognize a familial resemblance with tangible objects - a wall, a tree, a face - we often unconsciously skip over the action of the person who framed, carved, selected, or assembled it. The author who, in short, composed the image.
The sketches of Álvaro Siza and the photographs of Martín Chambi chosen for this exhibition share a common point of origin - the ruins of the Inca city of Macchu Picchu. They also both belong to a modern culture that sees an image as an automatic, instinctive response to the surrounding reality, outside the control of the creator. Shapes drawn quickly with an ordinary ballpoint pen on inexpensive notebook paper, or forms recorded on photographic plates after patient adjustment and calibration of the camera, are both processes that imply a capacity to attune oneself to reality and interpret it through operations that are essentially automatic.
However, the images we see are nonetheless filtered through the aesthetic and political inclinations of their creators. Siza's sketches are tools of knowledge used throughout his career, evidencing an attention to material culture that extends from his time in Portugal in the 1970s working on social housing projects, to his voyage to Peru in 1995, and beyond. Chambi's architectural photographs affirm a dignity and a cultural Otherness - that of the Indio - which reasserts itself after centuries of repression by Spanish and Western colonizers.
Representation becomes a tool for the construction of history. Through his lens, Chambi builds a position of strength for the Quechua-speaking minority. Through his sketches, Siza confirms the intuitions and choices made in his architectural projects.
Álvaro Siza and Martín Chambi visited Macchu Picchu more than a half century apart from each other, but with a similar approach of active participation. Siza's voyage to Peru in 1995 was undertaken with a single, inexpensive notebook and a few books of poetry. While not related to any particular professional activity, the images he created would evidence an attention to material culture that has characterized his architectural work since the 1950s.
No drawings give me much pleasure as these: travel sketches./Álvaro Siza
Traveling is trial by fire, individually or collectively. Each of us leaves behind a bag full of stress, tedium, preoccupations, preconceptions. Simultaneously, we lose a world of small comforts and the perverse attraction of routine. Travelers, intimate or strangers, are divided into two types: admirable or insufferable. A good friend truly suffers as the world is vast.
Chambi, on the other hand, photographed Macchu Picchu on several
trips between 1927 and 1950, often carrying his photographic
equipment by donkey. Chambi's landscapes, a selection of which are
part of the CCA Collection, would become the defining postcard
images of Macchu Picchu. However, they also reappropriated the
ancient Inca site, affirming the ownership of indigenous Peruvians
in the face of Western claims.
A third component of the exhibition is a documentation of Álvaro Siza's Quinta da Malagueira social housing complex on the outskirts of Évora, Portugal. The project, started in 1977, was the first for which Siza used the simple black notebooks that he continues to sketch in to this day. The housing at Quinta da Malagueira displays typological features and an interest in the vernacular reminiscent of what Siza later draws at Macchu Picchu.
Selected photographs by Gabriele Basilico, Giovanni Chiaramonte,
Roberto Collová and Jean-Louis Schoellkopf, depict the complex
through the lens of contemporary observers - a final
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