Architectural continuum

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The changes in the architecture of the ‘hórreos’ show one of the multiple possible continuums along Northern Spain. (All pictures are taken from Commons and are in the public domain.)

Every single corner of the world claims to have its own architecture. It doesn’t matter whether that’s true. Considering a very limited region without even peeking at the surrounding ones is sort of boring, since there’re no possible liaisons among them. Surely, they didn’t develop separately. Despite this, I’ve observed that most of the books about architecture take one of the following starting points. Either they focus their main efforts on describing the international styles, assuring that the regional ones are little more than varieties, or they depict the architecture of a single region, forgetting largely about the surrounding area. As a matter of fact, books which show the architecture of several regions just talk about them as they were isolated islands. Instead of this insight, I propose the study of the architectural continuum concept.

What am I talking about? Well, architecture is said to reflect a society. The idea is useful as long as we know how to seize it. I think we don’t by simply showcasing a number of regional styles in order to teach them as a regular museum does. Conversely, considering architectural continuums we can make fair comparisons among the societies of certain regions, both in their past as in their present. By means of doing so, we may infer a certain range of social features, including economic ones.

Yeah, I know. One example is needed to clear up what I am saying. Imagine you are spending your holidays travelling through Northern Spain. You need to move from Galicia to Navarre, going across Asturias, Cantabria and the Basque Country. It may be that not do you only note one architectural continuum, but two.

FIRST CONTINUUM

It is objective. Each region has got a mannerism. That’s usual along the globe, isn’t it? The popular architecture varies from one region to the next one. Of course, there’re differences within a region, though there’re some features which are shared. Also, a particular style of a region is closer to a particular style of the next, whereas it diverges more from the regional style of two regions away. Besides, a handful of styles which differ from the regional historical standard also obey these rules by and large. This continuum is based on historical reasons. We can connect it with geographical and historical facts. What is the same, by studying the past of a region we can know why the main regional styles are the way they are.

SECOND CONTINUUM

This is subtler and somehow more interesting. It deals with concepts such as preservation. Regional styles are equally beautiful, though everybody is free to have a particular taste for some of them. Regardless, the means a town is preserved or some houses in row rehabilitated talks about a current social and economic situation. Northern Spain shows a continuum whose lowest rate in a regional average is in Galicia, while the level grows up in beeline towards Navarre. Curiously, it matches the per capita income rate. Interesting, isn’t it?

This short consideration raises lots of questions. That’s precisely my intention, because I think this way of thinking about architecture as a continuum may be useful for the better of both our social and architectonical development. Therefore, architecture works as a real social meter again. That’s something it had lost when the entire world began to build skyscrapers in the western way.

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