Present-Pasts for an Emotional Context

Present-Pasts for an Emotional Context

Conjuntos Empáticos
La Casa Encendida, Madrid, Spain
Project Year
Art Galleries

Javier de Paz García / ESTUDIOBALLOON

Present-Pasts for an Emotional Context: A Reflection on Domesticity in Pandemic Times

Conjuntos Empáticos as Architects

To define a position in a context that we all hope will be transitional is very difficult, even though we have a strong feeling that it will bring about a change in our lives, whether clinical, material, procedural or socially. This is further compounded by the fact that our own understanding is evolving as the months go by, so the proposal that won this curatorial opportunity in September 2020 will probably not be the same as the one explained today, in March 2021, or the one that will finally be exhibited in May this year. And yet, as good creatures of habit, it is our hope that life will go back to what it was before the pandemic, or at least something similar.


We believe that architecture today should be interpreted as a social situation, as a mediator or interface between cultural and social reality. For this reason, Pasts-Presents for an Emotional Context proposes an exhibition circumstance featuring eleven pieces that are concerned more with the interactions they induce than with their physical materialisation. The focus is not so much on the objects as on the discourses and dynamics they represent. In a way, the works speak about notions associated with the pandemic, such as self-conception, recycling, techno-architecture, free occupation and questioning everything that was and currently is.


This collection of objects aims to shine a spotlight on artefacts which were created in a past—whether remote or immediate—that now must be more present than ever since they highlight the importance of an instant in our pandemic reality, with multiple themes on the table that describe a context (in our view, complicated) capable of addressing a wide range of concepts such as racism towards the people who generated the virus; fear of the people infected with it; the need for protection; the development of tools to be able to get through each day; the struggle to survive; the pandemic on a global level; the dream of a different future; the appropriation of public space; the social control to which we are all subjected in our respective countries; the environmental changes we are suffering as a result of our excesses as a community; the psychological effects of being deprived of physical contact; the tensions produced by isolation; the complete virtualisation of our communications; the distance generated between the individual and society; the viralisation of knowledge; the open code structures that enable us to share; living together without social interaction; the commitment to eco-friendly materials; fun as an escape route; trust as a utopian sentiment; understanding an exceptional situation; spatial conception as comprehension of the context; corporeal conception as assimilation of the individual; digital space as our new mother territory; lesser architecture as the architecture closely related to people; prostheses as a second body capable of extending physical power; reality as a situation of hyper-technification; experience through heightened perception; the absent body as the new materiality of the human being; being situated as the negation of one’s point of view; perception as the mechanism of phenomenological affirmation; meta-observation as enabler of the subject’s self-construction; constant reflection as the result of our digital life; the self-conception learned through our interactions; incorporeality in a fluid reality; surroundings as refuge; the nature worth imitating to survive; pollution imbricated with everyday life; lessons learned from the adaptive capacity of other species; the house as envelope; the limits dissolved between body, suit and architecture; corporeal architecture as the first layer of protection; material manipulation to create new spaces; corporeal movement as a new dimension of the environment; natural and artificial leftovers as building materials; biological manufacturing as production method; transformation as genuine recycling; efficient solutions that may be manual or technological; biomaterial as the base for generating our own nature; the new material culture that highlights the importance of what is there but cannot be seen; private space as architectural minimum; recycling as thought process; topography as adaptive corporeal sphere; nature understood as a cosy place; the prototype as dialogue between design and industry; place as meeting; contemporary landscape as formation between nature and artifice; the hybridisation of the object with space; the collaboration between innovation and tradition; the grammar of the landscape applied to public space; the dissolution of limits between spheres; social involvement as cultural event; the reinterpretation of artisans’ technologies; understanding the user’s action; the symbolic value of the elements that interact with bodies; architecture as practice; assemblies of the corporeal, technological and climate; the generation of interdependence and connection between bodies; the ecosystemic as formation of the human being; the body as the object of technification; the techno-social condition as posthuman thought; technological devices as generators of hosting protocols; enrolment as the political mission of technology; the forms of association generated by technology; the mediating functions of devices; relational dynamics as techno-social composition; exploration through architectural experiment; the certainty that we are techno-humans; the stress tests to which we subject architecture; affection as a component of ontological systems; the situation of action and thought; ecology as a pressing need; the rhythms of nature in the human being; biodiversity as wealth; biology as sensory experience; commensalism as biological interaction; the naturalisation of industry as a contemporary practice; security through a space control system; colonisation agreements for freedom of action; the free occupation of the organic space; the unwritten rules of movement and situation; the area of coexistence in the public environment; the reformulation of interaction protocols; the trans-species scale as the unifier of real complexity; zoonosis as a means of promoting the reconfiguration of territorial occupation; the changing situations in the environment; the ease of disinfection; the techno-architectural as need;  atmosphere as conditioning factor of place; the technification of development and the result; social-production uses as activators of forgotten architectures; the sound impact as an agent affecting envelopes; programmatic adaptation as architectural variable; the mutable architectural systems of form and size; handicrafts as the generator of more flexible elements; the control of acoustic, spatial, light and tactile atmospheres; the demander programme as architectural parameter; the response and perception of space to the requirements; superimposition as material benefit; the translation of atmospheric variables into physical parameters; the human experience as perceptual and sensory measure; human bipolarity as the fusion between violence and empathy; the everyday as a setting of castration; the amnesia of desire as promoter of monotonous actions; the desexualised condition as the result of external imposition; emotional despair as a non-incidental pathology; the organic psyche as the dematerialisation of the human being; temporary anonymous zones as the reflection of the agenda that subjugates us; the borders between digital, robotic, biological and human substances; questioning the format and aesthetic conditions; the random redefinition between object, situation and psyche; the intimacies-extimacies that cross our scenes; the vulnerability of the being as a result of the Anthropocene; the eco-machinist masochism in which we are caught up; software as interpreter of building codes; architecture as permanent artefact as deliberate error; artificial intelligence as building tool; analogue-digital data as new lines on the plane; bio-imitation as the new architecture.


In view of the complex relations generated by these concepts, we have no option but to situate them in a specific, characterised exhibition environment that will enable visitors to interpret and understand them. The container atmosphere represents a timeless, neutral environment that facilitates the interpretation of the selected pieces as mediating interfaces capable of qualifying a domestic scale that at times is situated more on the virtual plane than on the physical plane, although the two are inseparable. The collective imagination generated in these past few months presents us with a new lifestyle not so far removed from situations reflected in sci-fi movies, since it has opened up our perception of privacy and prompted us to advertise our habitation routines. Today, we have an intimate knowledge of how our society cohabits because the modes have been externalised through audiovisual means both on social networks and in the mass media. This has made us live in a state midway between the virtual and the physical, between the material and the biological; the spoken and written word, clothes, furniture and architecture are our enablers of new realities, those alternative realities that will allow us to generate external stimuli. And yet all these artefacts that we have used to mediate this emergency situation were old, speaking to us almost of the precariousness in which we live. What would our reality have been like if we had used designs created in recent years rather than objects whose ideological conception is more than fifty years old?


This exhibition constructs an experience around different pandemic realities, taking into account the artistic and cultural thinking that has emerged in recent years. It aims to highlight the need to eliminate the current dissociation between theoretical approaches and the reality in which society lives, challenging the notion that the exhibition atmosphere is an utopia headed for dystopia and calling for it to be accepted in the context for which it was created. Because, as opposed to living in a static space, our home should allow us to experience different atmospheres with more complex fictions; or, to put it another way, domestic environments made up of adulterated situations. This triggers a new scenario of emotions with ourselves, with others and with our virtual environment.


This is our frozen snapshot of the pandemic, deliberately adjusted to our emotional needs, with interfaces capable of generating emotional contexts and architectures.

This story is available in multiple languages
Project Credits
Product Spec Sheet

3L Residences
next project

3L Residences

Private Houses
Pliuty village, Kyiv region, Ukraine - Build completed in 2021
View Project