Pedro Reyes works within a complex system of associations that defies our assumptions about the ways in which knowledge is categorized and legitimized. Using simple means and casual scenarios, he manages to blend the realms of utopia and function, individual fantasies and collective aspirations, spirituality and pataphysics. Trained as an architect, Reyes steeps his projects in his underlying interest in structural design and building principles. However, this presence goes beyond the formal aspects of architecture; in his practice, the utilization of space is infused with symbolic as well as physical schemes to enhance human communication and creativity. He explores the ways in which a space is capable of allowing individual moments of liberation or activating the interaction between a group of people. Toward that purpose, he has developed an arsenal of terms and forms to release creativity from ordinary limitations. Reyes is an idealist: he lives and works thinking of ways to improve the world. A conversation with him reveals his many strategies and sources, while reflecting the myriad ideas gestating in his mind. Posing a simple question to him releases a cascade of references that can become one of the richest moments of your day.
Tatiana Cuevas Your work operates as a network connecting the individual, collective, historical, formal, and ideal realms. I would like to begin with one of your approaches to the ideal through architectural history, specifically your interest in referencing modernism.
Pedro Reyes It has become commonplace to speak of “the failure of modernism,” which is a very romantic idea, but if you want to discuss the life of cities in greater depth, calling modernism a failure is a bit broad. It is better to speak of failures . We often speak and make reference to things as we believe they are, while in reality they are always becoming . Someone can be stupid today and the next day become enlightened. Buildings that seem misplaced today may look beautiful in ten years. The “modern” does not have a fixed value; it becomes more or less interesting to us. Ortega y Gasset used to say that history is the shifting of attention from one subject to the next. What is certain is that modernism has become a new classic. Classics are those works that are often quoted, and the more they are quoted, the safer it is to quote them. Some works, if they are not quoted, fall into oblivion, or stage a sudden return. The classics are always relevant, but not all neoclassicism is. The praise of modernity—or of its failure—is a new form of romanticism, like those 19th-century paintings of classic ruins: the modern city is the new romantic landscape. Yet, as I was telling you, I am not interested in what modernity is or was but in what it is becoming or can become. For me, modernity is a toolbox, but it is primarily part of a historical compost. Anthropophagy is a quite healthy and necessary habit; it’s better than necrophagy. Necrophagy is using the past without taking it forward. If you don’t make something new out of it, what’s the point? If something is dying, becoming rotten and smelly, I think there is a chance to make a compost in which this vast catalog of solutions can be mixed in an entirely new way.