Paths of Leisure and the South American Project

Within the first decades of the Twentieth century Oscar Niemeyer conceived innovative hostels in Minas Gerais Brazil. Riding the summits of the Avila above Caracas, Sanabria\’s Humboldt Hotel articulated a cable car drive between the valley and the Caribbean. Anchored by the pacific in Viña del Mar, Davila\’s boat-like hostel heralded the arrival of a new architecture. At a greater scale, through an enlightened public agency, the city of Montevideo forged creative bonds of work and leisure supplying universal access to the coastline. Modern South American architecture found an expression within the universe of leisure. At an earlier time – and not far behind the United States – Argentina pioneered the national parks thus introducing new forms of territorial stewardship and travel with decisive effects upon the national imagination, a domain where globalization confronts the genius loci. As if branding, avant la lettre, naive analogues (… \”the Switzerland of the south,\” \”the Riviera of the Atlantic\”) supplied identities and promotional tools.

Equipped with a new consciousness about play, the body, and the functions of \”nature\” whilst embodying strong cultural desires and aspirations, all forms of leisure represent potent engines for the transformation of the land. Overcoming severe political turmoil, the South American continent has now joined the \”leisure industry\” vigorously. Propelled by a desire for mobility, distinctive territorial webs articulate the exotic, the unique, the picturesque and the sublime. Countering squalor, Potemkin-type operations conceal the perceived menaces of poverty while \”informal\” shanties provide leisure opportunities to the poor.

Leisure paths intersect the inter-oceanic corridors opening up the prospect for exploration, travel and tourism around territories – some of them hitherto unreachable. Yet within its terms – unlike other travel types – displacements may become goals in themselves, thoroughly impractical destinies may well be sought for arcane reasons, and the urge of time may well give way to a relaxed mood, a measure of freedom and release, a hiatus conducive to exceptional experiences. Connecting the traveler with the travel operator, the leisure industry engenders places, whilst it sets the scene for their fruition. Above all, it penetrates the imaginary and the realms of collective desire. The map, the guide and the web supply keys to the disclosure of unknown terrains. As a vicarious habitat, hotels shelter visitors from afar. Resorts, veritable company towns of leisure, cater for seasonal recreation.

Conceived as complementary to the South American Project (SAP) studios and courses, the seminar will examine leisure topics specifically related to the inter-oceanic networks, thus providing a specific angle of approach to the issues of territorial transformation that characterize these extensive infrastructures. The seminar will address issues of landscape, urban design and architecture. Research will focus upon well circumscribed case studies, aiming for a disclosure of leisure agendas as configurative forces. A convergence of graphic and discursive skills in the construction of the argument will be expected.

This class will meet irregularly on nine Tuesday afternoons during the semester, some days for three hours, some for five.