Eladio Dieste: what is development?
by Carlos Morales
Eladio Dieste was born in Uruguay in 1917. He has been a champion of the need to develop appropriate technologies, without limitations or barriers to professional achievement. Instead of adopting solutions foreign to this environment and contrary to local needs and resources, we should accept the challenge of searching for alternatives more in harmony with the social and economic context of the place. His works are a powerful demonstration that it is possible to undertake projects of a size and scale which have traditionally been limited to technologically advanced countries. Dieste is constantly preoccupied with the concept of ‘development’, which he has expressed in this way: “Development – what is development? Is development desirable? Knowledgeable technicians speak of product per capita, standards of health and education, population distribution by age, etc. Is this enough? I do not believe so. Development, that is desirable development is that which brings man greater happiness and profound fulfilment. Anyone who is familiar, even superficially, with the so-called developed countries, knows how much of that development is pure vacuity and silliness, quite unrelated to man’s happiness or plenitude … ”
Through his academic and professional activities, Dieste spreads the message that third world countries should not confuse their objectives. Development is not an objective in itself: it can only be good insofar as it is in harmony with the objectives of man, and it would be wrong to subordinate these. He is concerned about the attitude that solutions to problems already exist in the developed countries, and the view that it is easier for a third world country to seek its own. Each of Eladio Dieste’s works represents a process of search and discovery. Everything, including materials, forms, spaces, techniques possible in a depressed economy, building traditions, available labour, is subject to that continual investigative process which has resulted in an exquisite formal sensitivity, a profound technical and constructive rationality and a realistic attitude to local economic and production possibilities. Paradoxically, one does not often find these qualities, however obvious they may seem, united in a single person or in a single building, and this is, perhaps, why we admire them so much. Dieste’s projects do not employ the daring feats, forced solutions and structural exploits used by so many other architects (and covered in so many architectural journals). Dieste achieves the same or better results without ostentation, and evokes the feeling that the materials are doing precisely what they want to do and what they know how to do. […]
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Image: Bottling Plant Fagar Cola _ Tarariras, Uruguay/ 1991-1992 – 1995-1996. Photo by Yoshihiro Asada taken from Domus No. 984, July 2006 / “Ten Ideas on Dieste”
Source: Khan, Hasan-Uddin, editor. Mimar 41: Architecture in Development. London: Concept Media Ltd., 1991