Book Review: Entre

Entre: Architecture from the Performing Arts by Carlos M. Teixeira
Artifice Books on Architecture, 2012
Paperback, 384 pages

The subtitle of this monograph on Brazilian architect Carlos M. Teixeira's studio Vazio S/A is very telling. Instead of "architecture for the performing arts," as might be expected, it is "architecture from the performing arts." The use of this single word indicates that Teixeira's project are inspired and influenced by dance and other performing arts as much as they are used by dancers and others for performances. A small example can be found in the set design for Disturbance, in which the design of the wood cubes occupying the stage came about through the observation of dancers who improvised with cardboard boxes months before the performance date.

A key aspect of Teixeira's approach is evident in the name of his studio: Vazio is Portuguese for Empty, or Void. The stagings and sets attempt to activate the leftover voids of his home city of Belo Horizonte, something that applies to performances as well as architecture. An example of the latter is 285 Montevideo, an apartment building squeezed onto a sliver site. In the case of the former, Teixeira snaked performance platforms among the columns and beams that prop up houses in a hilly portion of the city for the second Topographical Amnesia. The description of the project in the book seems to spend 75% of the words on background and the setting up of the project (describing why the houses have these stilts, for example) and 25% on the performance itself, which is primarily told in photos. These percentages apply to most of the projects in the book, making the conceptual bases for the projects very clear and equally strong.

Probably Teixeira's most well-known project is The Other, The Same, an installation from the 29th Sao Paulo Internatinal Art Biennial in late 2010. Movable walls and platforms were built up from layers of cardboard and served as "an arena for dance events, theatre and music that can be rearranged in other ways." Or as curator Paulo Miyada puts it in the book: "Teixeira constructed this terreiro, a venue for presentations centered upon the body: its expression, positioning, performance." It's not surprising that Teixeira's contribution to the Biennial focuses on the body and its relationships to space and other bodies, given his wide body of work (no pun intended) with the performing arts. That he has crafted the cardboard pieces with an obvious appeal no matter what arrangement they are placed in is a testament to his skill as an architect.

In its combination of thorough project descriptions, photographs, and additional essays (including an interview with Bernard Tschumi, an architect who explored the relationships between the body and space, event and architecture, in the 1970s, something that aligns the two practitioners), this monograph does an excellent job of conveying the importance and qualities of one aspect of Vazio S/A's work. Considering the short-lived nature of the performing arts projects documented in its pages, the book is a valuable artifact for capturing those moments and conveying the ideas embedded within the designs and the performances. Only the videos on the Vazio S/A website offer something the book can't express, but as an odd compromise, here's a video of the book: