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Modern Signs And Territorial Changes: Grain Elevators And The Landscape Of The Cereal

Part 1 Dissertation 2001
Horacio Torrent
Pontifical Catholic University of Chile | Chile
This dissertation refers to the interaction between architectural form and territory. The grain elevator is not only interpreted as an object but assessed in relation to the territorial configurations and the transformation of the landscape.
The objectives have been to acknowledge, describe and interpret grain elevators as modern signs and patterns in relation to Argentinean territorial configuration and modern landscape.

The dissertation firstly addresses the grain elevator as an icon of modernity describing the object and its relationship between form and mechanism .It researches the history of its mechanism, the history of its construction, and the relationships between structural engineering criteria and reinforced concrete which explains their evolution.

Grain elevators are treated by the avant-garde as important referents .The dissertation looks into the way they become twentieth century monuments , and how modern architects consider them as paradigms or models for the generation of a new architecture .It also looks into the ways in which they become established in architectural publications as appropriations of engineering's symbolic capital.

The landscape of the pampas is researched in its geographic and historical context particularly in relation to its colonization processes and the territorial patterns in agriculture. Economic policies, its ideas and models contribute to establish within this landscape the elevator's network ensuring an efficient territorial machine.

The National Elevators Construction network, its public works organization, the various designed building-types, construction processes and architectural meanings are reviewed.
Elevators are studied through cultural issues and representations. Historically a cast of images is used in reference to grain elevators, contributing to the myth of Argentina as "basket of the world". Permeated with ideology and nationalistic political discourses, the artistic configuration of scenarios which they describe with a language of architectural realism depict human conflicts reflecting the changes from pastoral to metropolitan life.

Elevators are studied in relation to their physical context: pampas, towns, cities and waterfronts. Shape, size and speed relate elevators to other icons of modernity such as ships, cars and airplanes within the context of modern landscape in Argentina's pampas.
They disappear as a sign of change, but their establishment as landmarks makes us refer to them as signs. Elevators today are empty of original meaning, they constitute pure signs of another time.

Horacio Torrent

The dissertation articulates two main subjects: the industrial typology of grain elevators with the landscape which these buildings modify , the extensive argentinian plains .

In relation to the first topic, the thesis addresses various subjects: the elevator as a technical invention and the architectonic structures that derive from its technical principle ; the dissemination of this invention throughout the world particularly within the outstanding productive territories of the USA, Canada the USSR and Argentina; and the status that the grain elevator acquires in the construction of the mythologies of the modern movement.In relation to the latter, the author argues how images from different sources are appropiated and disseminated in the classic texts and publications realized in the early years of the modern movement These classic industrial images include argentinian elevators. He also questions the way in which categories such as center and periphery can be mistakenly adscribed to events according to geographical location, regardless of the real situation of advancement in each scenario.It becomes evident in the dissertation how the process of transformation of the productive basis of the argentinian plains represents the status of the art of the period .

In relation to the making of a landscape the dissertation researches the planning process whereby the plains change their productive role.The predominant type of elevator introduced in function of this productive transformation is conceived as a vertical structure that asserts itself as a significant form amidst the urban or rural milieu hitherto dominated by the limitless expanse of the open horizon in all directions. Thus new vertical signs appear disseminated across the extensive territories.In terms of a territorial effect of the new productive structure the dissertation shows how the argentinian plains are articulated with countless centres of storage and distribution of grains ,that become nodes within the web of railway lines roads and terminal points . Within this web, building type and landscape collaborate in the construction of new scenarios .

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