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Emiliano Valdés is chief curator at the Museum of Modern Art of Medellin, Colombia. He recently co-curated the 10th Gwangju Biennale and was co-director of Proyectos Ultravioleta, a Guatemala City-based multifaceted platform for experimentation in contemporary art. Valdés also was curator and head of visual arts at Centro Cultural de España in Guatemala, where over the course of five years he developed an exhibition program that reshaped the national artistic scene. He has also worked for dOCUMENTA(13), in Kassel; Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofía, in Madrid; and Contemporary magazine in London, among other international institutions.

Gaston Bachelard. La poética del espacio. Spanish Edition, translated by Ernestina de Champourcín. Mexico City: Fondo de Cultura Económica, 1965.

A gift from my father in my youth, La poética del espacio (The Poetics of Space) meant the entry door to the many possibilities Bachelard unveiled to me, in respect to his literary output as well as the world of images and other units of meaning. In this 1957 work, Bachelard expounds on different topics through which he tries to understand the basic but always complex relationship of human beings with their world. The house, for example, is studied from a phenomenological point of view, and it is composed of a compilation of memories and images from all the houses we have lived in. His way of approaching the relationship between “inside” and “outside,” which is also explored later in the book, was the key trigger for my own definition of architecture.

Henry David Thoreau. Walden. First published in 1854. Boston: Beacon Press, 2004.

At a moment when the undertow of the Enlightenment finally seems as if it is starting to recede, the works of Henry David Thoreau assume a renewed validity as an alternative to a life defined by the Idea of Progress. At the same time that intellectuals are becoming reconciled to non-rational ways of understanding the world and the options for a life less concerned with productivity are suddenly starting to multiply, observation and feeling are proposed as renewed ways of relating to the world. Rather than a glorification of solitary life and the contemplation of nature, Walden is a profound meditation on the destiny of our time and on the rules, implicit or explicit, that govern everyday life. I read it a little more than a year ago, at a time that I was working with feverish intensity. My recent personal choices have seemed to respond to some of the ideas expounded in this book.

Kevin A. Lynch. La imagen de la ciudad. Spanish edition. First published in 1960. Barcelona: Editorial Gustavo Gili, 2014.

In The Image of the City, Lynch analyzes three American cities (Boston, Jersey City and Los Angeles), trying to understand the ways in which a city imprints itself in the experience of its inhabitants and what the mechanisms are through which a city dweller generates an image of his or her environment. According to Lynch, nothing is experimented with by itself, but always in its relationship to its surroundings, to the sequence of events that lead to it, and to the memories of previous experiences. That is the way we establish links with parts of the city, whose images become suffused with memories and meaning, hints and reveries. This book has always made me think about my own relationship with the city and about the way in which the physical surroundings define the psychological and emotional experience of living in urban areas. This book was a great influence on my training as an architect and formed the basis for exhibitions like the project of commissions for the public space Habitat, which I did in Nicaragua in 2011.