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What Am I Reading: Pia Mendaro

STIR looks into the reading habits of leading creatives – Spanish architect Pia Mendaro is reading Greek Myths by Robert Graves while in quarantine due to Coronavirus pandemic.

by STIRworldPublished on : Mar 21, 2020

As I am in the quarantine right now, I am reading many books, especially the classics. I recently picked Greek Myths (by Robert Graves) because they are universal. I keep going back to them and they really trigger different lectures every time. I am excited now with how each character's 'crazy' or magical action is really a poetic representation of what they are feeling. I think we all relate what we read to our own personal obsessions. Right now, I am working on a PhD thesis on funerary architecture, and it is always at the back of my mind. I am starting to associate the importance of formalising feelings into something tangible with funerary architecture. It makes me think the experience of funerals could certainly improve if their surroundings took the weight of this event into consideration.

- Pia Mendaro

Mendaro immersed in reading Greek Myths |What Am I Reading | Pia Mendaro | STIRworld
Mendaro immersed in reading Greek Myths Image Credit: Courtesy of Pia Mendaro

What is the name of the book?

Pia Mendaro (PM):Greek Myths. I believe this is the fifth time over that I read it.

Who is the author?

PM: Robert Graves.

What is the genre?

PM: Greek literature.. To me it’s both fiction and non-fiction. Somehow, the fact that myths come from ancient times make everything in them seem possible.

Why this book - could you please highlight its most notable aspects?

PM: Well, the book is a classic. But why this book, today? We are all locked up at home with the COVID-19 quarantine, and this pandemic somehow connects everyone in the world right now. Greek Myths connect all of us with the past. They are very human; the gods feeling the same jealousy, love and hate as the mortals 2700 years ago, as we do today. I find that very comforting.

But why this book, today? We are all locked up at home with the COVID-19 quarantine, and this pandemic somehow connects everyone in the world right now. Greek Myths connect all of us with the past. - Pia Mendaro

Did you get any significant insights? Did you gain knowledge or did it help you unwind?

PM: I suppose they work both ways. Reading Greek Myths is a little like listening to your grandparents' stories; you learn things that were always there. Crazy things happen, and there is no explanation about why they are a bit like dreams, and you need to be patient.

Is there any one thing that you would take home from the read?

PM: In each reading of this book, I have taken different things with me. The stories are very refreshing, and there is always a magical component within the realism of everyday life. This is something that I love, and I try to implement that in architecture. I try to design ordinary spaces that can be experienced in unusual ways.

What is your favourite quote from the book? Why?

PM: I wouldn't be able to find a specific quote, I would say there are myths that resonate more than others. If I had to choose, I specially enjoy the creation of myths… "[Eurinome] assumed the form of a dove, brooding on the waves and in due process of time, laid the Universal Egg. At her bidding, Ophion coiled seven times about this egg, until it hatched and split in two. Out tumbled all things that exist, her children: sun, moon, planets, stars, the earth with its mountains and rivers, its trees, herbs and living creatures". It seems so accurate that it puts our own reality into perspective. As a designer, it helps not to give certain things for granted and not take everything so seriously: does a bedroom have four walls? Or could it be a tree branch or a cloud?

What are some of your recent reads?

PM: There are some short stories that are always kind to read for a short break, stuff to do with death and rituals for my thesis (which may not be everybody's cup of tea, but I find interesting), and books on science that are super cool.

Following are the last books that I have read at the same time:

La largueza del cuento chino by José Vicente Anaya (I am not sure if it has been translated to English). It is a wonderful compilation of Chinese traditional stories and poems, a bit like in the Greek Myths, where everything seems to happen in a dreamlike state.

And Prometheus Rising by Robert Anton Wilson that talks about different levels of consciousness. It’s a book you have to read and re-read because there is so much to it. I find it a great exercise to understand how the mind works and deals with different realities.

When do you read?

PM: Mostly at night or after lunch as a break when it is sunny outside.

What is your take on the book and one reason why you would recommend it?

PM: I believe it is a must read. The myths work on so many levels, and I am sure everyone takes something different from them.

Books Mendaro has recently read and some that she is planning to read during the quarantine |What Am I Reading | Pia Mendaro | STIRworld
The books Mendaro has recently read and some that she is planning to read during the quarantine Image Credit: Courtesy of Pia Mendaro

Check out Mendaro-designed Topo Shed in Madrid – a fascinating transformation of a warehouse into something much similar to a Ron Weasley abode.

Look up more such interesting reads from the series ‘What Am I Reading’ and watch out for more.

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