Friday, December 17, 2010

Niemeyer Preview in Avilés

The Niemeyer Cultural Center speeds towards completion in the northern port city of Avilés, in Asturias. To celebrate Niemeyer's 103rd birthday last Wednesday (December 15th), the Center inaugurated its dome, made of concrete sprayed over an inflated membrane of PVC. The dome will house exhibition spaces. Other elements include an auditorium, a multi-use building with a cinema, classrooms and meeting rooms, a lookout tower and a large plaza. The project is the centerpiece of an urban revitalization effort. Niemeyer donated the design to the city in honor of the 25th anniversary of the Prince of Asturias Prizes, which honored him with its Arts Prize in 1989.

For Roberto Alonso, one of the architects overseeing construction, the work stands out for its tranquility and silence, as he told a local newspaper (in Spanish). For others, Niemeyer brings the sensual pleasures of Copacabana to this tired industrial center. In its startling abstraction, I see the shorthand of the aged master, like Merce Cunningham before arthritis forced him to retire completely from the stage, who with a raised arm and a flick of his wrist could sketch a life's worth of experience in movement. Next to him, younger dancers were simply jumping around.

Niemeyer Center web page

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Juárez and Meneses in Design Vanguard

In Architectural Record's Design Vanguard issue this December I write about Patricia Meneses and Iván Juárez, two architects from Mexico who began their careers together in Barcelona. See the story here, and an overview of the issue here. Juárez is now back in Mexico teaching and working, and Meneses has a growing practice in Barcelona.

Iván Juárez & Patricia Meneses
Architectural Record, December, 2010, p. 64-65. 

Photo: Tambabox, Tambacounda, Senegal, 2004.
© Iván Juárez

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Architect of the Year

If you want to see whom I've nominated architect of the year in Gentleman's roundup of great Ladies and Gentleman, rush to the newsstands (in Spain only) and buy the December issue. Hint: he collects cars. Runners-up were Zaha (who is everywhere at the moment), Peter (doing big things in Santiago de Compostela) and Benedetta (who designed the prize-winning Spanish Pavilion at the Shanghai Expo). No web page, I'm afraid. Photo from a recent biography (see a review in The Guardian), and he's also the subject of a major motion picture.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

More for Less in Print


Arquitectura Viva has published some of the debates of the International Congress Architectue: More for Less organized last June in Pamplona by the Foundation Architecture and Society (see my post from June 20th). The book publishes "interviews conducted by five prominent critics with the participants, which cover a broad generational and geographic spectrum, offering a kaleidoscopic portrait of our time", according to an AV press release. Texts in English and Spanish.

Monday, November 15, 2010

Manuel Vicent on the Sagrada Familia

The legendary columnist of El País (who is by no means an architectural philistine), has this to say about the consecration of Gaudi's nearly-completed Sagrada Familia by the Pope on his recent visit to Spain:
One of the worst nightmares imaginable would be to dream that all of Barcelona had been designed entirely by Gaudí.... Fortunately he only built a few significant buildings and for this reason he is considered  a genius....  The only saving grace, if any, of the Temple of the Sagrada Familia, was the fact that it was unfinished, the dream of a genius driven crazy by mystic reveries. Now it will be completed with the money of tourism, and when its walls are finally enclosed, there will be no one inside but Japanese tourists.

Manuel VIcent
El Templo
El Pais, Sunday, November 14, 2010, last page.
Web version (in Spanish)

Photo of the completed nave
from the Sagrada Familia web page.

Quoted text translated by DC.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Mathias Goeritz

Works on Paper, Models & Sculpture. A rare show on a fascinating figure in Mexican art and architecture at the Caja Negra Gallery in Madrid through January 7, 2011. Goeritz was born in Danzig (today Gdansk) in 1915 and grew up in Berlin, where he studied art, philosophy and art history. He escaped from Germany during the War, traveling through Morocco (1941), Granada (1945) and Santilla del Mar, Spain (1948), where he participated in founding one of the first resuscitations of contemporary art in post-Civil War Spain, the Escuela de Altamira, a group that included Ángel Ferrant, Eduardo Westerdahl and Joan Miró. He was invited to teach architecture at the University of Guadalajara in Mexico in 1949, and settled there permanently. Among the works he created there are monumental sculptures designed with Luis Barragán, the Museo del Eco, restored and reopened in 2005, and the 1953 Manifiesto de la Arquitectura Emocional.

Mathias Goeritz
Works on Paper, Models & Sculpture
November 11, 2010  - January 7, 2011
La Caja Negra
Fernando VI 17, 2º l
28004 Madrid

Image from the Caja Negra web page.
News source: Tectónica Blog

Saturday, November 6, 2010

Francisco Mangado & John Pawson in the Glossies

Two of my articles have come out in glossy Spanish magazines this past week. The first focuses on Francisco (Patxi) Mangado's Centro Hípico in Ultzama, built for his daughter, a champion horseback rider, and for the retreats and seminars organized by his Architecture and Society Foundation. The article appears in the weekend color supplement Fuera de Serie of the business newspaper Expansión (no web page version yet, but stay posted). The editors used the oversize newspaper format to great effect with a double-page spread of the Olympic-size covered training track. It was an opportunity to present Patxi's arguments for a more restrained and disciplined architecture to a wider audience.
Incluso en sus obras más pequeñas, se nota su sello característico, lo que él mismo describe como una cierta "mineralización" de sus formas. "La arquitectura más que nunca requiere un tiempo de reflexión que se traduce en densidad, en intensidad," mantiene, una actitud que contrapone a las "caligrafías superficiales" que ve en las obras de muchos arquitectos de moda. Lo que Mangado está buscando, y lo que encontramos en el Valle de Ultzama, entre las líneas de los robles y el río, es una arquitectura intemporal, sin fecha de caducidad. 
The second article is a brief introduction to John Pawson in the November issue of Gentleman, which you can still find on Spanish newsstands. Pawson has a show, Plain Space, at London's Design Museum through January, that is accompanied by a new monograph by Phaidon.
"Es muy complicado hacer que algo parezca sencillo." John Pawson

Minimalismo al servicio de la hípica
Ultzama Equestrian Center by Francisco Mangado.
Fuera de Serie, No. 304, Expansión, October 29, 2010m pages 18 -20.

El arquitecto nómada
Introduction to John Pawson interview
Genleman 79, November 2010, pages 68 - 72.

Photo 1:
Centro Hípico, Ultzama by Francisco Mangado

© Pedro Pegenaute

Photo 2:
John Pawson, Ceramic Goblet 
Available in the Design Museum gift shop

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Gunnar Birkerts' National Library in Riga, Latvia

My story on Gunnar Birkert's Latvian National Library ran in the news section of Architectural Record's web page this week, and appears in the October issue. Mr. Birkerts is 85, and this may well be his most original and compelling design yet. It is set for completion in time for Riga's date as European Cultural Capital in 2014.

A Decades-Old Project Finally Gets Built
Architectural Record, October 2010, page 30.
Web page news section, October 18, 2010

Image from the National Library of Latvia web page.

A new monograph on Birkert's career is available:
Gunnar Birkerts--Metaphoric Modernist
Edition Axel Menges, Stuttagrt, 2009.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

FAD Winners 2010

As I announced in July, the winners of the annual FAD Awards were presented this month in Barcelona.

The Architecture Prize went to the Grupo Aranea (Francisco Leiva and Marta García) for their High School in Rafal, Alicante (featured in a photo in my July post).

José María Sánchez received a Special Mention for his Sports Center in Guijo de Granadilla, Cáceres, a project I have published several times.

The prize for Public Spaces was awarded to Carlos Ferrater and Xaxier Marti for their Beachfront Promenade in Benidorm, also in the province of Alicante.

In the category of Interior Design, a bar in Oviedo, Spain, I+DRINK. by Merche Alcalá and Marion Dönneweg,was recognized, and in the category of Ephemeral Spaces, Weltliteratur, an exhibition in the Calouste Gulbenkian Foundation in Lisbon designed by Francisco and Manuel Aires Mateus.

Among the Prizes of Opinion awarded by the public attending the ceremony, Jordi Baas received two, one
in the category of Architecture for his Museum Can Framis in Barcelona, which I published earlier this year, and another for his CP House in the category of Interiors.

Photo: Beachfront Promenade, Benidorm by Carlos Ferrater and Xavier Marti. Photo © Alejo Bagué/Ascer.

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Bucky Lands in Madrid

Norman Foster and Luis Fernández-Galiano have organized a show in Madrid titled "Bucky Fuller & Spaceship Earth" that includes a full-size replica of the Dymaxion Car -- only three prototypes of the original vehicle were made in 1933-34.

The show is at Ivory Press & Books, a bookstore and publisher housed in a space designed by Foster and run by his wife, Elena Ochoa. They've also edited a handsome book on the vehicle. I've found some of the previous ventures by the Press a bit precious, but this is something else, a luxury in every sense of the word.

Foster's interest in Fuller goes back to his student days at Yale, and he collaborated with him on projects in the 1970s. His comments on the show are on the Foster and Partners' press office web page.

The show is open through this month.

Ivorypress Art+Books
Ivorypress Ltd.
Comandante Zorita, 48
28020 Madrid

In coordination with the show, AV Monográfías 143 is dedicated enitely to Fuller,with texts by Foster, Fenández-Galiano, Allegra Fuller Snyder and many others, in Spanish and English. See Table of Contents.

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Record Interiors Cover Story

Record Interiors, Architectural Record's September issue dedicated to interior design, features my cover story on the Crusch Alba loft in Barcelona's Gothic Quarter by Swiss architect Gus Wüstemann. The full text is on Record's web page.

Swiss architect Gus Wüstemann defines his design approach as “program-free architecture,” in which “everything that contaminates the space with a program disappears"....

Saturday, August 21, 2010

Vallecas goes Pop

Today I renew my collaboration with the cultural supplement Babelia of the Spanish daily El País. The story is a report on the latest public housing in the new Madrid district of Vallecas. The development has given a new generation of Madrid architects the opportunity to build, many for the first time. Mid-decade trends (when the projects were first awarded in competition) are seen in a new, post-crisis light.

The full story appears on their web page:

Vallecas será pop
Babelia, Number 978, pages 18-19.
El País, Saturday, August 21, 2010.

Los "árboles de aire", plazas de sombra envueltas en mallas verdes de vegetación, ocupan los cruces del bulevar, cerrando vistas que en el resto del ensanche son demasiado abiertas. Son los únicos lugares en la zona donde se oye el canto de los pájaros. Alrededor se sitúan algunos de los proyectos más atrevidos de la EMVS, con acabados de planchas metálicas galvanizadas, texturas corrugadas y colores de una intensidad pop. Es una auténtica utopía de la joven arquitectura madrileña, apenas un cruce de calles, como las utopías suelen ser.

Above: Housing by Paredes Pino Architects.
Photo: DC

Sunday, August 1, 2010

The Panoramic Eye

David Cohn
The Panoramic Eye
Llotja Theater and Convention Center, Lleida (Lérida), Spain.
Mecanoo Architects, Delft.
architektur.aktuell 34, 2010-07-08, July 2010.
Table of contents    Order issue

Mecanoo's design for Lleida is frequently compared to the auditorium built in 1966 by Van der Broek and Bakema at the Delft Technical University. But by setting the Llotja building on a paved plaza stocked with urban amenities, Francine Houben has given the project a solid Spanish pedigree. And by converting Van de Broek and Bakema's frontal, hovering design, expressive in its time of a new degree of freedom from gravity, into a three-dimensional form, she has created a thoroughly contemporary architectural object. Like a spinning top or an alien spacecraft, it incongruously meets the ground with slanting walls, while its continuous window scrutinizes the surroundings like a panoramic eye.

Photo courtesy of the architects.

Monday, July 26, 2010

Sustainable Design

In the latest issue of the bi-annual Russian journal Speech, dedicated to the theme of sustainable design and the future, I interview Iñaki Ábalos on his latest projects with current partner Renata Sentkiewicz and former partner Juan Herreros, and on his teaching and experiences in sustainable design. Photo, left: Project Porte de la Chapelle Tower, Paris. Courtesy of Ábalos + Sentkiewicz.

I also write a feature on the Vigo headquarters of the College of Architects of Galicia, by Jesús Irisarri and Guadalupe Piñera. It is an inventive design with complex interior spaces and a translucent plastic skin. I first published Irisarri and Piñera's work in my book Young Spanish Architects ten years ago when they were just starting out. Their approach still features an improvised ease of invention I find very appealing. Among their other recent projects are a fisherman's pier in Cangas, finalist in the 2008 FAD Prizes, and campus buildings for the University of Vigo, included in the exhibition On Site show at New York's Museum of Modern Art in 2006. Photo below: College of Architects of Vigo, © Manuel G. Vicente.

ermodynamic Aesthetics 101:
The Formal Dimensions of Controlled Energy Exchange

Interview with Iñaki Ábalos.
Speech 05/2010, June 2010, pages 210 - 227.

The Greenhouse Effect
College of Architects of Galicia, Vigo,
Jesús Irisarri and Guadalupe Piñera.
Speech 05/2010, June 2010, pages 98 - 108.

Texts in Russian and English; no webpage version.

José Antonio Corrales, 1921-2010

Arquitectura Viva reports the death of José Antonio Corrales, 88, one of the pioneers of postwar Modernism in Spain (in Spanish). I was lucky enough to interview him a couple of years ago in his Madrid studio in Bretón de los Hereros, where he was still working at his vertical drafting table with a parallelogram, full of energy and ideas.

Years ago Manuel Gallego took me to see Corrales' School of Arts and Trades in A Coruña (Escuela de Artes y Oficios Artísticos), then recently completed, and he remarked that in the boldness of its forms it looked like the work of a youngster, and yet the detailing was obviously the work of a master.

His social housing development of the 1960's in Elviña, A Coruña (Unidad Vecinal No. 3, Barrio de las Flores), like many of the works he realized with Ramón Vázquez Molezún, matches the compositional pyrotechnics of British or American Brutalism but with forms that appear to have been machine-tooled rather than poured-in-place.

Corrales remembered by Rafael Moneo en El País (in Spanish).

Friday, July 23, 2010

FAD is Coming!

Barcelona's annual FAD Awards, promoted by the Foment de les Arts Decoratives Association, aka Arquinfad, have announced their finalists, with winners to be presented in the fall. Here's the list of nine finalists in the category of architecture:

  • Luis Rojo + Begoña Fernández-Shaw, public housing, Ciudad Real
  • MVRDV + Blanca Lleó, for their second public housing block in Sanchinarro, Madrid
  • Grupo Aranea, High School in Rafal, Alicante
  • Brullet + Luna, Elisabeth School, Salou, Tarragona
  • Carnicero, Vidal + Virseda, Single family house, Torrelodones, Madrid
  • Andrés Jaque, Never Never Land House, Ibiza
  • Francisco Mangado, Archeological Museum, Vitoria
  • Jordi Badia, Museum Can Framis, Barcelona
  • José María Sánchez, Sports Center, Guijo de Granadilla, Cáceres
Finalists for public spaces:
  • Carlos Ferrater, Beachfront Promenade, Benidorm
  • Alberto Campo Baeza, Esplanade between the Cathedrals, Cádiz
  • Batlle + Roig, Restoration of the Banks of the Llobregat River, Province of Barcelona
  • Francisco J. Castellano, Rubén Cortes + Noelia Martínez, Magdalena Fountain, Jaén
The prizes also cover interior design and ephemeral projects (exhibitions, fair pavilions, etc). The full list with pictures (in Spanish and Catalan) on the Arquinfad website.

Photo: High School in Rafal, Alicante by Grupo Aranea (Franciso Leiva Ivorra, Architect. © Duccio Malagamba

Thursday, July 8, 2010

Summer Shows in Madrid

Public Places and New Programs

La Arqueria - Nuevos Ministerios
Paseo de la Castellana, 67
Tues. - Sat. 10-2, 5-9
Sundays, h0lidays, 10-2
Through September 5

The public buildings of the Modern Movement (1925-1965) are the subject of the latest DOCOMOMO show at Madrid's public architecture exhibition space, La Arquería. DOCOMOMO Ibérico is the official register of the modern buildings of Spain and Portugal, and has been systematically cataloging them since the 1990s. Its website has a full list of registered buildings to date.

Laboratorio Gran Vía
Fundación Telefónica
Gran Vía 28, 3rd Floor (Access from Valverde 2)
Through October 6

As part of the 100th anniversary celebrations of Madrid's Gran Vía, Iñaki Ábalos has invited a group of Madrid architects to speculate on an "imaginable future" for the avenue. The participants make up a Who's Who of up-and-coming (and already-arrived) Madrid architects: Izaskun Chinchilla, Manuel Ocaña, Acebo + Alonso, Andrés Jaque, Ecosistema Urbano, Carlos Arroyo, S & Aa, Abalos + Sentkjewicz, AMID.cero9, Gálvez + Wieczorek and José Miguel Iribas.

Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Solar Decathlon Madrid

This June Madrid was the site for the European edition of the Solar Decathlon, a competition between teams from 17 universities to design and build the best-performing solar house (consuming only solar energy). The houses were erected in a new park on the banks of the Manzanares River. The event was sponsored by the Polytechnic University of Madrid with the support of Spain's Ministry of Housing and the US Department of Energy (previous editions have been held in the United States).
Projects were judged in 10 different categories. The top prize for overall performance went to the Lumenhaus, designed by students of the Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University. Second and third prizes went to the Universities of Applied Science of Rosenheim and Stuttgart, respectively.
The 17 houses were open to the public for 10 days during judging and received 190,000 visitors. For more information in English, visit the Decathlon website.

Full list of participants:

  • Universidad CEU Cardinal Herrera, Valencia. Industrialization and Market Viability Award
  • Instituto de Arquitectura Avanzada de Cataluña
  • Universidad de Sevilla
  • Universidad de Valladolid
  • Universidad Politécnica de Cataluña. Architecture and Architectural Innovation Award (1 of 3)
  • University of Applied Sciences Rosenheim. Second Prize, Electrical Energy Balance Award, Appliances and Functioning Award, Comfort Conditions Award
  • University of Applied Sciences Stuttgart. Third Prize, Innovation Award
  • Bergische Universität Wuppertal
  • Fachhochschule für Technik und Wirtschaft, Berlin. Solar Systems Award
  • Arts et Métiers Paris Tech. Sustainability Award
  • Ecole Nationale Supérieure de Architecture, Grenoble
United States
  • Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University. First Prize, Architecture and Architectural Innovation Award (1 of 3)
  • University of Florida. Communication and Social Awareness Award
  • Tianjin University
  • Tongji University
Great Britain
  • University of Nottingham
  • Aalto University. Architecture and Architectural Innovation Award (1 of 3)

Sunday, June 20, 2010

More for Less: Congress on the State of Architecture

The debate on the post-crisis future of architecture was given an official forum in the Congress Mas por Menos (More for Less) held in Pamplona this month.

The occasion has served as an excuse for some journalists in the Spanish national press to join the campaign, launched several years ago by William J. Curtis, against the excesses of architecture over the past decade -- as usual, kicking the horse when its down. But this time the loudest and most strident voices have not prevailed over more serious reflections on the possible future of architecture offered during the congress and in the commentaries of its many observers.

Just for the record, a summary of the Congress: it was organized by the Fundación Arquitectura y Sociedad (Foundation Architecture and Society), founded by the Pamplona architect Francisco Mangado and with an ample list of national figures on its Board of Directors, including architects, politicians, journalists, and a variety of figures from other fields of study and other professions.

Four or five hundred architects and students gathered in the Baluarte, the auditorium designed by Mangado, to listen to three days of presentations and debates. Jacques Herzog and Renzo Piano presented their work under the theme "The Power of Architecture," followed by a debate between the two and Glenn Murcutt moderated by Luis Fernández-Galiano, one of the organizers of the Congress. In the afternoon, the former union leader José Maria Fidalgo presented the architects Rahul Mehrotra (India), Alejandro Arevano (Chile) and Giancarlo Mazanti (Colombia), whose work was grouped around the theme "Architecture and Shelter: Materials, Construction and Costs".

The second day included presentations by Anne Lacaton, Matthias Sauerbruch, Carlos Jiménez (Houston) and Victor López Cotelo (Madrid), on the theme "Architecture and Efficiency. New Programs and Sustainability". In the afternoon, Mark Wigley, Mohsen Mostafavi and the philosopher Slavoj Zizek debated the theme "Architecture and Pleasure: From the Aesthetic of the Icon to the Common Beauty".

On the last day, David Chipperfield presented his work at the Neues Museum in Berlin, and the architect Diébédo Francis Kéré of Burkina Faso presented some of his African projects (the architect is featured in the May issue of Architectural Record's GreenSource magazine). The Congress closed with a lecture by Glenn Murcutt and a debate between Fernández Galiano, Vicente Verdú of El País, Llàtzer Moix, the architecture critic of Barcelona's La Vanguardia, and the art critic Estrella de Diego.

Reports in Spanish on the Congress can be found on the webpages of Arquitectura Viva, Scalae. by Llàtzer Moix in La Vanguardia and by Antón García-Abril en El Mundo.

A sampling of quotes from commentaries on the Congress and the state of architecture:

Luis Fernández Galiano, interviewed in the business newspaper Expansión:
  • Real estate promoters have been mean-spirited in their urban vision.
  • The most important resource in architecture isn't money or recognition. It's talent, which multiplies the value of what is done by ten.
Vicente Verdú in El País, June 17. 2010:
  • ...architecture has won protagonism for its extravagances, its gigantic spectacles, and, if that were not enough, for the fetid stink of its bubble.
  • ...the congress ... concluded with this diagnosis: the crisis has demolished the star building, and on its site modesty and shame are beginning to grow. A regression? An anti-mediatic destiny? A sacrificial maneuver?
And finally, Llàtzer Moix, in the epilogue of his recent book Arquitectura milagrosa. Hazañas de los arquitectos estrella en la España del Guggenheim (Miracles in Architecture: Feats of Star Architects in the Spain of the Guggenheim, Anagrama. Barcelona, 2010):
  • In Bilbao we learned that architectural success can emerge where one least expects it and from extremely risky propositions. In Valencia and Santiago, that the combination of inexperienced clients and incontinent architects leads to excess and the waste of public money. In Zaragoza [Expo 2008], that the time factor only increases these effects. In Barcelona, that even cities wise in urbanism and architecture can catch star fever. In Madrid, that the epidemic is still not under control. In L'Hospitaket [outside Barcelona], that brand-name architectural is now not only a privilege of the villas of the rich, but also a weapon used by the historically marginalized in their struggle for emancipation....
Translations by DC

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Stepping Out on the Avenue

My article on the Mediapro Tower in Barcelona by Carlos Ferrater, Xavier Marti and Patrick Genard is featured in the May issue of architektur.akteull.

If we take a look at recent New York projects that return to the theme of the glass and steel building -Herzog and de Meuron's Bond Street condos, Jean Nouvel's Mercer Street apartments, or Richard Meier's Perry Street towers, among others- Mediapro stands out, unmatched in its formal elegance.

Stepping out on the Avenue
Mediapro Tower, Barcelona by Carlos Ferrater, OAB.
architektur.aktuell 362, 2010-05, May 2010, pages 102 - 113.
Table of contents    Order issue

Photo © Aleix Bagué

Saturday, May 15, 2010

Poet-Architects of Brazil and Chile

An exhibition in Madrid looks back on the late avant-garde:
Desvíos de la deriva
Reina Sofía Museum of Contemporary Art
May 4 – August 23, 2010
Curators: Lisette Lagnado and María Berríos

From the Museum's web page:
The different Brazilian and Chilean architectural concepts that form the subject of this exhibition share a humanist, visionary basis in their way of approaching the relationship between public space and collective life, topography and urbanism. This is reflected in drawings, texts and architectural models by
Flavio de Carvalho (1899-1973), Juan Borchers (1910-1975), Lina Bo Bardi (1914-1992), Roberto Matta (1911-2002), and Sergio Bernardes (1919-2002), and in the Valparaíso School’s communal teaching. Poet-architects were torn between a growing drive towards modernity and technology’s promise to reduce working hours and increase leisure time. Their goal was to expand the space for homo ludens and implement a community-based life. In the case of Brazil, this was based on Carvalho’s take on Oswald de Andrade’s Anthropophagous Manifesto (1928), while in Chile it involved the assumption of values based on hospitality and accessibility....

Juegos y torneos, Ciudad Abierta
, 1972-77
Archivo histórico José Vial Armstrong, Escuela de Arquitectura y
Diseño de la Pontificia Universidad Católica de Valparaíso, Chile.

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Tilt to Play

The April issue of architektur.akteull features my article on the BTEK Technology Center outside Bilbao by ACXT Architects, with Gonzalo Carro as Project Architect. It is the showcase for a high-tech business park, with exhibition spaces open to school visits and the general public. ACXT is the architectural division of the Spanish engineering giant IDOM.

The building is buried under its sloping site, emerging only in the triangular planes of its roofs, which tilt up as if they were hinged facets of the hillside itself.

Plattentektonik / Plate Tectonics
architektur.aktuell 361, 2010-04, April 2010. pages 66 - 75.
Table of contents     Order issue

Photo © Aitor Ortíz

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Black Prince

Estudio Entresitio's subsidized rental housing tower in the Vallecas Ensanche of Madrid is the subject of my latest article in Bauwelt: Wider den postmodernen Städtebau (Against Postmodern Urbanism), in Bauwelt 15.10, April 16, 2010, pages 26 - 31.

The tower was built by the Municipal Housing Authority of Madrid, and is probably the best of some 40 public housing projects completed or underway in the development.

It is an ambivalent monument, offering no illusions of utopia or mythic triumph, no narcotic thrill or calming anesthesia. Could it be proposing instead a new, post-Matrix realism, in which the precise, sensual facts of the architectural object attempt to shake us out of our media reveries and back into the present fallen world?

Photo © Roland Halbe, used with permission.
Two more pictures from the Bauwelt webpage.

Look here for a video of the building made by Diego Hurtado de Mendoza for the architects.

Friday, April 9, 2010

Museums in AV Monografías

The latest issue of AV Monografías, dedicated to new museums, includes my article on 12 museum projects from around the world.
Iconos reticentes: los proyectos que vienen / Upcoming Projects: The Reluctant Icon
Texts in Spanish and English.
AV Monografías 139, 2009, pages 24 - 33.

Like their proposal for the IVAM of Valencia and the New Museum in New York, the project is a Zen exercise in absent presences, as if the volumes containing the museum had been erased from the site instead of inserted into it.
–Louvre in Lens, France by Sejima & Nishizawa

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Upcoming Lecture

Next Tuesday, April 13th I will give the talk Manic Surges in Modern Capitalism: Architecture as Accomplice, Symptom and Response.

The talk is part of the Symposium Crisis and Cultural Change: XXIII Seminar on Anglo-North American Thought. It is sponsored by the Department of English Literature of the Complutense University of Madrid.

The talk is in English. It will be followed by a debate moderated by Fernando Rampérez, Professor of Philosophy at the Complutense. Time and place: 4:00 PM in the Salón de Grados of the Facultad de Filología y Filosofía, Edificio A, in the Ciudad Universitara of Madrid. More information:

Saturday, April 3, 2010

News: Toyo Ito Mud Baths in Limbo

The Spanish newspaper El País published a brief account on April 1st of the lamentable state of Toyo Ito's Relaxation Park in Torrevieja, Alicante (in Spanish).

The project, for a series of three shell-like pavilions for mud spa therapies beside Torrevieja's shore-front lagoon, was featured in the 2006 On-Site show on Spanish architecture at New York's Museum of Modern Art. It is being promoted by the municipal government. But the nation's Coastal Authority ordered the project halted for violating laws prohibiting new waterfront development. While the city seeks approval for a revised plan, the single pavilion built so far has been vandalized and is being occupied by "temporary refugees".

Ito has recently completed two towers for Barcelona's Porta Fira Fair complex in L´Hospitalet, a project for subsidized housing in the provincial capital of Logroño, and the first phase of the Gavia Water Park in Vallecas, Madrid, according to an interview with the architect by Anaxtu Zabalbeascoa published in El País on March 27th.

More project information, images on the Alicante journal ViA Arquitectura webpage (my thanks to them for the photo above). Early views of the Porta Fira towers can be found on Designboom.

Thursday, April 1, 2010

Exhibits: Urban Malaise in Barcelona

A show at the always-interesting Center for Contemporary Culture of Barcelona (CCCB): Atopia: Arte and City in the 21st Century (through May 24th). The hook: Director Josep Ramoneda's introduction:

With the exhaustion of Post Modern options and the failure of attempts to prolong the dogmatism of the avant-garde through the sterile substitution of ideological processes for art, art in the first decade of the 21st century has, in certain respects, returned to itself. Aesthetic ideas have returned, emotion has returned, and they have done so through a particular experience: the urban malaise. (DC translation)

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Carlos Ferrater wins National Architecture Prize

The Ministry of Housing, which oversees the state's architecture programs here in Spain, has awarded the National Architecture Prize to Barcelona architect Carlos Ferrater this year.

Ferrater is author of the House for a Photographer II, a Record Houses feature last year. I also wrote on his Catalunya Convention Center in Barcelona in the June 2002 issue of Architectural Record (pages 114 - 119). Other works include the Mediapro Tower and Montjuic Botanical Gardens in Barcelona, and the latest additions to the Science Museum in Granada.

More on the prize on the SCALAE web page (in Spanish).

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Current exhibitions in Madrid

A selection of architecture shows on view this spring:

Los Ángeles de Julius Shulman
Sala de Exposiciones Canal de Isabel II
Santa Engracia, 125
Through May 16th.

La conquista de la esbeltez
Celebrating Felix Candela's centenary.
Centro Conde Duque
Sala Bóvedas
Calle Conde Duque, 11.
Through April 18th.
Additional photos and information on the AV webpage (in Spanish).

Los brillantes 50
Spanish architects of the 1950s.
La Arquería
Paseo de la Castellana, 67
Through April 18th.
Additional information from El País (in Spanish).

Sièntete con Arne Jackobsen
Fundación Arquitectura COAM
Calle Piamonte, 23
From April 8th through May 15th

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Museum Can Framis in Barcelona

My article on Jordi Badia´s Museum Can Framis in the District 22@ of Barcelona appeared in the January - February isssue of architektur.aktuell.

In the Rough
architektur.aktuell 358 - 359, 2010-01-02, January - February 2010, pages 76 - 89.
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The building offers a curious variation on Barcelona's preoccupation with urban form, as it preserves, as if in amber, a vestige of the city's highly unplanned industrial past, set incongruously in the heart of its biggest new planning area, the District 22@, where it is surrounded by large new commercial projects by the likes of David Chipperfield, Dominique Perrault, Enric Ruiz-Geli, Carlos Ferrater and others.

Photo © Pedro Pegenaute

Sunday, February 7, 2010

Toledo Meets its River

The Madrid studio of Francisco Burgos and Ginés Garrido has won a competition to rehabilitate the banks of the Tajo River and connect the area to the historic city. The project includes a riverfront walk, pedestrian bridges and a cable tramway that will descend 50 meters from the city to the riverbank. The firm was one of six finalists in a n international competition. Source: El País, February 4, 2010 (in Spanish).

The project is part of a larger urban plan by Barcelona planner Joan Busquets. Other elements include the outdoor mechanical stairs by Elías Torres and José .Antonio Martínez Lapeña, inaugurated about ten years ago, and a Congress Center on the northern slopes of the city by Rafael Moneo, which is currently under construction. All three projects involve operations designed to ease access between the original fortified acropolis of the city and its surroundings.

Burgos and Garrido also lead the team that has redesigned the banks of Madrid's Manzanares River. The new riverside park, partially opened this year, replaces a highway that the city buried in a pharaonic engineering project in 2007.

Photo: Mikel Ortega, Creative Commons License, May 2007 (detail)

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Menis and Moneo in Speech

The 4th issue of the Russian bi-annual journal Speech, dedicated to the theme of materiality, has just been published. It includes my interview with Fernando Menis (Using what's at hand, pages 220 - 240) and my article Over Carthaginian Stones, on the Museum of the Roman Theater in Cartagena by Rafael Moneo (pages 138 - 152).

Also included in the issue is Estudio Entresitio's Health Clinic in San Blas, Madrid.

Photo: Tunnel under the ruins of the Santa María la Vieja Church, Cartagena, by Rafael Moneo. Photo by DC.