Monday, July 25, 2011

Souto, SIza, Aalto and Mies

El País published an interview yesterday with Eduardo Souto de Moura, including some interesting comments on the relation of his work to Siza's. Here are some excerpts:
"When I was studying, the school in Oporto was highly politicized. Those were the years of sociology. And we worked to change the substandard workers' housing, called islands, that were located in the yards of bourgeois houses. We wanted to change things. We worked with neighborhood associations. … Then the Revolution of the Carnations erupted [1973]. And when Nuno Portas became State Secretary of Housing, he said that he'd support anyone with a plan and an organization. We decided to improve that housingm but we needed an architect to sign the project documents. We were all students. And so we went to find the best. And the best was Siza. Afterwards, I stayed and worked with him for five years."

"Working with Álvaro is fantastic. He's an exceptional person. Back them he had become a widower and I was still single, so we ate together often. He defended Alvar Aalto. I liked Mies van der Rohe."

"I thought then that Aalto was an expressionist. But visiting his work in Finland you understand that he was very rationalist. … But I think Mies was more radical."

"It was the period of the Revolution.  The entire country had to be rebuilt, half a million housing units were needed. And we couldn't do that feeling out the place and local customs like Alvar Aalto. We first needed a technical language to overcome the pressure of Post Modernism, a practical and efficient language. We talked about this a lot. And I thought Mies could help us more than Alvar Aalto."

What do you admire in Siza?
"His figure has marked me more than his architecture: the man, his ethics and his knowledge. He gives you the working instruments. But he is extremely demanding. He's smooth and sweet, but he wants to understand everything."

You didn't want to be his disciple…?
"It wasn't possible. I couldn't get into his head. I know perfectly well the language, the technical aspects. I know his grammar. But I could never think like him. I have other ideas. He says I am a neoplasticist, like the Mies I like. I don't have to prove anything to him, and he never wants to impose anything on me. And so we get along together very well. Working together is like playing chess."

[On Siza]: "I insist: the personality is stronger than the architect. It's very important to understand the identity, the ethics that are the consequence of this kind of obsessive architecture. He has always been obstinate. When he was building the Boa Nova Teahouse, he slept on the rocks. He knew them by heart."

Like Siza in Porto Alegre, you have also let loose a little over time.
"Yes, that's what they say. I think this began when I was designing the Oporto metro. There were no recipes there. I had to learn to take the scale of the city like a doctor examining a patient.... Doing the metro, I thought it may well be that things are not quite as Cartesian as we think. And then there's the idea of experimenting. Without  experimentation, the profession is very boring. And since the world isn't black and white, one can try different things."

Anatxu Zabalbeascoa
Eduardo Souto de Moura. "Soy realista. Creo en la reparación"
El Pais Semanal
July 25, 2011
Photo from the article
Excerpts translated from Spanish by DC

Saturday, July 16, 2011

FAD Winners 2011

Update on the FAD Prizes, whose finalists were announced in my May 14th blog entry:

The top architecture prize was given ex aequo to Mansilla + Tuñón's Atrio Hotel in medieval Cáceres, and to a pair of houses by Portuguese architect Ricardo Bak Gordon in Lisbon (photo above), as reported in El País on July 15th.

Iñaki Ábalos' renovation of the Tàpies Foundation in Barcelona won the prize for interiors, and the Aigües de les Hortes de Vilabertran Park in Figueres, by Michèle Orliacq + Miquel Batlle, won the urbanism and landscaping prize. The head of the jury was Benedetta Tagliabue.

Photo by Fernando Guerra
Courtesy of ArquinFad

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Amman Cánovas + Maruri in Carabanchel

One of the more interesting projects in Madrid's excellent public housing program of the last decade is the subject of my latest article. It appears in Oris, a handsome Zagreb-based journal, together with an interview with Rafael Moneo, a report on Eisenman's City of Culture in Santiago de Compostela, and Housing for the Elderly by Francisco and Manuel Aires Mateus, among other features.
The private terraces ... bring a much-needed permeability to the central courtyard [of the patio-block typology]. They can also be seen as a modern interpretation of the traditional Madrid street balcony, and in this sense are actually quite Baroque and theatrical in their essential role of giving individual privacy a public face.
The Public Face of Privacy
Carabanchel 17 Public Housing, Ensanche de Carabanchel, Madrid.
Amann, Cánovas + Maruri, Architects.
Oris (Zagreb, Croatia), No. 69, Year XIII, July 2011, pages 54 -61.

Photo © Miguel de Guzmán

Monday, July 11, 2011

Hadid's Seville Library to be Demolished

In September 2009 I reported in Architectural Record on the court case to halt construction of the new central library for the University of Seville, designed by Zaha Hadid. After a local court ruled against the project, the case made its way to Spain's highest court, the Tribunal Supremo, which handed down its unappealable decision late last month: Hadid's project, partially completed at a cost of roughly 4 million euros, must be demolished (El País 06.26.11).

The suit was brought by a group of neighborhood residents who objected to the construction of the building in a public park, situated near the Plaza de España and other university buildings.  The court ruled that the city's and university's decision to sacrifice part of the park for the project  --about 8% of its total area--  was not sufficiently justified. The project's backers, the court ruled, had not presented sufficient evidence for why the library could not be built elsewhere.

City and university authorities now plan to meet to find another site for the library.

Until recently, politicians in Spain have enjoyed a surprisingly free hand in making important planning decisions such as this, with minimal public comment, participation or protest. But as the case shows, this began to change even before the current crisis.

The neighbors who brought the suit were openly hostile to the Hadid design. Why is it always Hadid who attracts such hostility? Why is it always Hadid who is made to pay for the public's most reactionary instincts? There are certainly others more deserving of public ire, but these are the same who tend to become public idols.

Local politicians throughout Spain have allowed themselves to be over-dazzled by big architectural names, and the case of Hadid in Seville is no exception. But the responsibility for this fiasco in court is clearly theirs, not hers.

In my 2009 article, Hadid’s project architect for the project, Sophie Le Bienvenu, explained that the building "lifts off the ground, so that the gardens extend under it." She pointed out that it will be open to the general public. “It's an addition to the park that promotes the city’s cultural life,” she says. “The park will still be there, and people will be able to enjoy it more.”

Meanwhile work proceeds on Cesar Pelli's 43-story bank tower in the center of Seville that opponents  say will destroy the city's historic skyline, and that has UNESCO threatening to put Seville on its list of endangered heritage sites. But that's another story.....

 And on a brighter note, Jürgen Mayer H's Metropol Parasol in Seville's Plaza de la Encarnación, with its gigantic glulam domes, has finally opened. From Rowan Moore's lively review in The Guardian last March:
Oh my God, it's an icon. How very last decade. Did the city of Seville not get the memo? Big, flashy buildings are out; hair shirts are in.
Top, Photo montage of library by Studio of Zaha Hadid
Middle, Photo montage of Pelli tower from El Mundo, 06.22.09
Bottom, Photo © Roland Halbe

Saturday, July 9, 2011

New Architecture Critic at the Times

Here's a scoop from the Architectural Record web page: art critic Michael Kimmelman will be the new chief  architecture critic at The New York Times starting in the fall. Nicolai Ouroussoff is moving on to a book project, a history of architecture over the past 100 years (source).

It's common in the US to appoint non-architects as newspaper critics, but Kimmelman has some solid experience writing on architecture and urbanism, and he brings a broad cultural perspective to the job. For the past seven years he's been reporting on a wide variety of cultural themes from a base in Berlin.

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Architectural Record Visits Spain

The July issue of Architectural Record is dedicated to new museum buildings. In addition to my article on the Archaeological Museum by Francisco Mangado that appears on the cover, the magazine's web page features two additional museums in Spain that I presented to the editors, both recognized in the XI Biennial of Spanish Architecture and Urbanism, as reported in my blog entry of April 19th.

The two museum are:

The Water Museum
Juan Domingo Santos, Architect
Lanjarón (Granada)
Photo © Fernando Alda

Can Framis Museum
Jordi Badia, Eatudio BAAS
(See also my blog on Feb. 17, 2010)

Followers of Spanish architecture shouldn't miss Suzanne Stephen's review of Peter Eisenman's City of Culture in Santiago de Compostela in Record's June issue. Her article concludes:
"Although it is too early to fully evaluate a complex still very much under construction, already it has become a lightning rod for debate regarding its high cost, excessive space, and ambiguous program.... As it ages, it will no doubt lose its rawness, but probably keep its brute energy. The gesture is so defiant. Its brazen monumentality and unsettling scale ravenously explore the difference between artifice and nature. Time will reveal its significance."

Added July 11, 2011: More Spanish features in Record:
Record has just published a web featurette on Oscar Niemeyer's Cultural Center in Áviles, on the northern Spanish coast (also featured in my blog entry of December 11, 2010).

And the web section of last April's Record Houses has a featurette on Antón García Abril's Truffle House, including the amusing construction video. It was also a Snapshot in the April issue (also featured in my blog entry of March 26, 2011).

All are projects I pitched to Record; the web is adding variety to architectural coverage but has managed to put us all to work for free.

Added August 15, 2011:
Suzanne Stephens reports on John Hejduk's little-known Trisca Center in Santiago de Compostela, completed in 2003, on the Record web page this month, while the August Snapshot page is dedicated to Jürgen Mayer H's Metropoli Pergola in Seville.

Saturday, July 2, 2011

Mangado in Architectural Record

The cover story in this month's Architectural Record is my report on Francisco Mangado's Archaeological Museum of Álava in Vitoria, Spain. 
Like his other projects, the Archaeological Museum exemplifies Mangado’s identification with the Modern movement that many Spanish architects have maintained with great vitality over the last few decades. In all of his work Mangado upholds the ideals of a functional layout and structural logic of 20th-century masters, and applies them to expressive ends chiefly through the sensual qualities of the materials he chooses and the spatial relations he establishes  between them. 
Mangado has been offering for some time what international architecture has just discovered that it needs; 3 or 4 years ago he was a very hard sell in the United States.

Archaeology Museum of Álava
Mangado and Associates
Vitoria, Spain
By David Cohn
Architectural Record, July 2011

Read full story here.

Photo: © Roland Halbe. Used with permission.