Sunday, August 19, 2012

Crisis Casualties: The Profession

Sparked by the crumbling economy, peaceful protests began taking place in Spain, such as one on May 19, 2011, at the Plaza de la Encarnación in Seville. The Metropol Parasol designed by J. Mayer H. Architects framed the occasion.
 The Pain in Spain 
Under this unfortunate title (as I told my editor, I have been trying to forget that song for well-nigh 45 years), I survey the devastating effects of Spain's economic crisis on the architecture community in the August issue of Architectural Record.

With over 45% of Spain's architecture studios closed or "open in name only" and a massive emigration of young talent underway, the only bright spot is that Spain's loss will be the rest of the world's gain.

And there's as yet no end in sight to the deepening crisis. We're back to age-old patterns: the emigrations of Spanish workers in the 1950's and 60's. or the cultural purge after the Civil War.... And all for the tight money policy of Angela Merkel and her voters: will German stupidity destroy Europe once more?

Photo from my story © Antonio Rull, showing a protest under J. Mayer H's  Metropol Parasol at Seville's Plaza de la Encarnación in May 2011.

Monday, August 6, 2012

Gaudi or Not Gaudi?

London's Architectural Review sent me to Barcelona this summer to take a look at progress on Antoní Gaudi's Sagrada Familia. I interviewed Jordi Bonet, the 87-year-old architect in charge of the work, and judged his arguments in defense of the project against the evidence at hand:
"Bonet and his predecessors may have captured the geometries of Gaudí’s design, but the fervid textures of his overworked surfaces, and his vital fusion of structural logic, formal serendipity and an original sense for materials and craft (early-20th-century craft at that) are completely lost. Take in the mad profusion of sculpture and fussy surfaces of the lower parts of the Nativity Portal, for example, which are liquid, lumpy and dark like a poured sandcastle (and quite scatological as Catalan art tends to be, from Joan Miró to Antoni Tàpies, reveling in the plastic richness of mud). And now turn to the raw concrete porch of the Passion Facade on the opposite side, with its awkwardly angled piers and architraves. There may be a Gaudí drawing that traces these exact forms, but my bet is that the eccentric master of Reus wouldn’t have left the matter there."

Photo 1
Christ parachutes down over the main altar, in an interpretation of surviving reproductions of a tiny sectional drawing by Gaudi.

Photo 2
My hosts brought me up above the vaults of the nave, where the raw brick and concrete of the roof structure may be the closest thing to the spirit of Gaudi in the new work.

Photo 3
Clouds collaborate in the dizzying rise of towers and scaffolds into the heavens. Is Barcelona ready for the 170-meter lantern and cross that are under construction above the crossing of the nave, and that will transform the city's skyline?

Photo 4
Detail of the Passion Portal
All photos: DC

Gaudi's Sacred Monster
Sagrada Familia, Barcelona
The Architectural Review, August 2012