Saturday, November 12, 2016

Centripetal Force: CaixaForum Zaragoza, by Carme Pinós

Estudio Carme Pinós

Architectural Record sent me to Zaragoza, Spain in 2015 to review Carme Pinós' CaixaForum, which I found to be her "most accomplished and important work in Spain to date."

From the text:
" 'Everything I do aims to dynamize my work,' Carme Pinós declares, 'because dynamism communicates lightness.' Indeed, everywhere you turn in the CaixaForum, something seems to be in motion – whether it's the pairs of entwined columns in the lobby, angling away from each other like swirling dancers, or the massing of the building itself, where the two L-shaped volumes containing the galleries cantilever out from its upper torso in opposing directions and on different floors."

Lobby                           Photo © Ricardo Santonja
The project is a hard sell in post-crisis Spain, as its exuberant design would seem to epitomize the excesses of the bubble years. In the text I try to address this:
"There is a lot going on in Pinós' design. Lively patterns and forms surge at every turn, from the fabric and acoustical wood paneling in the auditorium, to the curving, movable wood screens of the restaurant, or those dancing columns in the lobby, which disappear into irregular skylit openings in the ceiling, splashed with natural light, as if they were holding up nothing at all. But Pinós handles these formal caprices with authority and sureness. With her first partner, the late Enric Miralles, with whom she collaborated until 1991, she was a pioneer in this kind of formal experimentation. In the aftermath of Spain's economic debacle, such exuberance has come to seem extravagant and wasteful. But Pinós argues that the cost of her design, at 15 million euros, was actually quite reasonable. She notes that modest finishes, such as floors of vinyl, industrial parquet and concrete resin, help compensate for the expensive structural solution, for example."
I end with a quote from her brief: "We want our building to be a symbol of technical progress and the generosity of culture, that it should reflect only the best our age has to offer." It's hard to argue with that, especially in a project of this importance.

Auditorium                   Photo © Rubén B. Pescós

Classroom/workshop             Photo © Rubén B. Pescós

Since its opening, the Caixa Foundation has backed away from an ambitious plan to install their Seville venue in the medieval shipbuilding halls of the Atarazanas,  which were to have been designed by Guillermo Vázquez Consuegra. The project became mired in local opposition and political squabbling, and the Foundation finally opted out. More modest quarters in the underground garage of Cesar Pelli's controversial Torre Sevilla, also by Vázquez Consuegra, will open next spring, Vázquez Consuegra recently told me. More then in a future blog....

CaixaForum Zaragoza, by Carme Pinós
Architectural Record
December, 2015, pages 82 - 87

Photo © Ricardo Santonja

© Ricardo Santonja

Estudio Carme Pinós
© Ricardo Santonja

Estudio Carme Pinós

Photo DC

© Rubén B. Pescós