Monday, February 16, 2015

Building Degree Zero


All phoros © Iwan Baan
My first contribution to the Dutch magazine Mark is an interview with José Selgas and Lucia Cano, of SelgasCano, on their project for a Vacination Center in Kenya, which they designed and built with their MIT students. The great Dutch photographer Iwan Baan took the pictures. Sorry, digital story available by purchase or subscription only.
"JS: What really interested us about Turkana is that it's absolutely at the limit in everything, making it very complicated to know how to build. The site is 100 kilometers from the nearest town. It was 40º when we were there, and that was in the winter. There's no water. It's windy, with dust everywhere. Working with any material was nearly impossible. Wood is out of the question because of the termites. You can't use adobe, because there's no clay."
"DC: Why did you decided to build out of sheet metal and concrete?"
"JS: It was very difficult to make the students understand this. For them, Africa meant natural materials: weaves, natural fibers, thatch, adobe. All the research first went into these. But when we arrived there, the client told us, 'Please, no thatch, no weaves.' They're expensive and complicated, and cost a fortune to maintain. They're for the luxury hotels, the tourists. So you realize that there are a lot of our own prejudices in wanting to use these supposedly natural and honest materials. And that it really is a tremendous lie. Africa is much more similar to us than we like to think. Their building systems are not that different. really."




Building Degree Zero
Vaccination and Educational Clinic, Kokouselei, Kenya by SelgasCano and MIT studio students
Interview with José Selgas and Lucia Cano
Mark (Amsterdam), No. 54, February - March 2015, pages 114 - 119





Wednesday, February 11, 2015

The Glazed, Dazed Media Gaze

© Rafael Vargas
I write about the new home of Les Encants, Barcelona's flea market, by Fermín Vázquez, and the urban design problems of Glòries, the unfinished crossroads, would-be plaza and future park where it is sited, in the February issue of The Architectural Review (available to subscribers here).
"This lack of structural clarity, as if the leaves of the canopy were caught in movement, together with the high-resolution images bouncing off the mirror finish, are symptomatic of the contemporary obsession with digital screens and their impact on visual perception, in which static spatial framing is rejected in favor of continuous visual flow."


Giltter Bug
Les Encants flea market, Barcelona, By Fermín Vázquez
The Architectural Review 
Volume CCXXXVII , Issue 1416
February 2015, pages 56 - 65

Monday, February 2, 2015

Boa Nova in Winter

Photo: DC

I made a quick visit to Porto before Christmas to report on Alvaro Siza's restoration of his first public project, the Boa Nova Restaurant and Tea House (1958-63), which faces the Atlantic from a rocky promontory in Leça da Palmeira. The story appears in the February issue of Architectural Record (link).

The abandonment, sacking and restoration of this seaside tea house and its conversion into a luxury restaurant is a story about Portugal's economic crisis and changes in Portuguese society over five decades. The building is also a fascinating work by a young Siza eager to "put everything he could ... into the design".

"The original woodwork and furniture was made with afzelia, a reddish tropical hardwood from Angola (then a Portuguese colony) that was cheap and abundant at the time, but is expensive and difficult to find now. Siza considered the original tables, chairs, and serving carts to be beyond repair, but he found a carpenter with a stock of old wood to remake them, as well as the table lamps with shades made from translucent wood veneer. To treat water stains on the ceilings, he explains, 'an old furniture restorer treated the wood with something, and it doesn't look too bad.' " 
Photo from AR © Joao Margado

Time Machine 
Boa Nova Restaurant and Tea House
Leça da Palmeira, Portugal
Restoration by Alvaro Siza
Architectural Record, February 2015

SITE NOTEBOOK
A selection of quick photos with close-ups of details and attempts to capture its atmosphere. Below, the restored copper gutters that vandals stripped out when the building was empty, destroying its roof. Photos by DC and Marcela Navascués, a friend living in Porto.


 The scupper above overlooks the entry, facing the water, which is reached via an elaborate set of stairs and terraces that turn you this way and that, before you duck under that low cantilevered eave and go inside (left-hand side of section below).

Courtesy Álvaro Siza
 Once inside, you are on a small upper level looking down a flight of stairs to the hall, with the restaurant to the right and the tea room to the left.

From the compression of the entry, the space opens both above us and below. Very Frank Lloyd Wright. We couldn't catch it on film because of the high contrasts, but there are three openings in the hall: the big clerestory light scupper above the stair, framed in wood, that takes in sky light; a slit below it designed to frame the horizon line between sea and sky from the entry level (but only if you are as short as Siza: did he pick this up from Wright too?); and a large window at the bottom of the stair, drawing you down, where you see the full force of the ocean waves against the rocks in the foreground (photo below from the dining room, with one of the "Tugendat House" retractable windows rolled down into the floor).




Courtesy Álvaro Siza

The original woodwork and furniture was made with afzelia, a reddish tropical hardwood from Angola (then a Portuguese colony) that was cheap and abundant at the time, but is expensive and difficult to find now. Siza considered the original tables, chairs, and serving carts to be beyond repair, but he found a carpenter with a stock of old wood to remake them, as well as the table lamps with shades made from translucent wooThe original woodwork and furniture was made with afzelia, a reddish tropical hardwood from Angola (then a Portuguese colony) that was cheap and abundant at the time, but is expensive and difficult to find now. Siza considered the original tables, chairs, and serving carts to be beyond repair, but he found a carpenter with a stock of old wood to remake them, as well as the table lamps with shades made from translucent wood veneer. To treat water stains on the ceilings, he explains, “an old furniture restorer treated the wood with something, and it doesn't look too bad.”s
The original woodwork and furniture was made with afzelia, a reddish tropical hardwood from Angola (then a Portuguese colony) that was cheap and abundant at the time, but is expensive and difficult to find now. Siza considered the original tables, chairs, and serving carts to be beyond repair, but he found a carpenter with a stock of old wood to remake them, as well as the table lamps with shades made from translucent wood veneer. To treat water stains on the ceilings, he explains, “an old furniture restorer treated the wood with something, and it doesn't look too bad.” - See more at: http://archrecord.construction.com/projects/Building_types_study/adaptive_reuse/2015/1502-Boa-Nova-Restaurant-and-Teahouse-Alvaro-Siza-Vieira.asp?bts=AR#sthash.yY4lcY1Z.dpuf
The original woodwork and furniture was made with afzelia, a reddish tropical hardwood from Angola (then a Portuguese colony) that was cheap and abundant at the time, but is expensive and difficult to find now. Siza considered the original tables, chairs, and serving carts to be beyond repair, but he found a carpenter with a stock of old wood to remake them, as well as the table lamps with shades made from translucent wood veneer. To treat water stains on the ceilings, he explains, “an old furniture restorer treated the wood with something, and it doesn't look too bad.” - See more at: http://archrecord.construction.com/projects/Building_types_study/adaptive_reuse/2015/1502-Boa-Nova-Restaurant-and-Teahouse-Alvaro-Siza-Vieira.asp?bts=AR#sthash.yY4lcY1Z.dpuf
The original woodwork and furniture was made with afzelia, a reddish tropical hardwood from Angola (then a Portuguese colony) that was cheap and abundant at the time, but is expensive and difficult to find now. Siza considered the original tables, chairs, and serving carts to be beyond repair, but he found a carpenter with a stock of old wood to remake them, as well as the table lamps with shades made from translucent wood veneer. To treat water stains on the ceilings, he explains, “an old furniture restorer treated the wood with something, and it doesn't look too bad.” - See more at: http://archrecord.construction.com/projects/Building_types_study/adaptive_reuse/2015/1502-Boa-Nova-Restaurant-and-Teahouse-Alvaro-Siza-Vieira.asp?bts=AR#sthash.yY4lcY1Z.dpuf
Details: the dining room furniture. Benches and chairs with leather cushions, as designed by Siza.






There are two sizes of table lamps with shades of the same tropical wood used in the rest of the building:



The dining room has a line of high windows on its back wall, and young Siza teased out the edges of the openings in the woodwork of the ceiling around them.





He used an elaborate system of exposed joists to project the eaves and gutters beyond the sloping concrete roof slab, as you can see in the sections. Like wings. The low eaves keep out direct sun and wind. He breaks the slope of the roof, so the eaves extend out horizontally and don't block the views.




Like the dining room clerestory windows, some of the boards extend further for a strange flourish:


The light was too extreme for this quick shot, but here in the tearoom -unfortunately not in use- you feel like you are on board an old teak motor yacht:


The kitchens, tucked under the entry level, are also very shipshape. Twenty people were at work preparing lunch.


Back outside, the dining room overlooks a small terrace:


This side of the building backs right into the slope behind it:


With the servide entrance just on the other side:


Two more views of Siza's brilliant massing. The chapel is where he was married in 1962, a year before the building opened:



See my earlier story on the restoration in this blog entry, Siza's Boa Nova Tea House to Reopen, 04.11.14.