Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Publications Update

For the record, two of my more dispersed articles this fall appeared in the following publications:

Photo © Lluís Casals

I served on the Jury this year for the IV Edition of the Enor Architecture Prizes, organized by the Enor Elevator Group of Vigo, in the northwestern region of Galicia, and open to works in Spain and Portugal. I wrote a lengthy review of the winning projects and the finalists, some 40-odd buildings in all, which appears in the book presented at the awards ceremony this November. It's an attempt to sum up the current post-crisis architectural scene (in Spanish).

Radiografía de la Actualidad
Carlos Quintáns Eiras, editor, IV Premio Ascensores Enor, Grupo Asensores Enor SA, Vigo, 2009, pages 23 - 41.

Here's a quote:
La arquitectura es una negociación entre el presente (en términos de medios y necesidades), el pasado (a través del patrimonio, el territorio, y el legado cultural colectivo) y un futuro que ella misma nos ayuda a definir. El arquitecto es un mediador en ésta negociación, y su papel es tanto interpretativo como creativo. Los proyectos reconocidos por el Premio Ascensores Enor de 2009 son ejemplares en éste sentido, demostrándonos las distintas dimensiones de una arquitectura comprometida con el proceso vital de crear el futuro.

Illustrated: The Grand Prize winner, a house on the site of a former leather-curing factory in Santiago de Compostela by by Victor López Cotelo and Juan Manuel Vargas Funes.

I was invited to contribute an essay on the SyV Tower in Madrid by Rubio + Álvarez Sala Studio, for a book published by the architects and the building team: The Tall Building Reconsidered (Repensar el Edificio en Altura).

It appears in:
Enrique Encabo Seguí, Inmaculada E. Maluenda, editors, Técnica y estrategias: Sobre la construcción de la Torre SyV, Q! Estudio, Madrid, 2009, pages 48 - 53. Text in Spanish and English.

The essay begins:
Carlos Rubio and Enrique Álvarez-Sala's approach to the design of the SyV Tower could be described as a search for formal elegance through the logical elegance of their solutions to the technical and programmatic problems that the project presents. Yet this apparently conservative approach, emphasizing formal contention and restraint rather than the liberty of formal invention now customary in contemporary architecture, has given rise to a solution of striking originality. This result is due in great part to the architects' rigorous and non-formulaic study of the problem, and their framing of the problem in its particular, contemporary context, which conditions the solution in new ways.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

José María Sánchez García

For the past five or six years I've been proud to introduce a number of young Spanish architects in Architectural Record's annual Design Vanguard issue, which features architects of promise from around the world. This year we present the work of José María Sánchez García (Architectural Record, December 2009, pages 84 - 87).

His best-known design to date is a center for the development of rural sports in the Extremadura region. It is a circular building, 2,000 feet in circumference, that floats between the trees on a peninsula overlooking a reservoir (my photo).

I wrote another feature on the work for the Viennese magazine architektur.aktuell (in English and German):
Ein Kreis in den Bäunmen - A Circle in the Trees
Center for Recreational and Sports Activities, Guijo de Granadilla (Extremadura), Spain by José Sánchez García.
architektur.aktuell, 2009-09, September 15, 2009, pages 60 - 71.
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From the story:
Sánchez García declares that the greatest influence on his work has been Alberto Campo Baeza, who is in turn a disciple of the Madrid master Alejandro de la Sota (1913 - 1996). In its combination of Miesian austerity and rough but perfectly-controlled industrial materials, the Ring is true to De la Sota's restrained, functional and yet poetic design legacy. But at the same time, in its monumental, elementary geometry and scale it acts more like a work of land art than a conventional building, operating at a territorial scale. The experience of strolling around its circular roof terrace, in all its rural modesty, is comparable only to visions like Le Corbusier's megastructure for Algiers.

Other Spanish firms in past Design Vanguard issues:
Cadaval and Solà-Morales, Barcelona, 2008
Estudio Entresitio, Madrid 2007
BmasC Architects, Ávlia 2006
Antón García-Abril. Madrid 2004 (summary)

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Vicens and Ramos' Corten Church

My latest feature is on the Santa Mónica Church in Rivas-Vaciamadrid by Ignacio Vicens and José Antono Ramos, in architektur.akteull, November 2009, pages 46 - 57.

I found things to like about the project and criticisms too -- particularly it's hostile relation to the neighborhood.

Most spectacular, of course, is the multi-lit apse:
"With its eruption of light behind the altar, trumpeted in from all sides by seven monumental light flues and set aflame by angled planes of gold leaf, the parochial church of Santa Monica ... is a contemporary, suburban descendant of the theatrical Baroque churches of the Counter Reformation."

Church on the defensive
Iglesia de Santa Mónica, Rivas-Vaciamadrid, by Vicens + Ramos.
architektur.aktuell, 2009-10, November 2009, pages 46 - 57.
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Photo by DC.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

In the Shadow of the Alhambra

The young Granadine architect Alejandro Muñoz Miranda (1974) debuts with two buildings whose interwoven interior spaces are inspired in the geometric patterns of Islamic tilework. We feature his Granada Business Confederation Building and his Uion Headquarters Building in the latest issue of Bauwelt (German only):

Ein Häus für Gewerkschaften, ein Häus für Unternehmer
Bauwelt 42.09, November 6, 2009, pages 14 -21.

In the headquarters of the Granada Business Confederation, this play involves the virtually cubic space of a central atrium that is illuminated by smaller cubic volumes in three of its upper corners, which house clerestory windows and skylights. The cubic volumes interpenetrate one another, and generate other geometric forms in their intersection....

The interior public spaces of the unions' building respond to a completely different understanding of the uses of architectural space. While the atrium of the Business Confederation is treated as purely formal, static and representational, the interlocking voids of the unions' building are highly social in character, bringing to mind the interior spaces of Aldo van Eyck and Herman Hertzberger.

Photos of the projects on the Bauwelt webpage:
Business Confederation
Union Building

First Floor Plan, Union Headquarters Building

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Soviet Aviation

One of the aims of this platform is to present selected news items on Spanish architecture that are not usually picked up in English-language media.

Here's the first:
The architect and editor Ricardo Lampreave has just published, in Spanish and English, a facsimile edition of Alexander Ródchenko and Varvara Stepánova's Soviet Aviation. The book was originally published in English in 1939 for the Soviet Pavilion of the New York World's Fair.

The edition includes essays by Alexander Lavrentiev, grandson of the authors, and the Spanish art historian Angel Gonzalez Garcia.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

The Celestial Sublime

Continuing a regular collaboration with the Viennese magazine architektur.aktuell, in this month's issue I contribute a feature on Dominque Perrault's Olympic Tennis Center in Madrid: The Magic Box, architektur.aktuell, October, 2009, pages 54 - 65.

"When seen from inside the vast open spaces of the stadiums, as their movement gradually exposes the infinite blue of Spain's summer sky, the roofs' opening acquires the solemn ceremony of a primitive religious rite.... Well-framed by the elegant formal clarity of Perrault's design, with its clean structural rhythms and luminous spatiality, this unveiling of the celestial sublime packages the sky-viewing epiphanies of American artist James Turrell for a mass

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Photo by DC.

Saturday, October 3, 2009

MUDE Museum in Architectural Record

The cover story of Architectural Record's September interiors issue features my report on the Museum of Design and Fashion in Lisbon by architects Ricardo Carvalho and Joana Vilhena. See the web version here.

The Museun is installed in a former bank building in the heart of the Baixa Pombalina. (Photo by DC).

Friday, October 2, 2009

Bauwelt: Aires Mateus in Cascais

My story on the Lighthouse Museum in Cascais, Portugal by Francisco and Manuel Aires Mateus has just been published in Bauwelt 37.09 (October 2, p. 34-39).

From the text: "This tension between past and present has been brilliantly addressed by a number of Portuguese architects on different occasions – think for example of the Pousada of Santa Maria do Bouro, where the ruinous state of the original convent is fully legible against Eduardo Souto de Moura's exquisitely minimalist "occupation" of its gutted interior (see Bauwelt 4, January 22, 1999). In the project considered here, the Aires Mateus brothers propose a radically different approach from Souto de Moura's dialogue across time, a solution that carries the site out of time entirely, out of the dialectic between past and present, and situates the work instead in the timeless realm of the icon."

Photo: Amelia Moreno