Sunday, January 30, 2011

Winery Tour

On the newstands in Spain: in the February issue of Arquitectura y Diseño, I publish an article on six Spanish wineries. In addition to the well-known Chivite Winery in Navarra by Rafael Moneo and Richard Rogers' Protos Winery in Peñafiel, it includes RCR's underground Bell-lloc Winery in Girona (left), Paredes + Pedrososa's Bodegas Real near Valdepeñas (below) and Madridejos + Sancho's Bodegas Casalobos in Picón, Ciudad Real. It also introduces the new Portia Winery near Aranda del Duero by Foster and Partners, which opened last fall.

Bodegas: Los Nuevos Santuarios
Arquitectura y Diseño
February 2011, pages 72 - 82.

Above, Bodegas Bell-lloc. Photo © Eugeni Pons
Below, Bodegas Real. Photo © Roland Halbe

Monday, January 17, 2011

The New Brutalism

In the latest issue of Bauwelt I report on the Alicante-based Aranea Group's high school in the town of Rafal, Alicante.The young architects challenge the mediocrity of current urban development in the region with a project that turns its back on its surroundings to develop a rich matrix of indoor/outdoor spaces around its central courtyard, an urban scene in miniature. The project combines Brutalist textures --board-formed concrete makes a comeback here-- and a Team X sense of social space. It was the recipient of the 2010 FAD Award for Architecture.
Can a work of architecture constitute in itself a critical project? Can it change the way its users see their habitat, and awaken them to their supposed errors of vision and method? Can it take a stand in aesthetic and moral judgment of its surroundings, and propose a counter-model for a more environmentally and humanly sensitive method of development?
 Wie ein Faustschlag auf den Tisch
Challenging the Status Quo

Bauwelt 3.11, January 2011, page 20-29.
Table of contents

Photo collage: Grupo Aranea
The collage imagines the full development of the streets around the high school in the future -- currently the building is surrounded on two sides by empty streets and abandoned construction projects.

Photo 2 © Duccio Malagamba

Sunday, January 9, 2011

Eisenman in Santiago

As the first completed section of Peter Eisenman's long-awaited City of Culture in Santiago de Compostela is set for its official inauguration on January 11th, journalists are looking around for someone to blame for its cost overruns, delays and uncertain future.

Besides the project's original political backers, headed by ex-regional President Manuel Fraga of the conservative Popular Party, their list now includes the jury of the original competition back in 1999, as seen in a recent article in El País. Jury member Luis Fernández-Galiano, editor of Arquitectura Viva and the former architecture critic of El País, does his best to defend himself, together with Pep Llinás, while Wilfried Wang gets points for having opposed Eisenman's scheme.

Fernández-Galiano blames continued changes in the plans for the project's cost overruns and delays. Originally set for construction in three years at a cost of 100 million euros, the project has suffered various changes in program under three different elected governments, and has more than doubled in size, to 148,000 m2 (1.6 million square feet). The projected total cost at the moment is nearly 400 million, and not even half the buildings are completed. Next Tuesday, the Princes of Asturias will inaugurate a library and a regional archives. Other buildings still underway include a regional museum, a museum of contemporary art and an opera. Work on the opera has scarcely broken ground, and the project has been scaled back, according to Eisenman in an interview in a local paper, the Correo Gallego.

The previous government of Galicia, a coalition of Socialists and the regional BNG Party, organized a foundation to complete the work in partnership with the private sector. But Spain's current economic crisis and cutbacks in government spending make the future completion of the center uncertain. The current government, now back in the hands of the Popular Party, has allocated less than 34 million for the project in its budget for 2011 (according to another account in the newspaper El Mundo, the 2011 budget for the project is only 13.44 million).

According to Eisenman in the Correo Gallego, "8,000 square meters of the Music Theater have been built, and we're going to start the Art Center this year. When it's finished in three years, we'll start the Music Theater again. With luck, the PP [Popular Party] will be in Madrid and so we'll have a better chance finding collaborators." (Translated from Spanish by DC).

What is really under question, as in so many other pharaonic projects of the last decade in Spain, is the attempt to outdo Frank Gehry in Bilbao at whatever cost and without any realistic program in mind.

In the meantime, reports from the site are better than expected. Much of the credit for the design's credibility is given to Andrés Perea, a respected Madrid architect in his own right, who has developed the project and overseen construction based on Eisenman's initial design. Eisenman himself told El País this about Perea's work in an interview on September 11th:
"[I find the project] intense and very well built. It has been managed incredibly by Andrés Perea. If it weren't for him it wouldn't exist. When we began ten years ago, we made decisions that today I can't even remember why we made them. Perea's work as architect of the executive project has thus been exhaustive....

Honestly. I look at the project and I ask myself, "Did I do that?" I even find it difficult to image who conceived this project, because its so wonderful. Normally when I visit a work, I only find problems, and I end up distancing myself." (Translated from the Spanish by DC).
The City of Culture is buried into the top of Mount Gaiàs outside Santiago, a historical pilgrimage city that is now the regional capital of Galicia. Eisenman's design creates an artificial topography on the hilltop, superimposing the fan-shape of a Vieira shell, a traditional symbol of the city for pilgrims, with the plan of the city's historic core and other devices. I have never had much patience for Eisenman's work, as can be seen in the following quote from an article I wrote for the Galician College of Architect's magazine Obradoiro in 2005. But judging from early photos I may have to take another look:

The City of Culture also manifests an acritical acceptance of the reigning rules of territorial development, despite its pretensions to the contrary. It is a work generated entirely by its own internal logic, in which the strategies supposedly employed to bring the work closer to its site --the superposition of the plan of Santiago and the vieira shell on Monte Gaiás and their subsequent deformations-- are in fact nothing more than strategies to generate an apparently reasoned but unfathomable internal complexity. And underneath this layer of busy nonsense, the plans reveal that the different program spaces have been laid out with an apparently capricious indifference and expediency, suggesting little more than amorphous, anonymous quantities of built space.  

The architect thus plays his obtuse formal game, in terms completely abstracted from the reality of materials, site, context and use --these factors are rather translated into the abstract terms of the game and thereby neutralized as potential sources of true formal dialogue-- and leaves the logistics of programing and construction to the specialists who have reduced them to blunt instruments of technical determinism. The architect thus apes the indifference with which other forces impose their will on the built environment. Eisenman's project, however interesting it may turn out to be in formal terms, has no more relation to the site, the city or the surrounding territory than a typical commercial shopping center.
Batallas en las Colinas / Battles in the Hills
Obradoiro 31, COAG, Vigo, March 2005, pages 8 -13.
Photo © Iñigo Bujedo Aguirre. Used with permission. All rights reserved.

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Spanish Judge Investigates Calatrava

Note: For an update on this entry, see 03.03.11 post.

After a number of ongoing investigations into major political corruption scandals related to the Spanish building boom, a well-known architect has been indicted as a suspected participant in one case.

News is still scarce, but the suspect is Santiago Calatrava, whose 1.2 million euro fee for the design of an opera in Palma de Mallorca in 2007 has raised the suspicions of Judge José Castro, reports the Barcelona newspaper El Periódico (December 31, in Spanish). The judge is investigating the regional President at the time, Jaume Matas, for 25 cases of illegal bribes, kick-backs and other schemes for robbing public funds.

Architects like Calatrava and Peter Eisenman have collected exaggerated fees for their work in Spain, as Llàtzer Moix documents in his recent book Arquitectura Milagrosa. But this does not imply that Calatrava participated in the corruption in Mallorca. He is of course presumed innocent, and the court's investigation remains secret until an official trial, if any, is undertaken.

Photo: The real crime here is aesthetic. Model of Calatrava's proposed opera in Palma de Mallorca, 2007. Source: Diario de Mallorca.