Saturday, April 2, 2011

Like the bright plumage of a bird

Color in Spanish architecture is the theme of a long article I've written for the latest issue of the Russian biannual journal Speech. It is a theme particularly apt to Spain, for some reason the most radical experiments anywhere in the use of color in the past six or seven years can be found here. We cover the spectrum, from well-known works by Nouvel, Miralles + Tagliabue and Hadid to virtually unpublished works, such as the medical clinic in St. Martín de la Vega by Pedro Urzáiz and Carlos Pérez-Pla, which uses glass with an inner layer of a prismatic gel that reflects and solarizes the surrounding context in surreal colors (photo top © Miguel de Guzmán) and a secondary school in Las Mesas (Province of Cuenca) by Blanca Rosa and Natalia Gutiérrez of GRG Architects in Madrid (photo below © Roland Halbe).
Color plays at least four different roles in contemporary Spanish architecture. In the first place, we find it used in a traditional way, as an integral sensual quality of finish materials. Secondly, color is used as a system of coding building elements, although this "functional" approach is often mixed with more sensual intentions. Thirdly, we find works that feature a random rainbow splattering of many different colors over finish surfaces, a manifestation of the current recourse to aleatoric or irregular compositional methods, and a response, it seems, to the sensual pleasures of the simple, unmediated experience of color. Finally, we sometimes find color used to create an experience of total immersion, in which colors flood and stain space itself, making space manifest and transforming the normal perceptual conditions of reality.
Like the bright plumage of a bird
Color in Spanish architecture
Speech 06/2010, December 2010 (received March 2011), pages 208 - 226.
Table of Contents

Projects by the following architects (in order of appearance): 
Nouvel, Miralles - Tagliabue, Mansilla + Tuñón, SelgasCano, Mangado, Rogers - Lamela, Haiku Architecture, Amann, Cánovas + Maruri, Pino - Paredes, Aguinaga, Camacho + Macía, RCR Architects, Hadid, GRG Architects, Urzáiz - Pérez-Pla, MI5 Studio, Estudio Entresitio.

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