Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Sheep Safely Graze

This spring I traveled to the town of Alcázar do Sal, 85 kilometers south of Lisbon, to report on this Nursing Home by Francisco and Manuel Aires Mateus. My cover story appears in the June issue of architektur.aktuell (sorry, no web page).
"A primary school is across the street, and the bright cries of children playing under the ancient trees of its grounds reach the garden, where a handful of sheep graze on the wild lawns under cork and olive trees – connections that keep the residents in touch with the life of the town and their rural origins."

"....a constant in Portuguese architecture over the centuries is clearly seen here: the tension between order and topography, between a rational, regular, repetitive system of settlement –from the urban street grid to individual buildings with their patios, gardens and terraces– and the accidents of topography and historical development that distort and transform this regular order. Amid the lush vegetation, vivid topography and mild climate of Portugal, with its mix of the Mediterranean and the Atlantic, this is the formula for a contemporary Garden of Eden."
In the Garden of Eden
Nursing Home, Alcácer do Sal, Portugal
Francisco + Manuel Aires Mateus
architektur.aktuell 387
Issue theme: Solid Structures
June 2012, pages 64 - 75; cover.

 Photo: DC

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Summer Exhibitions in Spain

The Arts of Piranesi
CaixaForum Madrid
Through September 9

In addition to 300 engravings representing the variety of Piranesi's interests (architecture, archeology, city views, decoration, the Imaginary Prisons series, etc.), the show includes "reproductions of furniture and decorative objects in various materials from his series Antichità Romane, an ... audiovisual presentation that gives a disturbing depth and breadth to his Imaginary Prisons, and contemporary photographs by G. Basilico for his collection of engravings of Views of Rome, comparisons that allow the public to discover the three dimensionality, perspective and detail of Piranesi`s engravings."

According to El País, the digitalizaiton of the Imaginary Prisons by the Madrid-based Factum Arte studio allows "the camera to make a three-dimensional journey through their interiors, creating the sensation of walking through buildings that never existed."

Le Corbusier & Jean Genet in the Raval;
Gordon Matta-Clark, "Office Baroque" Portfolio;
Roberto Rosellini Filming Beaubourg
MACBA (Barcelona Museum of Contemporary Art)
Through October 21

This miscellany shows off items from the museum's permanent collection.

The first show aims to document the visits of Le Corbusier and Jean Genet to Barcelona in the 1930s,  "when both applied their critical eye to the city's streets." It includes works by Brassaï, Joaquín Torres-García, Alexander Calder, Leandre Cristòfol, Lucio Fontana, Salvador Dalí and Antoni Tàpies.

Corb came to Barcelona at the urging of José Luis Sert and with the hope of contracting a major new urban plan with the republican regional government of the Generalitat. Genet came to live and write about the low life in the city's Barrio Chino (red light district).

The second show brings together 46 works documenting building interventions by Matta-Clark in the last six years of his life, in the 1970s.

And the third presents Robert Rossellini's film on the opening of the Pompidou in Paris, which ties in with one of Matta-Clark's  last works.

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Congress in Pamplona

There's still time to sign up for the Architecture and Society Foundation's next Congress, Lo Común, to be held June 20-22 in Pamplona. Special grants are available to help students attend.

The Congress is directed by Luis Fernández-Galiano. Speakers include Foster, Moneo, Siza and Souto de Moura, as well as Peter Buchanan, Vasa Perović (Slovenia), Manuel Aires Mateus, Roger Diener, Dietmar Eberle, Anna Heringer (Austria), Solano Benítez (Paraguay), Patxi Mangado (Foundation founder) and others.

The proceedings cover the themes "Architecture and Shelter," "Architecture and Efficiency," and "Architecture and Pleasure."

To give  an idea of the calado of the event (Spanish metaphor meaning the draft of a ship), the congress will be kicked off with welcoming remarks  by Carlos Solchaga, former Socialist Minister of Economy and the President of the Foundation, and Ana Pastor, current Minister of Development, as well as the president of Navarra and mayor of Pamplona. Other active and former politicians are sprinkled through the proceedings.

Detailed information can be found here.

It's Summer Again at the Serpentine

Rowan Moore in The Guardian on this summer's Serpentine Pavilion in London by HdM and Weiwei. (Skip-scroll through the intro about how tiresome Thomas Heatherwick is).

"What you get now is a sunken bowl lined with series of descending terraces, with fragments of curved and angled lines that echo the bygone works of Sanaa, Gehry, Hadid, Libeskind, Eliasson and others. It's surfaced with dark brown compressed cork which looks like mud from a distance and is firm but slightly yielding underfoot. It also gives off an organic scent. Above is a horizontal disc, propped on a basic structure like the covering of an archaeological dig, holding a film of water."
"The surrounding land slopes, which means that at different places you can see over the top of the disc and appreciate the reflections it makes of trees and sky, or look into the cave-like space it covers, with fragmentary views of the park beyond. The interior ... is an events space, cafe and place for sitting around, except that this time it was felt that the concept would be compromised by installing catering facilities. These are provided by a matter-of-fact trailer parked close by."

Photo from the article
Oli Scarff/Getty Images

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Petition Against EuroVegas. And Valdevaqueros!

Sign a petition for government disclosure of negotiations over EuroVegas organized by change.org.
Thanks, José Selgas.

(See my blog entry of April 29, The EuroVegas Threat).

José also sends this link for a petition to save the Valdevaqueros beach in Tarifa (above), threatened with a macro-development, a project that was just approved by the local government.

For details, here's the El Pais story on the vote from May 31, 2012.

Photo of Valdevaqueros Beach from:
Plataforma Ciudadana Por la preservación de Los Lances y Palmones

Monday, June 4, 2012

Design Vanguard Call for Entries

Architectural Record is now accepting entries for its 2012 Design Vanguard competition. Entries are due on August 10, 2012 and the winners will be published in the December 2012 issue.

For more information, and to enter, click here.

London's Olympics on the Horizon

Architectural Record's June issue devotes extensive coverage to the London Olympics, and to London in general. See a list of articles with links here.

The issue includes my brief overview of the lasting effects of the Olympics in Barcelona and Athens.
"For the Greeks, the 2004 Olympics in Athens and the aftermath have become a symbol for everything that has gone wrong in their country..."
"Barcelona used the investments and positive energy generated by the 1992 Olympic Games as a tool for long-term strategic planning—a model that London studied closely...." 
 In an excellent article in The Guardian, Rowan Moore also weighs in on London's Olympic effort (link), calling into question the whole enterprise of the Games.

The article includes links about some of the Olympic projects, such as Anish Kapoor's and Cecil Balmont's Orbit sculpture,  (photo above, apparently sporting an impressive phallus), on which Moore comments, "it will cost £15 to go up to the top. I suggest that residents of nearby council tower blocks charge £14.95 to visit their flats. The view will be just as good and visitors would gain a richer understanding of London and of humanity".

 Other venues:
Aquatic Center by Zaha Hadid.
Velodrome by Hopkins Architects.
Athletic Stadium, sponsored by Dow Chemical.
Olympic Village (in a separate review by Rowan Moore).
Olympic Park by George Harrgreaves (gets a thumbs-up from Moore for preserving a sense of the pre-existing context amid the waterways of the River Lea).