Thursday, April 11, 2013

Internal Meltdown and Exile

Floating Structures by Antón García-Abril, Ensamble Studio
My two latest articles chronicle the golden exile of Antón García-Abril, who has found a refuge at MIT, where he is setting up the POP-LAB, a prefabrication research and development lab, and the story of yet another public building project in Spain's ravaged provinces that got built but lacks funds to open.

I interviewed García-Abril for the biannual Russian journal Speech, a more technical version of my interview published in El País last January (in English and Russian, no web version).

And for Bauwelt I reported on the unopened Cultural and Civic Center in the former State Prison of Palencia, in the northern region of Castilla-Leon, after the building was all but rebuilt by the young Madrid studio Exit Architects (German only, no web version) .

Here's García-Abril on his experiments with a Styrofoam house:
"What is the structural language of the Modern Movement? The slab, the column, the wall. I don't want any of that."
"Primitive mass had a predetermined volume. Stone, earth. Contemporary mass has been concentrated in a few highly defined elements, in steel, concrete or glass, that bear an enormous structural demand."

"But in our case, mass is expressed volumetrically, as in the Antique world. What disappears is weight. In the Antique world, mass and weight were very similar. But here weight disappears from a physical point of view, but not from a spatial point of view. It becomes an energy, something perceptive."
"What is our statement in building this? The mass of a body is irrelevant in the weight of space."

Cultural and Civic Center, Palencia. Exit Architects

  In my conclusions about the debacle in Palencia, I return to some of the themes I covered for another finished but unopened project, a creative arts center in Córdoba by Nieto + Sobejano that I wrote on in The Architectural Review this March.
"If new contemporary spaces were required, why not then demolish the prison and start from scratch? ... Another option would have been to carry out a much more modest intervention, simply consolidating the existing pavilions at minimum expense and preserving their raw character. This has been the approach in Madrid's abandoned 18th century tobacco factory, the Tabacalera, which the Ministry of Culture has ceded temporarily to non-hierarchical management by neighborhood associations, who fill its unrestored walls with the kind of social activities that the citizens of Palencia reclaimed for their center, and at a minimal operating cost. This is just one example of how, in the face of the inability of government bodies to supply basic civic services, citizens associations are stepping in to fill the vacuum. Why not do the same with the once and future ruin in Palencia?"
Original state of cell block

Problemfall Palencia: 
Wie aus: einem Gefängnis kein Kultuzrentrum wurde 
Problem in Palencia: The Prison That Didn't Become a Cultural Center
 Bauwelt 13.13, April 5, 2013, pages 14 - 19, cover

Making Gravity Irrelevant 
Interview with Antón García-Abril
Speech 10, January 2013, pages 208 - 228

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