Monday, May 6, 2013

Moneo and the Limits of Contextualism

All photos © Duccio Malagamba
 Rafael Moneo's controversial Congress Center in Toledo is the subject of my article in the May issue of Architectural Record (available in full here).  The project has found few supporters in the Spanish architectural community, as it manages neither to blend in with its historic surroundings nor to successfully stand out.

Built on-and-off for over 12 years due to budget problems, it was quietly opened last December under the management of a private company, and is struggling to find business; the region is one of the hardest hit by the current economic crisis in Spain.

From the article:
"To what degree does Toledo's memorable cityscape depend on the quality of each of its individual buildings? Zeroing in with a critical eye on any one of the anonymous structures that make up most of the urban fabric, you may find it lacking in one way or another—a dubious modernization, a drab exterior finish. Likewise, the crude workmanship, jarring color, and busy entry structure of Moneo's design may strike a discordant note at first sight. But take a step back, and everything blends into a harmonious whole. Given time and familiarity, Moneo's convention center will certainly join in Toledo's forgiving accumulation of historical periods. As the architect explains, 'The building is there, but it is inconspicuous. It contributes to the life of the city, but it doesn't declare its presence' But had he chosen to make it more decidedly of its own period, perhaps its contribution to Toledo's image would have been more positive—one of dialogue and encounter."

Climbing the Wall
El Greco Congress Center, Toledo Spain by Rafael Moneo
Architectural Record, May 2013

The restaurant terrace, where the building meets Toledo's old rubble walls

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