Monday, August 18, 2014

Rust Belt Chic

© Hisao Suzuki

For their August issue, Architectural Record also sent me to review the Pierre Soulages Museum in Rodez, France, by RCR Architects. The link is here.

RCR (Ramón Vilalta, Carme Pigem and Rafael Aranda) is based in Olot, near the Pyrenees in Catalonia. This is their first museum, and perhaps their most prominent work to date, although they have been working, and publishing, for decades, mostly with houses and other small-scale projects in and around Olot. Their best-known project there is the restaurant Les Cols, which I wrote about in Record Interiors in 2003 (page 136).

From AR. © Pep Sau
I think their interest in thick steel plate comes from Richard Serra and Donald Judd, and an early stint in Japan has left its mark. But they have invented their own particular brand of minimalism, and always push that vision further.

The pictures so far don't really convey the experience of this work. Ramón is undertaking to take more, but the sequence of large independent white galleries embedded in a relatively open space of contrasting dark galleries, clad entirely in metal plate and with northern light, is hard to capture.

© Hisao Suzuki
Perhaps the plan gives a better idea.

From AR

The picture does convey something of the harmony between the architecture and Soulages' work. RCR are good dance partners, playing the perfect supporting role.

I was lucky enough to coincide in Rodex with my old friend Hisao Suzuki when he was taking these pictures, and we rode back together to Barcelona, crossing Foster's Milau Aqueduct on the way.
Fade to Black 
Architectural Record
August. 2014

For a more personal view of the Pierre Soulages Museum, I add some of my own photos. They are best for showing details and an idea of texture and the effects of reflected light on the metal surfaces.

Here for example is the entry canopy, seen from outside and in:

The entry to the restaurant was across this very Japanese reflecting pool, enclosed in a screen. The over-sized gravel is basalt:

Sidewalks are edged with a thick flange of steel plate:

The stair rails are composed of three solid tubular bars of steel fused together:

 Can you see that? It fits perfectly into the hand.

Window frames -actually working structurally as well- are formed by paired plates of 6mm steel separated by a reveal:

The all-metal galleries receive a full blast of northern light through screened windows with window seats between the deep flanges that separate each pane of glass:

From this space, the high, white galleries are alluring sanctuaries:

One small complaint: the architect-designed toilets. If you need a sign indicating where to flush, something is wrong. Flush button completely hidden when seat is up. Maybe there are some things architects should leave to the specialists:

Finally, it was hard to get a good general view of the building. Here's a distant approximation from the other side of the park, and from the rear:

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