Sunday, March 22, 2015

Country Vernacular

The Architectural Review  sent me to a hilltop village in Catalonia to see small archeological museum by Barcelona architect Toni Gironès (story available to subscribers here). I was surprised that such an unspoiled place still exists - off the tourist trail.

Photos DC unless noted

From the first paragraph:
"Seró, the site of this center housing fragments of megalithic sculptures found nearby in 2007, is a rural hamlet of scarcely 75 souls located in the foothills of the Pyrenees."

Photo, Toni Giuronès webpage. All rights reserved
"In its isolation and its elementary urban condition, the settlement has provided Barcelona architect Toni Gironès with an ideal setting to re-examine the role of architecture in contemporary society: what sets a design apart from the merely functional agricultural buildings of the town, determined by brute necessity, and at the same time, what it can both take from and give back to those buildings, enriching our appreciation for their material qualities, structural strategies and relation to the cultivated landscape. By the same means, he explores how architecture might disentangle itself from popular notions of icon building and static representation, without losing its capacity to confer and extend the largess of deep poetic resonance."

Some of the agricultural buildings that inspire Gironès

Toni Gironès

The chamber housing the megalithic fragments, wrapped in layers of ceramic latticework, with a floor of packed clay and skylights over each fragment. 

Toni Gironès leaning on one of the skylights above the chamber

 In the bar and wine tasting room for local products, the same latticework is filled with empty wine bottles on the exterior walls. And filled ones on the interior walls. The bottles are corked in winter to create an insulating cavity, and a couple are removed entirely in the summer to create air currents.

 The roof is completely accessible, and enclosed in matts of rebar, with brick paving, including "gravel" made of broken brick

Toni Gironès

Toni Gironès

 The bits of glass on the upper plaza cover skylights for the exhibit space below, one for each vitrine housing artifacts found in the tombs.

Toni Gironès

Ramps connect the upper level with the ground. The last section of the ramp is made completely of rebar, which slips into the courtyard. The courtyard separates the bar and meeting room from the pavilion housing the steles.

The rebar, the oxidized colors everywhere -- it's a bit overwhelming and very rough. I found all the ceremonial circulation over-cranked. The suggestion of spaces conceived to promote social interaction seemed to me more promising, although the chamber housing the steles is a real tour de force.

Plan, lower level

 Sacred and Profane
Archeological Museum in Seró, Spain, by Toni Gironès
The Architectural Review, Volume CCXXXVII , Issue 1416
March 2015, pages 66 - 78

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Frei Otto: Tensile Force

Fotos by DC unless noted

Following up on the Pritzker Award to the late Frei Otto (see story here in The New York Times), I have unearthed my photos from a visit in August 2002 to his tensile structures for the 1972 Munich Olympics.

People talk about postwar German architecture in terms of transparency and lightness, how it backed off from the heavy monumentality of the Hitler years.

And yet Otto's different details for organizing and anchoring the cables supporting the tent structures are the most naked discourse in force --in this case tensile force, which we are not used to seeing-- that I can recall. Not exactly sweetness and light.

Across an artificial lake from the Olympic site, there was a large park with undulating hills made from the debris of the bombed city after the war. The views of the tent structures from there were spectacular.

More views:

Swimming pool hall, from a contemporary postcard