Thursday, May 10, 2018

Alberto Campo Baeza: Body and Soul

All photos © Javier Callejas

Sports Pavilion
University of Francisco de Vitoria, Madrid
db - deutsche bauzeitung
April 2018, pages 24 - 31; cover


Alberto Campo Baeza describes his gymnasium, built for the Legionaries of Christ's Francisco de Vitoria University in Madrid, as a "container of light," and he has submitted every detail of its design to the realization of this idea.

Large planes of translucent glass, which make up the upper sections of two of its enclosing walls, facing northwest and northeast respectively, flood the interior with indirect skylight.

Campo Baeza has muted all possible visual distractions in the interior, and finished every surface in white, in order to cede protagonism to the play of light across them. They receive and scatter the light, converting it into a spatial presence as palpable as the air itself. When we visited the building on a cloudy winter day, the interior seemed brighter than outside, as Campo Baeza proudly pointed out. The space collected and concentrated the light in a way that nothing around it could match.

The general massing forms a striking duality, in which the gymnasium and the narrow slab of the classrooms rise to the same height from either end of a common base.

This singular massing recalls the relation between Campo Baeza's Caja de Granada bank headquarters in Granada (2001), another "container of light", and his adjacent  Museum for the Memory of Andalucía (2010), where the low base ends in a spectacular, extenuated vertical slab at one end, which rises to the height of the bank on the other side, creating a conceptual spatial containment between them, although the two buildings are actually misaligned. Here the compositional idea is more condensed and conclusively realized.

Drawings courtesy of Albeto Campo Baeza

If there was something of the formal extremism of Boullée in the Museum in Granada, Campo Baeza also displayed a skillful use of stripped-down Beaux-Arts spatial organization in the plan, bringing to mind as well the compositional strategies of Post Modern proto-minimalists such as Aldo Rossi. We find these strategies here as well.

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