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Architect for ETSAB Barcelona. Associate Architect at Enric Miralles’s office from 1990 till 2000. Principal of award-winning practice Josep Miàs Architects in Barcelona since 2000, commited to research and experimentation, and new approaches to technology, fabrication and construction. Known worldwide for works such as Fontanals Golf Club, Banyoles City Center Urbanization, Barceloneta Market, 22@Plug-in Barcelona Building, iGuzzini Barcelona Corporate Building among others. Winner of national and International Awards highlighting International Stone Architecture Award, A+Architizer Award, Archdaily Building of the year Award, A+ Architecture Best Spanish Educational Facility Award, Catalonia Construction Award, City of Barcelona Architecture and Urbanism Award, Girona Architecture Award and Best young Catalan Architect Award. Shortlisted at WAF Singapore Best Building of the year Award. nominated at European Union Prize for Contemporary Architecture Mies Van der Rohe Award. And Finalist at Plataforma Arquitectura Work of the year Award, European Prize for Public Space, European Landscape Prize, Decade Prize, and FAD Award. Recognition for International Relevance by COAC and BarcelonaTech UPC. Works published and exhibited internationally in Barcelona, Madrid, Paris, Frankfurt, Zurich, Berlin, Kiev, London, São Paulo, Venezia and Singapore among others. Lecturer and Guest Critic in many International Universities and Visiting Professor at Städelschule Frankfurt and GSD Harvard Graduate School of Design Cambridge. Deputy Director and Architectural Projects Department Director at ESARq–UIC from 2004 till 2006. Currently Professor in Architecture and Urbanism at ETSAB Barcelona, Visiting Professor at UnISS Alghero and Unit Master of Diploma Unit 16 and Research Active at UCL Bartlett School of Architecture London.



Banyoles Winner of International Stone Architecture Awards Winner of Catalonia Construction Awards Winner of Girona Architecture Awards Finalist of FAD Awards Finalist of Urban European Priz­e for Public Space Finalist of European Landscape Biennial – Rosa Barba European Landscape Prize

banyoles old town, project by josep mias

Writings Stones, Lines and Hands of Time — Dorian Wiszniewski


Ground-Reuse-City — Massimo Faiferri


Banyoles, water and stone — Josep Miàs Territory


The squares of Banyoles — Josep Miàs















Stones, Lines and Hands of Time

by Dorian Wiszniewski Senior Lecturer at ESALA, Architectural Design, Theory and Criticism M Arch, PhD by Design, M Sc Architectural and Urban Design, M Sc Reflective Design Practices

The streets of Banyoles are paved with gold. Well, they are paved with a richness that is alchemy gold. This auric abundance is not entirely to do with the intrinsic delights of the local stone that lines both walls and ground and gives equal qualitative measure to both. The richness that flows through each thickness, over every surface and oozes from every repeating or deviating linear junction emanates from the materiality of time: the stone streets mark deep time, slow time, a long time; but they also register rhythmic time, recurrently giving measure to work time, play time, pass time, day time and night time. The scale of time evoked in these stone streets is both epochal and fleeting, ranging between body, city and region and between the time it takes for the algae clustering around calcium deposits in hot springs to become fossilised into travertine and the time it takes to cross carefully cut and dressed sheets of this stone as one goes about everyday life, for example, to buy bread or to retrieve the paper boat set adrift a bit further upstream in the rec in Plaça Major. There is immensity, intensity and density to these surfaces. These surfaces are deep. As much geological as archaeological, the layers of time embedded in this project are earth deep and human deep. I wonder how many stones make up the surfaces of the Plaça Major, Plaça dels Estudis, Plaça de la Font, Plaça del Teatre and the streets that connect them to each other? I wonder how many more are needed to complete the resurfacing of Banyoles? I hope they complete the project. What they have done so far is beautiful. The textures and surfaces are complex. There are many stones, and it is difficult to count them. As one follows their courses, the patterns change in shape, size and orientation. The stones seem to flow like water. They seem to flow like sand through the amalgam of varying shaped bulbs and narrow necks of a complex hourglass. I am minded of the scene in the Scottish film Local Hero, by Bill Forsyth, where an American businessman, interested in exploiting the natural resources of a beautiful landscape, offers to buy a strip of beach from a local. The local appears 14

primitive, a member of the local community but also on the edge (able to look both ways). He is a bit of a mystic. He lives in a ramshackle hut on the beach and scrapes a living from beachcombing. However, the American businessman makes the age-old mistake of equating primitive with unsophisticated. In the film scene two economic scales are played out. Two time scales are played out. The American fast track stock exchange business savvy meets its match in the slow Scottish rhythmical knowing that paces understanding to the flux of tides and seasons. To tell part of the story, after declining an offer of 5 miles of beach in Hawaii and 750,000 pounds in exchange for his Scottish beach, the beachcomber says to the businessman that he will accept a pound for every grain of sand he can hold in his hand. The beachcomber holds up his hand and after a second or two the grains stop spilling over the edges. This is a scene of contrasts, between age and youth, between relaxation and anxiety and between wisdom and naivety. The backdrop is the deep and fundamental time of the landscape. It is a scene that frames the importance of the association between time and sagacity. The hand filled with sand is an image of quantity, but of unimaginable quantity. Well, at least it is unimaginable to the American businessman who makes another fundamental mistake. He equates unimaginable with too expensive. The businessman loses the opportunity to pay much less for much more. The beachcomber sage uses his apparently hermetic knowledge not so much to trick the businessman, but to lay open the narrowness of the businessman’s understanding. The film scene, just as Banyoles, presents a judgement of value —not commodity value, or even usevalue. They both set scenes where judgements have been made of ecological and ecosophic value: the value of on-going correspondence between the environment, attachments of individuality and exchanges in social relations. The businessman in the Forsyth film is not so much a fool compared to the beachcomber sage, he is more a man ensnared, locked into too narrow

and too few lines of action and transaction which ultimately limit and entangle his imagination. He is unable to come to terms with what is unimaginable for him; however, it is a perfectly natural and simple equation to those that know what it means to work along different lines at different scales of time and place. It might seem that there are about 500,000 stones that make up the surfaces of the Plaça Major, Plaça dels Estudis, Plaça de la Font, Plaça del Teatre and the streets that connect them to each other. However, I think this would be an estimate borne of a similar limited understanding as the businessman in Forsyth’s film. Yet, it is not a crazy estimate; it is not without imagination. It is reasonable, if one is thinking in terms of richness. This project is clearly qualitative. It presents the same equation of immensity, intensity and density as the grains of sand in the hand of the beachcomber sage in Forsyth’s film. There are probably no more than 20,000 stones in this part of the project, just as many grains of sand in the beachcomber’s hand. I like to think of Banyoles as a Scottish beach and Miàs as exhibiting the same sagacity as the beachcomber savant in Forsyth’s film. The skills exhibited are fundamental. Miàs has immersed urban time not only in the deep time of the Banyoles landscape but also in the immeasurable or unquantifiable time of knowledge, manifest skill and work. Time can be illusive but it cannot be faked. Miàs and the extensive team of this project are not only working in time they are working with time. Their project achieves richness not by simply making the work a representation of time; they achieve it by embodying time through work. This is hand and mind work. It is worth taking the time to understand the virtues of time. Time is mathematical and cosmological. It is worth taking the time to draw out time. Miàs and his team have done this. They have done it in many ways and in many places. The time lines are in all drawings: from the sketch to working drawings, in maquettes, folded paper models, steel fabrications and in wood and stone assemblies. The stones of Banyoles are not all

cut by hand, but they are all drawn by hand at 1:1 and, ultimately, placed by hand. How many stones have been held in hand? How many hands have held these stones? Every line and cut in the drawings, models and stones of Banyoles emphasize (one might say underline) each other. For every stone there is a multiple of lines that have been drawn across them. However many stones we might imagine to be there, the equation of time embedded in them is greater. In time, many more lines will be drawn through the hands and minds of the users who move across the varying lineaments of the Banyoles landscape. A person who walks in time walks a line. The activity of drawing is a marking of time. A drawing draws out time. However, a drawing can remain active and the time it holds can remain dynamic. The lines of a drawing articulate paths of movement. It is impossible for a single drawing to hold all time and all movement. This is why good architects prepare many types of drawing and many series of drawings. Drawing is about being e ffective not simply about being efficient. Architectural plans, sections and elevations are active. They are plans of action. A drawing negotiates relationships. The lines of a drawing are lines of action. Some suggest drawings hold lines of flight, flights of fancy perhaps. A drawing is an active negotiation. In Banyoles there are negotiations between lines of paving and lines of trees, buildings, streets, plaças, walkways, roadways, waterways, excavations, accretions, inflections, reflections, sunrays, starlight, trenches, benches (metal, wood and stone), fonts, lights, shadows, stains, inclines, flows, falls, abutments, rises, metal strips, metal rails, metal mosaic, subterranean networks (of cables, culverts, conduits and channels), walls, caves, hills, holes, bridges (literal and phenomenal), openings (literal and phenomenal), wooden carpets, stone beaches, geology, archaeology, recs, and, of course, lines of people. This is an active landscape. It is not only people that go for a walk in this landscape. Of the many things walking a line in Banyoles the greatest is time. Banyoles is not only a great place to spend time it is a great place to find time. 15


by Massimo Faiferri Ricercatore in Composizione Architettonica e Urbana Facoltà di Architettura ad Alghero, Università degli studi di Sassari

Architecture is conventionally understood as something rather vertical, something that directs its energy upwards and tends to express itself though what is outside, in the open, what juts out of the earth. This approach simplifies the project by considering the ground as a passive horizontal plane whose only task is to provide support. However, any project for spatial transformation cannot help but establish a dialogue, even if it is one of contrasts, with the ground where it is located and contained. Through this exchange, which considers the earth a synthesis of “con-fusion” of the artificial and the natural, the project can engender new forms of development. From this perspective, the ground line, the line of intersection between the two planes of orthogonal projection, is transformed into an element of fundamental importance. In fact, it cannot only be considered a simple line that separates the upper and lower parts; it is essential to understand this line as a complex element designed to anchor or to link an “up” and a “down” by means of a “between”, which is the surface. In the course of the project, this line is distorted, articulated, transformed; becoming the instrument that shapes the space. This approach explores a mixed territory where architecture, sculpture and landscape converge, where the design of the ground and its limits are a crucial aspect of architectural thinking. The final result is concentrated in a hybrid space, a metamorphosis where the volume often becomes confused with the terrain, finally generating a new ground line. The ground may be considered as the platform where all human activities take place. Nevertheless, the surface is rarely dense enough. In fact, this element can be expanded both in height and depth, both upwards and downwards, by superimposing planes in an attempt to concentrate as much surface as possible in a single spot. On Philopappos Hill, near the Acropolis in Athens, the project designed by Pikionis serves to exemplify the importance of understanding 18

the existing physical relationships and absorbing the inherent complexity of the context during their development. There is no technological exhibitionism in this project but rather a simple topographical continuity. The meandering paved pathway, envisaged as a tapestry made up of irregularly laid stone, and complemented by the rhythmic presence of the benches, reinterprets the genius loci though a mythical narrative, while we wander with our eyes and bodies. “We rejoice in the progress of our body across the uneven surface of the earth and our spirit is gladdened by the endless interplay of the three dimensions that we encounter at every step. [...] Here the ground is hard, stony, precipitous, and the soil is brittle and dry. There the ground is level; water surges out of mossy patches. Further on, the breeze, the altitude and the configuration of the ground announce the proximity of the sea.”1 During the promenade, the silhouettes of Attica stand out against the dilated backdrop of the contemporary city, the shade of the olive groves, where paths interweave, is emphasized by the extraordinary light of the Acropolis, the stones, the potsherds and all the uncountable fragments used to pave the arrangement of pathways designed by Pikionis. Through their symbolic and mythological meanings, they constitute a unique “unfinished aesthetical diary” that uses a language both archaic and innovative. Pikionis’s work transcends the ordinary impressions related to aesthetics and function, proposing a promenade in which the ground surface is the founding element of the project. Josep Miàs’s paving of the old town centre in Banyoles seems to revive these themes, marking out the pedestrian zone that occupies the medieval part of the town. A series of seven channels coming from the lake carry water under the old town, crossing it at a lower level than the lake and continuing on into the countryside where the 1. Dimitris Pikionis, A sentimental topography, Architectural Association Publications, London, 1989

water is used to irrigate gardens and orchards. During the 20th century, these channels were gradually covered up and disappeared under the layers of the modern town. By revealing their routes, making them visible where they coincide with the street system, Miàs seems to be alluding to what Pikionis did on Philopappos Hill. Like an expert surgeon making precise incisions in the ground surface, Josep Miàs exposes a complex, articulated stratigraphy while also showing the underlying watercourses. This archaeological intervention recovers the original stratigraphy, reconstructs its history, or better said, reconstructs the remains of its history. A surgical operation is carried out where natural and artificial elements are mixed and confused. Like a text that condenses history, the varied ground surface, with its reliefs, folds, perforations and incisions, reinterprets the site to give new form to the historical singularity of the old part of Banyoles. The reuse of these places has not been prompted by a change of programme but by a deep change of urban atmosphere, an authentic metamorphosis of the existing space, where continuity and discontinuity coexist in a series of shapes, spaces and materials. The three-dimensional alterations and the character and nature of the project surface are proof of the complexity of Miàs’s approach to the multiplicity of the context. The geometry of the channels and the travertine paving —the only material used— determines the rhythm of the thoroughfares and squares on the horizontal plane. The watercourse gets wider close to the fountains and seeps into cracks in the pavement, which also serve to drain away rainwater. The sequence of squares and small wider areas in the streets is complemented by the situation of the street furniture, designed to harmonise with the pavement layout. Sensory and sensual qualities that are absent from much contemporary architecture have been retrieved in this pedestrianisation project. Reuse, in this case, restores the

meaning of the word “sense”, a key architectural concept from a philosophical and functional point of view. This work leads us directly to the philosophical concepts of Merleau-Ponty, which regard the human body as the centre of an experiential world related to the environment. The body is not only a potential subject of scientific study, but also the essential condition of experience because it represents the necessary opening to the world. The role of the human body is to be in the midpoint between perception, thinking and consciousness, where the senses acquire a particular relevance because they articulate, conserve and analyse sensorial responses and thoughts. Juhanni Pallasma stated that “The inhumanity of contemporary architecture and cities can be understood as the consequence of the negligence of the body and the senses, and an imbalance in our sensory system. The growing experiences of alienation, detachment and solitude in the technological world today, for instance, may be related with a certain pathology of the senses.”2 Children play in the water, sit on the edges of the paving stones and jump back and forth across the channels. The current popularity of the old quarter in Banyoles proves that the project resists this dystopian fate. By configuring an urban atmosphere that cannot be reduced to one sole spatial connotation, this project has proved capable of generating a collective experience through shared sensory perception. The oblique and vertical movements multiply and amplify the bodily, sensory experience, establishing an interaction with the physical and social environment. In conclusion, the project for public space in Banyoles has made it possible to rediscover forgotten landscapes through rhythms, sounds and foreshortened views of the town. 2. Juhani Pallasmaa, The Eyes of the Skin. Architecture and the Senses, John Wiley & Sons Ltd, Chichester, 2005


Banyoles is located in a very particular geological area. The city was established on a limestone plate (result of centuries of lacustrine material sedimentation), surrounded by aquiferous wellsprings and former volcanic areas.




Figueres Banyoles

Geologic plan


Old geologic formations Volcanic material deposit Travertine deposits Aquiferous wellsprings Banyoles lake Volcanoes Geologic fault


The connection between the lake and the canals is completely controlled with lock-gates from the old ages. The person in charge of this task was called the “water mayor� and was a reference person in town.






Plaรงa Major and Carrer dels Abeuradors



Plaรงa Major



Plaรงa Major and Carrer Born



Plaรงa Major





Although many projects are the result of the superimposition of a new reality on the existing one, this project is based in the synthesis, the discovery of the multiple layers which form the basis where the project is proposed. After this exploration of the soil and history, existing tools are used to redefine reality. This book, like a work notebook or a diary, puts together previous photographic and sketch-like material, plans, pictures and other complementary materials which allow to understand what ideas influenced the project. For this reason, it is something like an immersion in the processes which lead to the final project.

Winner of International Stone Architecture Awards Winner of Catalonia Construction Awards Winner of Girona Architecture Awards Finalist of FAD Awards Finalist of Urban European Prize for Public Space Finalist of European Landscape Biennial – Rosa Barba European Landscape Prize

Profile for Josep Miàs

Banyoles old town by MIAS Architects  

Although many projects are the result of the superposition of a new reality on the existing one, this project is based in the synthesis, the...

Banyoles old town by MIAS Architects  

Although many projects are the result of the superposition of a new reality on the existing one, this project is based in the synthesis, the...

Profile for josepmias