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UNIVERSITAT POLITECNICA DE CATALUNYA Escola Tècnica Superior d’Arquitectura de Barcelona MBArch Máster Universitario en Estudios Avanzados en Arquitectura-Barcelona Specialization - Contemporary Project End of Master Final Project: Light and Materiality to Experience Place Tres Turons Park Visitor and Day Center in Can Baró Neighborhood Author: Arch. Oscar Pita Wu Thesis Tutor: PhD Arch. Aquiles González Raventós Barcelona, July 2018


Light and Materiality to Understand Place



Senses, Perception, Human Experience, Specific Realism, Phe-

We live in a globalized world where life and communications go faster and faster. Even though this


has brought many benefits to our societies, it has also lead to a generic architecture in many cases, leaving behind the particularities of each place. Having these two things in mind: the globalized and connected world, and the cultures in particular geographic locations, the project of this thesis pretends to address these conditions as only one. It is common to hear in architecture about the spirit of the place, the essence of the place. It is perhaps the particularities of each location that help us identify these different “places”. First, we should understand what we mean by place and if it is, in fact, relevant for architecture nowadays. Some architects like Peter Zumthor for example, have utilized the metaphor of “atmospheres” to refer to this ever mystical “genius loci”. But then again, what is an atmosphere? How can something so abstract be described if it is an everchanging phenomenological experience? Along with Zumthor, two other architects that could be related to this “atmospherical” experience is Steven Holl and, even though these topics weren’t being addressed as architectural issues in his time, Sverre Fehn. Therefore, it would be interesting to analyze the project strategies in this three architects and try to understand their intentions and relate these to the final result in specific study cases. I always like to think under the scope of the speed of things. When we are traveling in a car at a high speed we tend to aim at a broader scope and perceive more general things. On the other hand, when we walk we focus in things at our hand, as first person not just as a spectator but being part of. This idea can also be applied in the world of architecture. The way in which we live nowadays forces us to work in different scales at the same time from which the building will be seen and from which it will be experienced. Perhaps this approach could help to project architecture that moves a broad audience and at the same time give a sense of belonging in a local scale.




Light and Materiality to Understand Place

RESEARCH QUESTION How can the concept of “Place” induce meaning in architecture in a way that fits an ever growing globalization in the world but at the same time respond to the particularities of a specific context? The chapters presented in this thesis will follow an order that will hopefully lead to an understanding of the approach in the proposed project. WHAT: Place WHY: Humanization of Architecture, physical and metaphysical, the verb and the noun WHERE: The Needs and Potential in the Can Baró Neighborhood in Barcelona HOW: Material, Technique, Light

HYPOTHESIS A material and tectonic sensibility brought to life by light can stimulate our senses to project an experiential architecture that creates awareness about the place we are in the World. Fig. 1 Diagram of Research Structure




Light and Materiality to Understand Place




5.1. A Projectual Strategy in Architecture 1. “PLACES”

5.1.1. Relation Between the City and the Mountain: Aerial View of the City, Eixample

1.1. Definitions of “Place”

5.1.2. Connecting Earth and Sky: The Bridge as an Inhabitable Horizon

1.2. Why do we need more “Places”?

5.1.3. Narrative: The Bridge as an Inhabitable Horizon

5.2. Programmatic Definitions and Placement on Site 2.


2.1. Genius Loci: Architecture of Phenomenology and Atmosphere

5.3. Floor Plans, Sections 5.4. Layers, Material Variations and Different Lights

2.2. Critical Regionalism: The Value of Place and Technology 2.3. Towards an Architecture of “Critical Atmospherics”





3.1. Locating Can Baró 3.2. History of the Neighborhood: Water, Quarry, Mountain, Bunkers, Barracks and ‘Masia’


3.3. Current Status of the Site: Needs and Potential 3.4. Urban Scale Proposal: Programmatic Strategy, New Entrance to Tres Turons Park 4.


4.1. Steven Holl: Nanjing Sifang Museum

4.1.1. Materials related to Site

4.1.2. Types of Light

4.1.3. The Narrative

4.2. Peter Zumthor: Thermes Vals 4.2.1. Materials related to Site

4.2.2. Types of Light

4.2.3. The Narrative

4.3. Sverre Fehn: Hamar Museum 4.3.1. Materials related to Site

4.3.2. Types of Light

4.3.3. The Narrative

4.4. Conclusions From Study Cases



Light and Materiality to Understand Place






Light and Materiality to Understand Place

PLACES To begin this research, it is of high interest to define the param-

cial sensitivity to their context. The reasons, as interesting as they

eters that limit our understanding a word as broad and interest-

could be, won’t be addressed in much depth in this paper and we

ing as “Place”. Even though the word has many connotations, we

will focus more in the strategies and application of this approach.

will focus on three of the main ones which come from different backgrounds: geographical, anthropological and philosophical.

“For centuries, Nordic architecture had a strong, clear and specific

The idea of this research is to understand the concept of “Place”

architectural context based on three important factors, which were

to create awareness that architecture is not only about creating

understood and accepted by the population of the region:

space; it is about creating space with a meaning, with character.

Climatic Conditions

How do we achieve this? Architecture is an interdisciplinary prac-

Potential of Place

tice, we must take into account the importance of different factors

Common Definition of Social Consciousness”1

and variables so that our buildings don’t only look good but also respond to cultural, geographical, historical, social, technological,

Together with the practical examples of architects such as Sverre

political, conditions among others. In this manner, the building

Fehn, we will also reference the theoretical approach of Finnish

answers to the people who are going to use it.

architect Juhani Pallasmaa and Norwegian architecture theorist Christian Norberg-Schulz. The last two, helped translate the very

Throughout recent history, some ideas drove modernity towards

local Nordic strategies to modern architecture, to an approach

radical approaches such as the “International Style” that tried to

that can be easily interpreted and applied to any part of the world.

establish precisely a “Style” that would work no matter the loca-

This approach is the importance of “Place”.

tion of the building in the world. The increase in connections and communication with different parts of the world with the rapidly evolving technologies made this idea don’t seem that weird, after all, the modern movement represented an ideology of freedom and practicality, an era of the machine which led precisely to ideas such as “la machine d’habiter”. The approach of this paper doesn’t intend to go against these ideas that helped shape the world we live in (as Post-Modernism did), but to see them in a critical point of view taking in account considerations that respond to demands of the contemporary World. For a reason, some parts of the world started making an own approach on Modern Architecture. In this research, we will reference examples of Nordic architects frequently since generations following Alvar Aalto as an important reference, developed a spe-


1. Fjeld, P. O., & Fehn, S. (2009). Sverre Fehn: The pattern of thoughts. New York: Monacelli Press. p. 11



Light and Materiality to Understand Place

1.1. Definitions of Place We can start by drawing from online definitions on “Place” and

As we can see in these definitions, all of them involves us hu-

the develop the topics further. It is interesting to point out that

man beings and this is the main difference from the word “Place”

the word has both a verb and noun connotation. This is of high

from “Location” or “Site” which sometimes are used as synonyms.

importance in architecture since we have to act in both as we,

When the human being becomes involved with words like loca-

even though might sound redundant, have to place buildings to

tion or site, then it acquires a new dimension as meaning or pur-

create places.

pose comes into place. So perhaps this ambiguity in the word so closely related to human interpretation is the link between creat-


ing “Places” in architecture and how these are at the same time


related to a personal human experience. So what for some reason is a place for someone, might not necessarily be to others. As


architects, even though we cannot create places for everybody, we can provide as much experiential possibilities as possible

noun: place; plural noun: places; noun: Place

that could make different people consider the same location as


a particular position, point, or area in space; a location.

a place.


a portion of space designated or available for or being

used by someone.

Now that we have a general idea about the concept of “Place”


we can develop some ideas following theories that question and

a position in a sequence or series, typically one ordered

on the basis of merit. 4.

study the way we inhabit the World.

a square or short street. The French Anthropologist Marc Augé has published consider-


able work about what “Places” are for human beings. For him, according to his writings in “Non-Places: Introduction to an Anthro-

verb: place; 3rd person present: places; past tense: placed; past

pology of Supermodernity” the space we inhabit can be separated

participle: placed; gerund or present participle: placing

in two categories:


put in a particular position.


find a home or employment for.

Places: “A space that is relational, historical and concerned with


identify or classify as being of a specified type or as hold-


ing a specified position in a sequence or hierarchy. Non-Places: “Anthropological spaces that do not hold enough significance to be regarded as a place”




Light and Materiality to Understand Place

Augé states that what he calls “Supermodernity” and the rapid

very weak. Very often “curtain-walls” are used which have an unsub-

communication a transportation that surrounds us these days,

stantial and abstract character, or rather, a lack of character. Lack

has led to the appearance of generic transition spaces that don’t

of character implies poverty of stimuli. The modern environment in

hold any meaning and are virtually the same everywhere in the

fact offers very little of the discoveries and surprises which make the

world. “The paradox of non-places, according to Augé, is that any-

experience of old towns so fascinating”4. If these were concerns

one can feel ‘at home’ in them regardless of their actual background

almost 40 years ago, then now that globalization has grown con-

because they are equally alienating to everyone” . Naturally, the

siderably, then it seems like it is a topic to think about, study and

way the world has developed nowadays has led to the existence

validate it or re-direct it according to the real conditions that have

of these so called “Non-Places” but now that they have been

developed in these decades.


identified, perhaps it is a good opportunity for us, architects to take conscience and design with a notion of also creating “places”

In both approaches from Norberg-Schulz and Augé, we can see

offering a globalized future but with awareness of the particulari-

that this idea of identifying “Place” is subjective because it involves

ties of each place and avoid a dehumanization of life.

the human interpretation and experience. We can relate this idea with the Heideggerian thought of “being”, how we as humans in-

Taking these ideas to architecture, architect and theorist Christian

habit the world and the idea of “dwelling”. To make more clear the

Norberg-Schulz constantly refers to the importance of “Place”.

concept of how a “Place” is made, we can borrow the “Picnic in the

“Spaces where life occurs are places, in the true sense of the word.

Park” example, from Unwin (1997, 15).

A place is a space which has a distinct character” . For him, each 3

location owns an essence, spirit, Genius Loci that gives it this “dis-

“All the series of small decisions made by the “picnickers” would be

tinct character”. In his experiential approach to architecture, re-

a choreography of small-scale place identifications. As from this

lated to phenomenological ideas, architects should interpret this

moment, this specific location will be reminded in the mind of the

special character so that when their buildings are materialized,

picnickers as the place of the picnic since probably some memo-

the harmony is maintained or enhanced.

rable moments would have taken place. If in case something funny, unusual or eventful happened then those involved would never

Even though the concepts addressed by Augé are more recent,

look at the same corner of the park in the same way”5. In Heide-

it appears that the thought and concern about place and identity

ggerian terms, the place wasn´t there before the picnic was. So

started gaining attention with post-modernity. This is why, more

gathering the ideas from this example, perhaps the architecture

than a decade previous to the publication of “Non-Places: Intro-

can help identify historic happenings or collective events. At the

duction to an Anthropology of Supermodernity”, Norberg-Schulz was already concerned with some of these ideas. “The character of the present day [1980] environment is usually distinguished by monotony. If any variety is found, it is usually due to elements left over from the past. The “presence” of the majority of new buildings is


2. http://www.oxfordreference. com/view/10.1093/oi/authority.20110803100237780 3. Norberg-Schulz, C. (1996). Genius loci: Towards a phenomenology of architecture. New York: Rizzoli. p. 5

same time, it shouldn’t work only as a memorial but also provide a platform for new things to happen, new personal places to occur for the new users of the building. At the same time, sometimes architecture also serves as a vehicle that connects the user with existing situations that perhaps people weren’t aware of previous-

4. Norberg-Schulz, C. (1996). Genius loci: Towards a phenomenology of architecture. New York: Rizzoli. p. 190 5. Sharr, Adam. (2007) Heidegger for Architects. Abingdon, Oxon: Routledge. p. 54



Light and Materiality to Understand Place

ly. In this particular example of the picnic, it is also pointed out that these places would be relative, existing only for the people who live the memorable moment. “Others, who maybe have cause to identify instead with other places in the park, could pass it every day with no appreciation of the picnic and the place that other people recognize ”6. Since Heidegger is going to be mentioned several times in the following chapters it is relevant to try and understand his concept of Place. Not only will Heidegger be mentioned, but the architects that will be used as examples often take Heidegger as a reference. On the one hand we have the picnic example that helps understand the selection of a Place. But what about a building becoming a Place. An example from Heidegger himself is the one

Fig. 2. Edouard Manet, Le Dejeuner Sur L’Herbe (1863)

of the Bridge. Heidegger says: “The bridge swings over the stream with case and power. It does not just connect the banks which are already there, the banks emerge as banks only as the bridge crosses the stream. The bridge designedly causes them to lie across from each other. One side is set off against the other by the bridge. Nor do the banks stretch along as indifferent border strips of dry land. With the banks, the bridge brings to the stream the one and the other expanse of the landscape lying behind them. It brings stream and bank and land into each other’s neighborhood. The bridge gathers the earth as landscape around the stream”. […] Before, the meaning of landscape was “hidden”, and the building of the bridge brings it out into the open. “The bridge gathers Being into a certain “location” that we may call a “place”. This “place”, however, did not exist as an entity before the bridge (although there were always many “sites” along the river-bank where it could arise), but comes-to-presence with and as the bridge” . The existential purpose of building (archi7

tecture) is therefore to make a site become a place, that is, to uncover the meanings potentially present in the given environment.


6. Sharr, Adam. (2007) Heidegger for Architects. Abingdon, Oxon: Routledge. p. 54

Fig. 3. Ponte Vecchio, Florence, Italy

7. Norberg-Schulz, C. (1996). Genius loci: Towards a phenomenology of architecture. New York: Rizzoli. p. 18



Light and Materiality to Understand Place

1.2. Why do we Need More “Places”? Part of the basic psychic functions of the human being are “ori-

de Steven Holl, Glenn Murcutt, Peter Zumthor, Elizabeth Diller y Ri-

entation” and “identification” if we follow a trend that leads all

cardo Scofidio, Tod Williams y Billie Tsien, entre otros”9. [There is

our habitat towards the same building and spatial formula, these

no doubt that one of the largest novelties and contributions in

functions will be lost. The idea of feeling part of a social group

the last twenty-five years in architecture is the progressive impor-

and identity are part of the basic relationships between man and

tance being given to the senses, the perception and human ex-

environment. As architects, we have the duty to keep on creating

perience. The tradition of Realism has evolved towards a Specific

spaces that not only respond to functional demands and needs

Realism of the Phenomenology of philosophers Edmund Husserl,

but also enhance our spirits and give meaning to our presence in

Maurice Merleau-Ponty, Edith Stein and Gaston Bachelard and

this world.

the existentialism of Martin Heidegger and Hannah Arendt. That has been conceptualized in the theories of Juhani Pallasmaa and

There seems to be an anonymous approach in architecture that is

Alberto Pérez-Gomez and has materialized in the work of Steven

already addressing this topic in architecture. As Norberg-Schulz

Holl, Glenn Murcutt, Peter Zumthor, Elizabeth Diller and Ricardo

states in the book “Genius Loci: Towards a Phenomenology of

Scofidio, Tod Williams and Billie Tsien, among others. Translated

Architecture”, “the symptoms indicate a “loss of place”. Lost is the

to English by the author].

settlement as a place in nature, lost are the urban foci as places for common living, lost is the building as a meaningful sub-place where

So if according to Augé, the Non-Places do not promote social

man may simultaneously experience individuality and belonging.

interaction and only accumulate or host passing-by individuals,

Lost is also the relationship to earth and sky” . Complementary to

then is the duty of the places to act as the opposite. Be places for

what was stated more than 20 years ago by Norberg-Schulz, now

the gathering, to feel identified and experience life. The concepts

Josep María Montaner already identifies this concern for place

related to place explained previously can be difficult to express

with some names that we have probably heard and praised lately

objectively since are related to personal experience. We can also

in architecture. It is perhaps a natural reaction from humanity to

add to the persons mentioned before, the British architect and

feel empathic towards the buildings of these architects who seek

theorist Kenneth Frampton and his development of the concept

an architecture that involves all the senses and not just the sight.

of “Critical Regionalism” as an approach rooted in an understand-

“Sin duda, en esta interpretación de los últimos veinticinco años,

ing of local conditions as a source of meaning in architecture.


una de las más grandes novedades y aportaciones en la arquitectura ha sido la paulatina importancia otorgada a los sentidos, a la

This leaves us with two approaches to the subject:

percepción y la experiencia humana. La tradición del realismo, ha evolucionado hacia el realismo específico de la fenomenología de


A metaphysical reading of the “Spirit of the Place”

los filósofos Edmund Husserl, Maurice Merleau-Ponty, Edith Stein


An understanding of local tectonics and conditions

y Gastón Bachelard y del existencialismo de Martin Heidegger y Hannah Arendt. Ello se ha conceptualizao en las teorías de Juhani Pallasmaa y Alberto Pérez-Gomez, y se ha expresado en las obras


8. Norberg-Schulz, C. (1996). Genius loci: Towards a phenomenology of architecture. New York: Rizzoli. p. 190

9. MONTANER, J.M. (2015) La Condición Contemporánea de la Arquitectura. Barcelona: GG. P.52



Light and Materiality to Understand Place

The first one is more related to the thoughts and writings of Norberg-Schulz while the second one to the thoughts and writings of Kenneth Frampton’s critical regionalism. However, we need to be careful with this approach since sometimes could be misunderstood and end up in a to historicistic result such as the ones from Post-Modernism whose intentions were similar to the position stated in the present text but didn’t take in consideration that time is not static. “A particular sense of place might make sense in terms of architecture but the problem arises when our understanding of what constitutes the local conditions for building is no longer dynamic but becomes fixed to certain interpretations or forms. If we connect the qualities of a certain place with our perception of identity, personal or national, we also inevitably start to create boundaries: Identity becomes fixed and exclusive. Life becomes static”10. In the following chapter, we will see both approaches in more detail since perhaps a solution that considers both could provide an answer that covers the drawbacks of each on its own. Sometimes it is not enough to have a building, to have a shelter or to have a space that suits the activities that are going to be hosted. In existentialist and phenomenological terms, we could talk about noun and verbs where the verb is the act of dwelling, the reason, the motivation and the meaning of being. On the other hand, we have the noun, the site or space itself. The verb is what immaterial feeling that drives the existence of the noun. “Heidegger’s papers developed a number of themes that he had explored in “The Thing”. He considered building and dwelling to be bound up intimately with one another. For him, these activities were related through people’s involvement with the things of “place”; and their attempts to make sense of place”11.

10. Almaas, I. H. (2010). Made in Norway: Norwegian Architecture Today. Oslo: Arkitektur N. p. 8-9 11. Sharr, Adam. (2007) Heidegger for Architects. Abingdon, Oxon: Routledge. p. 36



Light and Materiality to Understand Place






Light and Materiality to Understand Place

EXPERIENCING PLACE It is not strange to hear nowadays people talk about experience

I particularly like the way Juhani Pallasmaa starts his book of “The

in architecture or even atmospheres. The word atmosphere has

Eyes of the Skin” because it represents the essence of what is

been used so many times as a metaphor that it seems no longer

being mentioned in this research. Architecture is meant to be re-

as one. But what do we mean by atmosphere? If we try to un-

lated to men and we, as beings are gifted with senses. Pallasmaa

derstand it back as a metaphor, the real atmosphere is what sur-

quotes Borges in the first pages of the book saying that “The taste

rounds us, it changes, we are in contact with it every single mo-

of the apple… lies in the contact of the fruit with the palate, not in the

ment of our lives and we even absorb it inside our bodies every

fruit itself; in a similar way… poetry lies in the meeting of poem and

time we inhale. When we talk about atmosphere, we are talking

reader, not in the lines of symbols printed on the pages of a book.

about the experience of direct contact, of being completely sur-

What is essential is the aesthetic act, the thrill, the almost physical

rounded and touched by architecture. This closeness of archi-

emotion that comes with each reading”12. Jorge Luis Borges, Fore-

tecture with ourselves acquires a completely different tactile and

word to Obra Poética.

sensorial dimension answering the critics of the theorists who complain about the architecture that is designed to look good

The physicality of the encounter in this case of men with fruit can

in the photographs, websites and magazines. Being objective, if

also be applied talking about architecture. What differences ar-

we leave the philosophical and metaphysical beside, it makes

chitecture with, let’s say, painting, is precisely that. While in paint-

sense that architecture is meant to be projected that way. Repre-

ing different atmospheres can be recreated using different pig-

senting this side, we have the writings of Norberg-Schulz and we

ments to represent light and colors, they are static and just visual.

can sum Peter Zumthor and Juhani Pallasmaa. These individuals

In architecture, we have the element of time, and the atmosphere

would represent a more empirical and experiential approach to

is not represented but experienced.

Place, more linked to feelings and senses. On the other hand, we have the Critical Regionalism represented by Liane Lefaivre and Alexander Tzonis further developed by Frampton. Both of these approaches were born around the 80’s. In this case, the “Critical Regionalism” intends to overcome the idea of what plain “regionalism” means that can eventually isolate groups politically and socially or focus only on tradition in a local perspective. This, as we know, ends up as a culture stuck in time. By adding the word “Critical” the approach is to use the particularities and individualities of a specific site or group and project them into the future also allowing external inputs in a controlled manner. This could lead to new technologies and tectonics that provide inventive solutions while maintain an identity with its place.


12. Pallasmaa, J. (2014). The eyes of the skin: Architecture and the senses. Chichester: Wiley. P. 6



Light and Materiality to Understand Place

Let’s take as an example the Parliament Impressions of Claude Monet. These are a series of multiple paintings that Monet painted from the same point of view in the first years of the XXth Century. Even though they are all painted in the same perspective, they were all under different weather conditions in different times of the day. We could say that this is the closes painting can get to create an atmosphere. If painting can move us, be so delightful and sublime, then why shouldn’t architecture. In the case of archi-


tecture, the light is real, the pigments are replaced by materials


and instead of just seeing it, we inhabit it and experience it with


all of our senses. Offering multiple possibilities in architecture can lead to experiences that add meaning to our being in space and

Fig. 4. Claude Monet, Houses of the Parliament 1903, 1902 and 1904

time therefore creating places. Further in this paper we will see some examples from Holl, Zumthor and Fehn and try to understand how the approach of experience and perception can be applied in architecture.

ARCHITECTURE: LIGHT + MATERIAL + TIME = MULTI-SENSORY EXPERIENCE Fig. 5. Fehn’s Hamar Museum, Zumthor’s Vals Thermal Baths and Holl’s Kiasma Museum




Light and Materiality to Understand Place

2.1. Genius Loci: Architecture of Phenomenology and Atmosphere It is interesting to see how place and experience are closely related. We could easily replace the words “environmental character” in this sentence from Norberg-Schulz book for “atmosphere” and the sentence would make a lot of sense with the architecture of Holl, Zumthor, or any other contemporary architect who relates their work with a phenomenological approach. “What, then, do we mean with the word “place”? Obviously, we mean something more than abstract location. We mean a totality made up of concrete things having material substance, shape, texture and color. Togeth-

Fig. 6 Joseph Mallord William Turner, Rain, Steam and Speed – The Great Western Railroad (1844)

er, these things determine an “environmental character”, which is the essence of place”13. must acknowledge that “making of place is simultaneously a ma“Atmosphere is my Style” – J.M.W. Turner to John Ruskin in 184414 This

terial construct and a construct of the mind”16.

is one of the first phrases in the book “Atmospheres” from Peter Zumthor. Some 60 years before the Parliament paintings of Mon-

Since the goal of this research is to attempt to define a strategy

et, Turner was talking about atmospheres in a way of painting that

that materializes the abstract concept of “atmosphere” it is per-

we can relate to the Monet impressions. Again just by looking at

tinent to take reference in architects that are usually linked with

the pictures, we can imagine being there and feeling with all our

the approach. As mentioned in the previous chapter, the Nordic

senses. In “Rain, Speed and Wind – the Great Wetern Railway” the

architects developed a particular sensitivity to place their build-

name describes perfectly what we feel when we see it. I use the

ings in their environment be this urban or rural. The architecture

word feel instead of just seeing because personally whenever I

of “Erik Gunnar Asplund or Sigurd Lewerentz as representatives of

look at this painting, I feel I can almost taste the dust blown by the

Sweden would also qualify well to be studied within the phenom-

speed of the train. The interesting thing about experience is that

enological paradigm, as they expanded the modern architectural

past experiences or the knowledge we have acquired through-

sensibility to materiality, hapticity, emotionality and deep historical

out our lives also influence our perceptions so in architecture, the

resonance, and also their works emphasize the experiential dimen-

material selection doesn´t deal with the literal textures and feel-

sion rather than rationality or theory”17. If we pay attention to the

ing the material physically transmits but also how it behaves with what surrounds it. In fact, “the body is not a mere physical entity; it is enriched both by memory and dream” . 15

Even though it is interesting to establish these comparisons between the feelings we perceive in certain paintings and architecture, we must define how to materialize them in architecture. We


13. Norberg-Schulz, C. (1996). Genius loci: Towards a phenomenology of architecture. New York: Rizzoli. p. 6 14. Zumthor, P. (2006). Atmospheres. Basel: Birkhâuser, p. 3 15. Pallasmaa, J. (2014). The eyes of the skin: Architecture and the senses. Chichester: Wiley. P. 31

architecture of Lewerentz, and in particular the last churches he built in brick, the material is explored in many dimensions to the point that with one same material, he achieves different textures by adding more or less mortar between the bricks. We will see these kind of approach explored as well in more contemporary projects. This approach will be carried to next generations and be

16. Menin, S. (2003). Constructing place: Mind and the matter of place-making. London: Routledge. P. 1 17. TYRRELL, R. (2018). AALTO, UTZON, FEHN: Three paradigms of phenomenological architecture. LONDON: ROUTLEDGE. p. 5



Light and Materiality to Understand Place

2.2. Critical Regionalism: The Value of Place and Technology In a partially different manner, the approach stated by what is known as critical regionalism is the other way to experience and value place. As we mentioned before, the approach of Critical Regionalism is to value and experience place by recognizing the “value of the identity of a physical, social and cultural situation, rather than mindlessly imposing narcissistic formulas from the topdown”20. We might say that the Critical Regionalism stands as a more acaFig. 7 Sigurd Lewerentz St. Peter’s Church Interior, Klipan, 1966

demic manifesto opposed to the atmospherical approach around the “spirit of the place”. Even though this approach also sounds more as a scientific study since it focuses a lot in “social and cultural constraints of the particular, aiming at sustaining diversity”21 the interesting part is that at the same time is open to “benefiting from universality”.

Fig. 8 (left) Sigurd Lewerentz St. Peter’s Church Medium Scale Brick Detail, Klipan, 1966 Fig. 9 (right) Sigurd Lewerentz St. Peter’s Church Brick Detail, Klipan, 1966

for the human life, for their composition and proportions, illumination and views, materiality and textures, atmospheres, symbolic values and perception” . 19


for Architects” Adam Sharr points out that “Critical regionalism in

Dwelling Thinking” about a loss of nearness. For him too, this loss

rialization of these ideas have been placed under many different

would be “the search, definition and configuration of ideal spaces

ger and the idea of Being and Awareness. In the book “Heidegger

nis (2003). Frampton accepted Heidegger’s arguments in “Building

three architects (Aalto, Utzon and Fehn)”18. The progressive mate-

approach is what Josep Maria Montaner calles “Topofilia” which

approaches are born from the same set of thoughts from Heideg-

gger and has been discussed by Liane Lefaivre and Alexander Tzo-

ful means of creating atmospheres, and these are mastered by the

experience. One more definition to support the existence of this

be useful for the purpose of this research is the fact that both

architecture was made famous by Kenneth Frampton after Heide-

expressed as “Illumination and materiality are the two most power-

names or categories but in the essence it is about perception and

Another topic to point out about Critical regionalism that could

provoked alienation in contemporary life, distancing people un18. TYRRELL, R. (2018). AALTO, UTZON, FEHN: Three paradigms of phenomenological architecture. LONDON: ROUTLEDGE. p. 5 19. Montaner, J. M. (2014). Del diagrama a las experiencias, hacia una arquitectura de la acción. Barcelona, España: Editorial Gustavo Gili. P. 84 [Translated to English by the autor].

desirably from a sense of place and belonging”22. It is this search for sense of place and belonging what binds together both approaches to the experience of place. I would like to quote a segment of Paul Ricoeur from “Universalization and National Cultures” from the 1960’s, a time where Post-Modernism was already established as a counter attack to

20. Lefaivre, L., & Tzonis, A. (2003). Critical regionalism: Architecture and identity in a globalized world. Munich: Prestel. p. 11 21. Lefaivre, L., & Tzonis, A. (2003). Critical regionalism: Architecture and identity in a globalized world. Munich: Prestel. p. 20 22. Sharr, Adam. (2007) Heidegger for Architects. Abingdon, Oxon: Routledge. p. 105



Light and Materiality to Understand Place

the Modern Movement because I think represents the essence of

revive an old, dormant civilization and take part in universal civili-

what gives Critical Regionalism sense:

zation”. - “Paul Ricoeur, Universalization and National Cultures,” in History and Truth (Evanston, IL: Northwestern University Press, 1961),

“The phenomenon of universalization, while being an advancement


of mankind, at the same time constitutes a sort of subtle destruction, not only of traditional cultures, which might not be an irrepara-

It is important to consider when designing “above regional or na-

ble wrong, but also of what I shall call for the time being the creative

tional cultures must today, more than ever, be ultimately consti-

nucleus of great civilizations and great cultures, that nucleus on the

tuted as locally inflected manifestations of “World Culture””. This

basis of which we interpret life, what I shall call in advance the eth-

paradox is what in a certain manner have given life to approaches

ical and mythical nucleus of mankind. The conflict springs up from

to architecture such as the one of Barozzi Veiga with this apparent

there. We have the feeling that this single world civilization at the

paradox of the Specific and Autonomous architecture. While this

same time exerts a sort of attrition or wearing away at the expense

might seem contradictory at first, the ever changing world and

of the cultural resources which have made the great civilizations of

its inhabitants are also an important part of our design. It is no

the past. This threat is expressed, among other disturbing effects, by

longer logical to design thinking that things will remain the same

the spreading before our eyes of a mediocre civilization which is the

and be addressed only to local inhabitants. On the contrary, the

absurd counterpart of what I was just calling elementary culture.

design should be open for interpretation and for adaptation as

Everywhere throughout the world, one finds the same bad movie,

long as the building lasts. This in a way could be related to this

the same slot machines, the same plastic or aluminum atrocities,

“timelessness” which we, architects, like to talk about. The differ-

the same twisting of language by propaganda, etc. It seems as if

ent situations and conditions that we create in our projects lead

mankind, by approaching en masse a basic consumer culture, were

to different interpretations that could make different users from

also stopped en masse at a sub cultural level. Thus we come to

different background relate in a way to what they are living and no

the crucial problem confronting nations just rising from underde-

matter where he or she comes from, at least for a moment have

velopment. In order to get onto the road toward modernization, it is

this feeling of “being home” or in Heideggerian terms to “dwell”.

necessary to jettison the old cultural past which has been the raison

The purity and autonomy of volumes and geometrical shape can

d’etre of a nation?... Whence the paradox: on the one hand, it has to

receive different inputs from specific conditions each particular

root itself in the soil of the past, forge a national spirit, and unfurl this

site offers to eventually build its way to become a “Place”. It is of

spiritual and cultural revindication before the colonialist’s person-

special importance in placing these volumes on site, the relation

ality. But in order to take part in modern civilization, it is necessary

with them with the materials grasped from the spirit of the place.

at the same time to take part in scientific, technical and political rationality, something which very often requires the pure and simple abandon of a whole cultural past. It is a fact: every culture cannot sustain and absorb the shock of modern civilization. There is the paradox: how to become modern and to return to sources; how to




Light and Materiality to Understand Place

2.3. Towards an Architecture of “Critical Atmospherics” From what we’ve seen from both approaches, the phenomenological approach might seem to empirical and the critical regionalism sound too theoretical, after all, we are talking about experience so it might be interesting to try and achieve a balance between both. Now that we understand that in essence they are both looking for a similar outcome, we can combine some aspects from each and try to reach a mid-point. The outcome that seeks for the sensibility of understanding, reading and interpreting a site in order to create a place and the field work of documenting, understanding and studying the conditions, the culture, the social aspects among others that shape the particular place. We can make a summary of main considerations from both texts, “Atmospheres” by Peter Zumthor and the Critical Regionalism Chapter from Kenneth Frampton in “Modern Architecture, A Crit-

Fig. 8 Comparative Cross Diagram between two experiential approaches to Place

ical History”. Summary of Critical Regionalism: 1. Critical of modernization but refuses to abandon emancipatory and progressive aspects of modern architecture legacy. 2. Consciously bounded architecture 3. Architecture as a tectonic fact 4. Stresses site-specific factors from topography to local light across the structure 5. Emphasizes the tactile as much as the visual 6. Open to re-interpretation of vernacular and addition of elements from foreign sources 7. Flourished in cultural interstices Summary of Atmospheres by Zumthor: 1. Our bodies and architecture can actually touch each other 2. Materials react with one another and one same material has endless possibilities 3. Interiors are like large musical instruments 4. Temperature of spaces is something physical but can be psychological too 5. Objects people keep around them should be in mind when designing 6. Spaces can make you want to stay, pass through, redirect your way, etc. 7. Tension between interior and exterior 8. Levels of intimacy and scales 9. Where and how light fell, how it reacts under the light *Bonus - Building that becomes part of its surroundings - Coherence, everything related to everything else. The form reflects the place - The beautiful form, it has to move you


We can see from a direct comparison between both approaches the 4 aspects that are consistent: 1. Sensorial Experience 2. Material Sensibility 3. Relationship Between Materials and Light 4. Reading and Understanding of the Site The comparison reveals that among many considerations that help enhance the experience in architecture, there are 4 essential ones which coincidentally happen to be “Materiality and Light to Experience Place”.


Light and Materiality to Understand Place






Light and Materiality to Understand Place

3.1. Locating Can Baró The city of Barcelona is conformed by 10 districts Geographically speaking, the city of Barcelona is delimited by specific geographical features having the Besòs River to the North, the Llobregat River to the South, the Mediterranean Sea to the East and finally the Collserola Mountains to the West. The neighborhood of Can Baró is one of the 11 neighborhoods that belong to the district of Horta-Guinardó, located in the North-West of the city. In general, the topography of the city follows a slight slope between 2-4% towards the Sea. However, “the continuity of the platform between the two rivers is interrupted mainly in two large áreas. On one side, the presence of the reliefs “Serrats de la Rovira” that host a series of hills or “turons”23 in Catalan situated between the districts of Horta and Sarrià: turó de la Peira (138 m), turó de la

Fig. 10 Map showing the 7 “Hills of Barcelona”. Can Baró is located in the South-West of Turó de la Rovira

Rovira (261 m), el Carmel (267 m), la Creueta (249 m), el Puget (181 m) i Monterols (121 m)” . Historically exist the “seven hills of Barcelona” but some of them, especially the ones with the lowest altitudes, are now hard to notice. Among these 7 hills, there is a group of 3 called “Les Tres Turons” (Turó de la Rovira, el Carmel and la Creueta). The Neighborhood of Can Baró is located in the South-West skirts of Turó de la Rovira.

23. VENTAYOL, A.; PALAU, J. Y ROCA, A. (2002): “El Contexto Geotécnico de la Ciudad de Barcelona”. Ingeniería del Terreno. IngeoTer 1. U.D. Proyectos. E.T.S.I. Minas. U.P.M. Madrid.

Fig. 11. A Picture from Carretera de les Aigües Identifying some of the Hills in Barcelona

Fig. 9 Map showing the 10 districts of the City of Barcelona




Light and Materiality to Understand Place

3.2. History of the Neighborhood: Water, Quarry, Mountain, Bunkers, Barracks and ‘Masia’ Can Baró is a relatively unknown neighborhood in Barcelona but that doesn’t mean that it doesn’t hold an interesting history. We can divide its main features throughout its history in the categories mentiones in the title of this chapter: water, quarry, mountain, bunkers, barracks and Masia. Masia: As many of its nearby neighborhoods the origin of their existence

Fig. 12. Aerial satellite view of the Neighborhood of Can Baró with the remains of old quarry in the center

is due to the existence of a “Masia” a sort of country house in charge of a large portion of terrain. In the case of Can Baró specifically, the origins of its “Masia” date back to 1674 and its main function was, “as other “masias” in the area, agricultural, especially to the growth of wheat. The parcel division for urbanization though, would start around the 20’s of the past century”24 . Water: The neighborhood has had an interesting relationship with water throughout its history. First of all, the whole district of Horta-Guinardó hosts different historical fountains that provided water to the neighbors and even though none are in Can Baró, three of the 8 historic fountains are in the Turó de la Rovira Hill that limits the northern part of the neighborhood. The close relation of the

Fig. 13. The remains of the old Masia of Can Baró around which the whole neighborhood developed around the 20s

neighborhood itself with the water is due to the construction of an important water deposit in the year 1968. This water deposit was important not only for the neighborhood but for the whole city of Barcelona. The other important feature would be the Parque de les Aigues wich was also related to these water deposits and much of its extension was built in land that belonged from Can Baró. Bunkers: Another important feature in the neighborhood is the presence of the remains of bunkers in the top of the Turó de la Rovira. These


24. cat/horta-guinardo/es/el-distrito-y-sus-barrios/can-baro/historia-de-can-baro

Fig. 14. Many of the slopes of Turó de la Rovira we occupied throughout the XX Century by Barracks that lasted until the beggining of the 90s


Light and Materiality to Understand Place

were used to host canons to protect the city of Barcelona from aerial attacks during the Civil War in the 1930’s.


Fig. 15. A man stares at Barcelona comfortably from an improvised terrace in one of the barracks

Barracks: Throughout the XXth century, Barcelona received a continuous flow of immigration that resulted in the appearance of barracks in different points of the city. Turó de la Rovira became an important spot for the growth of these kind of settlements with almost no basic services with pretty precarious living conditions. These barracks especially around the end of Francesc Alegre Street and occupying the remains of the Bunkers lasted until the end of the 80’s and first years of the 90’s. Nowadays we can still find some remains. However, these are located in the area of a standby project called “Tres Turons Park” that intends to create a large urban park joining the three main hills therefore the future of these remains of what once were these barracks is uncertain. Quarry:

Fig. 16. Group of workers in the Quarry (1950’s)

In the area where Can Baró meets Turó de la Rovira, we can find the remains of old quarries that were in use until the 60’s. These were exploited mainly for the extraction of calcium but also provided some construction material for the buildings of Barcelona. We will pay special attention to this feature since the site of the architectural proposal in this research is located precisely in an area that was once occupied by one of these quarries.

Fig. 17. The process of extraction from the quarry of Can Baró (1950’s)



Light and Materiality to Understand Place

3.3. Current Status of the Site: Needs and Potential


Fig. 18. Flea Market Organized in one of the few spaces available that allow this possibility. Placa de les Pedreres

The neighborhood of Can Baró has been in an intense fight in the last years for the preservation of their few facilities and public spaces. The urban speculation and steep topography of the neighborhood led to compact blocks that even though aren’t very tall, they leave little free space for a life in community. The physical condition of the central square of the neighborhood, Placa de Can Baró, is very steep and with a large garden with historic trees. This condition doesn’t allow it to occupy the role of main public space the neighborhood needs. Nowadays, that role is occupied by an area that has been baptized as Placa de les Pedreres in memory that its location was also once one of these quarries. The remains

Fig. 19. Just a few meters behind Can Baró, the remains of the old bunkers and barracks in Turó de la Rovira have become a popular place to hang out for the young inhabitants of Barcelona

of the other quarry, located nearby the Placa de les Pedreres now host an improvised parking space for the neighborhood. Follow-up and current status of the District “Hoja de Ruta” – Consell de Barri de Can Baro, July 2014. Remodeling of the Tres Turons park to become one space for enjoyment for the neighborhood and a new point of interest in the city: -

Start and entrances of the park. Definition of projects:

batteries, accesses, Inland roads and communication of hills, arrangement of surrounding spaces (quarry, sports center, Casal Pirineus ...), C / Mühlberg. -

To convert the block that occupies the neighborhood

quarter of the “Casal del Barri Pirineus” as a zone of reference of equipment in the neighborhood, and planning with neighbors what services must be located (space for young people, the elderly, children, etc.). -

Study the construction of equipment according to a con-

sented plan that includes a nursery, center for the elderly, day center and social services. Habilitation and urbanization of the space that belonged to “Talleres Muñoz” as a green area, leisure space and playground as well as a “rock interpretation center” near the old quarry.


Fig. 19. The plan for the Tres Turons Park tries to convert the three main hills into a huge urban park. The area of Can Baró would need the relocation of some buildings but the neighbors demand more facilities and public space.



Light and Materiality to Understand Place

Potential: The need for facilities and public spaces the neighborhood demands and needs, present an interesting opportunity to intervene this empty and mostly flat space and the possibility to create a proper “Place” for the neighborhood. The idea of a project in this site would not only provide a new public space much needed by the neighborhood but also use the memory of the quarries, the barracks, the proximity of the old bunkers and the connection between the urbanized city and the remains of nature, but also provide meaning and identity; two aspects also needed by Can Baró to consolidate its presence as a community. It is interesting also to point out the fact that the site is located in what Kevin Lynch calls “Limit” in his book “The Image of the City”. These limits create irregularities that Lynch identifies as: Paths – Edges – Districts – Nodes – Landmarks For him, the architecture in these points is especially important as it is the intermediary that blends the transition between borders. If we go back to the definitions mentioned in previous chapter as the ones mentioned by Augé for example, we could see this site as following: Current Status Non-Place (“Anthropological spaces that do not hold enough significance to be regarded as a place”): a parking space in the old quarry facing the old bunkers. Potential Status Place (“A space that is relational, historical and concerned with identity”): a public space with facilities for the neighborhood creating awareness about the existence of the old quarry and a new entry point to access the Tres Turons Park and the Bunkers.


If we see the image from a broader perspective, the site has the potential to work in different scales. On one hand, it can be a new possibility of access to the Bunkers which are becoming a popular place frequented by young people and tourists with views of the city and the sea. Nowadays people usually access through el Carmel neighborhood behind Turó de la Rovira or through Carrer de Mühlberg from the West. The idea would be to re-activate the Neighborhood of Can Baró offering the possibility of a transitional experience from the city to the Tres Turons Park. This would be enriched by an Interpretation Center and Visitor Facilities. On the other hand, the project would also host facilities that would serve the neighborhood itself working also in a more local scale. This duality will bring life to the public space promoting social and cultural activities and exchange.

From Top to Bottom: Fig. 20 The sudden appearance of the hills separated from Collserola offers the opportunity of a 360 panoramic view of the city Fig. 21 Kevin Lynch states in “The Image of the City” that where the regularity of the city is interrupted, opportunities for good architecture projects are born. Fig. 22 The potential of the old quarry in Can Baró of transforming from a Non-Place to a Place according to Augé’s Definitions.


Light and Materiality to Understand Place


3.4. Urban Scale Proposal: Programmatic Strategy, New Entrance to Tres Turons Park The proposed project seeks not only to intervene the site itself but create a “Place” that involves a higher radius of influence and the rest of the Can Baró Neighborhood. It is important to think architectural projects not only within the borders of its site but thinking that the project is part of a larger whole. The existing situation in the neighborhood somehow isolates itself from the rest of the city maintaining the street population mostly local. Bringing a controlled openness of the neighborhood to the rest of the city can make the environment feel more integrated but at the same time maintain the essence and spirit of the neighborhood. The strategy would be to work the access to the proposal through peripheral and broader streets acting in a way

Fig. 23 Plan showing the urban morphology of Can Baró. Pointing out the main public transport stops and access as well as main facilities, services or historical landmarks.

as connectors between the city and Can Baró. The inner streets and capillaries would be mostly used by local inhabitants to reach their business or home. Besides socio cultural benefits brought by a higher pedestrian count in some streets, the neighborhood could feel more secure and could also benefit economically by a larger income generated by visitors from other neighborhoods, communities or even countries. The Experience Start from the Streets: As for the project itself, the idea is that the experience instead of starting in the Tres Turons Park or the Bunkers, blends with the way of getting there creating a journey and not only a destination. The diagram shows the sequence of spaces and facilities that would be found in the proposed alternate route to get to the bunkers. The proposed project itself, would act as a link between the built environment and nature. It is a place to get informed, to learn, to eat, to read, to buy and most important, to make a pause

Fig. 24 Existing access to the Bunkers del Carmel usually avoid going through Can Baró. The proposed access route offers a new possibility contemplating a richer experience.

and be aware about the place.




Light and Materiality to Understand Place

The proposed building will include the following: - Day Center and Library - Cafeteria / Restaurant - Small Supermarket - Visitor Center - Multipurpose Room - Picnic area and Park - Urban Garden and Orchard - Interpretation Center of the Tres Turons Park - Urban Elevator - Public Plaza Fig. 25 Proposal contemplates a series of stops in the route towards and from the bunkers offering services and new experiences to the visitors.

As a general intervention plan, these architectural program could provide the site enough tools to be developed further as a proper “Place” for dwelling. As Eduard Bru points out in his book Three on the Site, photographer Manolo Laguillo pictured the situation of an area of Barcelona whose identity is still in development. The pictures show the following: - The new city scales. Over the first scale of the old nucleus and the second scale of the Eixample, we could now speak of a third city scale which must be understood and mastered: it it precisely this that the photographs reveal.







- The void as a specific value of this new city character, determined by new relationships between spaces, time and forms of occupation. - The struggle involved in the transition from the laws of the “natural” to those of the “artificial”. The transformation, confirmation or counter position of physical characters and meaning that this brings and which we shall examine now25. With the previously stated intention, we should try to reach a proposal that hopefully contributes to continue this process of consolidation of the relationship between the city and its mountains and hills.


25. Bru, E. (1997). Tres en el lugar = Three on the site. Barcelona: ACTAR p.48

Fig. 26. Sequence of the route from Placa de la Font Castellana Towards the Bunkers del Carmel. 1. Street view from PLaca de la Font Castellana. 2. Placa de les Pedreres 3. Old Quarry Site in Can Baró 4. View from the First Plateau 35m above the ground level in the quarry 5. Stairs from Carrer de Muhlberg to the Bunkers 6. View from the Bunkers


Light and Materiality to Understand Place





Light and Materiality to Understand Place


ARCHITECTURAL EXPERIENCE THROUGH MATERIALITY AND LIGHT In this process of creating a “New Place” for the neighborhood of Can Baró, we have already established a large scale strategy with an intention to create an experience. But thinking in architecture itself, in the building, how do we achieve this experience about place? In this chapter three projects from three architects related to an architecture of the senses, experiences and value of place will be analyzed. For practical reasons, we will use the topics we found in common between the two approaches of experiencing place; one by Frampton and the other one by Zumthor. The focus in the analysis of these projects will center around the materiality strategies as well as intentions related to light. This will hopefully lead us to some conclusions that could be compared then with the proposed project for the old quarry in Can Baró. It is also important to note that in the process of analysis, the theme of the narrative came as an important element to consider since many of the luminical and material intentions came out reinforced with a set of metaphors that created the connection with the spirit of the place the connection between the physical and metaphysical. Whether the relationship between the physical built environment and the motifs or metaphors used by the author are clear or ef-

Fig. 27 Image Collage in the Style of artist Gilbert Garcin to represent Maison Fargues from architect Jacques Hondellat. Collage made by the author for “All Scales of the Project” subject. Materials: Rocks and Broken Glass

fective is a subjective appreciation that for practical reasons will be left uncommented. What is valuable in this analysis is to understand the intention of following a narrative and materializing these ideas into an intentional selection of materials and the effects they generate interacting between them or with the light.




Light and Materiality to Understand Place

4.1. Steven Holl: Nanjing Sifang Museum (2010) Steven Holl is an architect whose approach to architecture is well known and has been of reference to many architects and architecture students from around the world. From the very beginning of his carreer he has used the “watercolor drawings to foresee the effects of natural light so that the interior spaces are perceived, felt, smelled, have temperature and color”26. Holl has always been

Fig. 28 Steven Holl Watercolor Sketch For Kennedy Center Expansion

linked with the writings of Pallasmaa, they are both colleagues and friends and have even collaborated in some publications. Holl’s work is characterized by an intense study of natural light and together with his watercolors, many models are made to see the effects that natural light produces on interior spaces. His approach allows the “embodied experience of the inhabitant to oscillate between, and integrate, the intimate scale of tactility to the immense scale of topography”27. If we see Steven Holl’s watercolors, especially the first ones for each project, we can always find a concept that relates the projectual idea to the site it is located in. The source of inspiration

Fig. 29 Steven Holl Watercolor Sketch For Nelson Atkins Museum Expansion

can be a poem, music, a geographical feature, objects, but it is always born from the place. It is especially interesting to see how close the first sketches of each project end up being almost identical to the final built result. It is this relationship to place what is or greatest interest of his inclusion in this research paper. “Quote Steven Holl 2007: Architecture is bound to situation. Unlike music, painting, sculpture, film and literature, a construction (non-mobile) is intertwined with the experience of place. The site of a building is more than a mere ingredient in its conception. It is the physical and metaphysical foundation”28.

26. Montaner, J. M. (2014). Del diagrama a las experiencias, hacia una arquitectura de la acción. Barcelona, España: Editorial Gustavo Gili. P. 111 27. McCarter, R., & Holl, S. (2015). Steven Holl. Berlin: Phaidon. P. 189 28. TYRRELL, R. (2018). AALTO, UTZON, FEHN: Three paradigms of phenomenological architecture. LONDON: ROUTLEDGE. p. 143


Fig. 30 Steven Holl Watercolor Sketch For Sifang Art Museum



Light and Materiality to Understand Place

Fig. 31 Exterior view of the museum with the bamboo in the first layer of the image and then the bamboo formwork concrete in the back

4.1.1. Materials related to Site The materiality of this project consists in a small range of materials and is basically divided in two parts that respond to the conceptual interpretation of the project. In the bottom part, heavy and mass oriented walls appear to rise from the ground itself as if they were part of the mountain where it is located. On the other hand, the main gallery spaces rise to the air in a light polycarbonate structure that appears hovering above the site. The effect of duality intended here is also expressed in the materiality. The ground floor volume is “is enclosed by black-stained concrete walls whose distinctive horizontal concave striations resulted from their being

Fig. 32 Color and texture of the bamboo formwork concrete

cast into formwork made of bamboo that grew on the site before construction”29. Using bamboo that actually came from the site itself creates a metaphysical connection that makes stronger the idea that the walls of this part of the project rise from the ground itself. The bamboo used in the formwork doesn’t only represent the local flora but is also a material typically used in Chinese construction for centuries. The use of a traditional material in an unconventional and contemporary way creates a connection that transcends time.

Fig. 33 Reused bricks from demolished sites used as pavement. Reintepretation of the Hutong chinese tradition.

Following a similar idea of reinterpreting traditional techniques, “the angled, Z-shaped garden walkways and entry plaza at the top of the garden are paved in bricks from “hutong” courtyard houses in the center of Nanjing that were destroyed to make way for new construction”30. This is an approach that has also been used by Wang Shu and his Amateur Architecture Studio in different projects. This idea of recycling materials from demolished buildings is a reinterpretation of a local Chinese tradition.

29. McCarter, R., & Holl, S. (2015). Steven Holl. Berlin: Phaidon. P. 253 30. McCarter, R., & Holl, S. (2015). Steven Holl. Berlin: Phaidon. P. 255


Fig. 34 Meeting point of the polycarbonet volume and the rooftop garden of the groundfloor building.



Light and Materiality to Understand Place

Fig. 35 Interior of the main gallery filled with white filtered light. Opening in the corner frames a view from the exterior on every turn.

4.1.2. Types of Light In most of Holl projects, there is an intense focus on the light will fill in the interior spaces. This approach is usually directed natural light or light entering through specific openings. This is one of the few projects from Steven Holl where this isn’t the case. Still there are some interesting luminical effects worth noting. In this project the effects of natural light are focused in the galleries that hover up in the sky while the volumes in the ground floor are lit by few openings and 10 regularly arranged skylights.

Fig. 36 Interior of the main gallery filled with white filtered light. Opening in the corner frames a view from the exterior on every turn.

Focusing in the light in the ground floor, while there aren’t particular light effects in the interior of this part of the building, the effects come this time on the exterior. The texture achieved with the bamboo formwork allow the building to work in two different scales. The black color of the basement, makes the building blend with the shadowy bottom part of the forest that surrounds the building. When one is close by, the texture creates a pattern of light and shadow that makes the existence of the building more apparent. This sequence of small shadows isn’t large enough to be identified from far away but from nearby it gives the building a tactility that gives a human scale to the otherwise large building. As for the upper part, which hovers more than 10m above the

Fig. 37 Interior of the lower gallery with skylights

lower volume, it is all covered in white polycarbonate and hosts only gallery spaces. The “bright filtered daylight coming through the polycarbonate outer walls provides generous illumination of the artworks on the inner plaster walls and on the floor, bathing the floating gallery in ethereal white light – as if we were inhabiting a cloud”31. The duality that exists in the whole building is also present in the floating gallery volume. While in the day, the hovering volume acts as a light captor, in the night it is a huge lantern as a light emitter.

31. McCarter, R., & Holl, S. (2015). Steven Holl. Berlin: Phaidon. P. 253


Fig. 38 The upper gallery volume lights up as an urban lantern in the night



Light and Materiality to Understand Place

Fig. 39 Relationship of the museum with the immediate surroundings. Some houses built in front and nature in the back

4.1.3. The Narrative As is usual in the work of Steven Holl, there is always some kind of inspiration from the local culture or something specific from the site. In the case of this project, “Holl also subtly interpreted the shifting viewpoints, parallel layers of space, and expanses of mist and water in Chinese paintings, as well as the way in which the viewer is drawn up into the clouds at the tops of the mountains�32. However, perhaps the most important conceptual part of this project is the hermeticity and introverted conception. The spatial

Fig. 40 From some points of view, the volume appears floating over the trees

sequence is entering an enclosed gallery space lit from skylights. After rising through a closed elevator shaft, there is a sequence of 4 galleries that turn around 90 degrees on each corner. The polycarbonate covered galleries only have small openings in these turns and due to the order of the sequence, the first 3 openings have views that focus on the surrounding trees in the mountains. In the final view, the opening occupies the complete pane and now the view is directed towards the city of Nanjing that appears timidly visible in clear days. This sequence and conception for the galleries allow the visitor to concentrate his focus on the actual pieces of art. The small openings looking towards nature create

Fig. 41 The light passing through the polycarbonate and hitting the bamboo formwork wall revealing its textures

a connection between man and environment and the final view opens towards the city creating a virtual connection with it.

32. McCarter, R., & Holl, S. (2015). Steven Holl. Berlin: Phaidon. P. 253


Fig. 42 the final framed view of the spatial sequence directs the view towards the nearest largest city, Nanjing.



Light and Materiality to Understand Place

4.2. Peter Zumthor: Thermes Vals (1996) Peter Zumthor has been a reference in the architecture of experience and perception not only for his writings but also, and mainly for his buildings. His approach and care about the projects he designs has led him to carefully choose if he thinks he will be able to perform or not. His work is “about craftsmanship and industry, sensory perception and reason, subjectivity and concept, nature and technology”33. In this chapter we will see one of the projects that put him under the radar internationally: The Thermal Baths in Vals, Switzerland. In some of his books, Zumthor quotes Fig. 43 Peter Zumthor’s conceptual sketch for the project of Vals

from Heidegger’s “Building, Dwelling, Thinking” making evident his fondness to Heidegger’s approach, the importance of awareness, being, presence, topics already discussed in the previous chapters of this research. This approach has led Zumthor to a very tactile approach in architecture. The careful selection of materials for each project is also reflected in the way his buildings are built and crafted. Perhaps this is because “Zumthor builds the models of his projects with the same material in which the building will be built to experience the transition from matter to material and from material to shape and space”34. Having had the opportunity to see some of his models during the Venice Biennale 2018, the rock itself was cut and polished or finished in a similar way it would be

Fig. 44 Physical model using real stone

intended to be built. It doesn’t matter if the material is strange, the variety of the materials used was impressive. Wax, resin, acrilic, wood, marble, concrete, earth, just to mention a few.

33. Montaner, J. M. (2014). Del diagrama a las experiencias, hacia una arquitectura de la acción. Barcelona, España: Editorial Gustavo Gili. P. 113 34. Montaner, J. M. (2014). Del diagrama a las experiencias, hacia una arquitectura de la acción. Barcelona, España: Editorial Gustavo Gili. P. 113


Fig. 45 Study of natural light with the model



Light and Materiality to Understand Place

4.2.1. Materials related to Site For Zumthor, the sensory aspect is fundamental in his projects. He thinks not only about how his buildings will look but also how they will feel. “To him, the physicality of materials can involve an individual with the world, evoking experiences and texturing horizons of place through memory. […] Here he echoes architectural practitioner and writer Juhani Pallasmaa who argues that, in a world where technologies operate so fast that sight is the only human sense which can keep pace, architecture should emphasize other senses which remain more immediately resonant (1966)”35. Something very important to note is that he is always thinking about this tactility in different scales. Since perception and the senses are a personal interpretation, he tries to achieve a more general perception of the buildings with the environment they are located in and then when each individual experiences the building from a closer scale, the details also allow an experience but in a more personalized way. In the Vals Thermal Baths we can see that his use of stone cladding in a concrete structure has many different textures and dimensions. Even though it is the same material, it has been cut, polished, roughened, etc. and each of the finishes is related to a specific use in the building but, here is the important part, it is not only adapted to respond to the specific use, but at the same time is intended to transmit a kind of feeling, a meaning. In the same way as Holl, it is about the physical but also has to do with our

Top Left: Fig. 46 The aspect of the concrete changes with time because of the reaction with other materials.

minds, what each of us can perceive. In the project of the Thermal Baths, Zumthor states that “they were still working with two or three different kinds of stone and a palate of additional materials and colors; then, in the end, we settled on a single kind of rock: the indigenous gneiss of Vals”36. This decision led to the possibility of exploring all the possibilities that that one kind of rock could offer. The fact that the stone was from a local quarry also helps rooting the project in the site. Even though the building stands as a regu-


35. Sharr, Adam. (2007) Heidegger for Architects. Abingdon, Oxon: Routledge. p. 92 36. Zumthor, P., & Durisch, T. (2014) Peter Zumthor: Buildings and Projects 1985-2013: Volume 2 1990 –1997. Verlag: Scheidegger und Spiess AG. P. 39

Top Right: Fig. 47 The aspect of the brass changes with time because of the humidity. Bottom Left: Fig. 48 Different finishes for the same stone cladding give different lighting perceptions Botom Right: Fig. 49 The same stone with two different finishes



Light and Materiality to Understand Place

Fig. 50 Interior light in the Therme Vals

lar volume opposed to the rugged lines and curves of the topography, it stands out as a monolithic volume that appears to have been carved to be inhabited. In that way, it relates to its surroundings in a large scale. It is only from the inside that, according to the pictures shown in this paper, different subtle effects are achieved.

4.2.2. Types of Light But the sensorial experiences isn´t only limited to a material ex-

Fig. 51 Interior light in the Therme Vals mixed with artificial light

pression. As the pictures that follow show, it is this same material treated in different finishes that also reacts differently under different lights. The experience designe by Zumthor in this case, worked with the dramatics of natural light coming from above through thin slits in the roof. “Sunlight trickles in through narrow slits or through the gaps we left open between the stone slabs of the ceiling. Daylight and landscape images flood giant windows, giving shape and texture to the surfaces of stone and water in the changing light of days and seasons”37. The programmatic nature of the proposal also led to a consciousness about the artificial light.

Fig. 52 Interior light in the Therme Vals with different textures in the walls

Many times, when we talk about light in architecture, we refer to natural light. Artificial light is also a tool that should be taken in account when needed. It will always depend in the intentions that the project demand. In the case of the more intimate conditions of the facility, “Users enjoy water not only at various temperatures but in different spaces and conditions: in bright light, darkness, and twilight, or standing in shadow and looking into the brightness of a colorful, illuminated landscape”38. The talent of the architect would then lie in the ability of deciding when each kind of light is needed or if there is the case combining them.

37. Zumthor, P., & Durisch, T. (2014) Peter Zumthor: Buildings and Projects 1985-2013: Volume 2 1990 –1997. Verlag: Scheidegger und Spiess AG. P. 39 38. Zumthor, P., & Durisch, T. (2014) Peter Zumthor: Buildings and Projects 1985-2013: Volume 2 1990 –1997. Verlag: Scheidegger und Spiess AG. P. 39


Fig. 53 Interior light in the Therme Vals coming from elevated window



Light and Materiality to Understand Place

4.2.3. The Narrative Something interesting we can note both in the work of Holl and from Zumthor is that many times, the buildings seem thought from the inside. The luminical and sensorial conditions spark a feeling or mood that would then be translated to the rest of the project. In the case of the Thermal Baths, “The design from inside to the outside was central to the concept. We dreamed of a kaleido-

Fig. 54 Exterior view of Therme Vals

scope of room sequences, affording ever new experiences – to the ambling, curious, astonished, or surprised visitor. Like walking in a forest without a path. A feeling of freedom, the pleasure of discovery”39. The project is part of a hotel complex and it uses the topography and sinks to be almost imperceptible from the hotel that sits higher up the slope. This plot went together with the idea that the project would be born from “great blocks of stone in the water as if they were in a flooded quarry”40. There is a lot of value in the approach Zumthor has always the site in mind and parting from this idea try to establish a dialogue between the building and its surroundings. In the thermal baths, the project has to do with hot springs and water, mountains and stone. It is this close relation between stone and water what finally brings the project close by

Fig. 55 Winter exterior view

to the essence of the place.

39. Zumthor, P., & Durisch, T. (2014) Peter Zumthor: Buildings and Projects 1985-2013: Volume 2 1990 –1997. Verlag: Scheidegger und Spiess AG. P. 40 40. Zumthor, P., & Durisch, T. (2014) Peter Zumthor: Buildings and Projects 1985-2013: Volume 2 1990 –1997. Verlag: Scheidegger und Spiess AG. P 39.


Fig. 56 View from above



Light and Materiality to Understand Place

4.3. Sverre Fehn: Hamar Museum (1980) Sometimes it appears as if Sverre Fehn is an architect who deserves more attention. Perhaps it was his relatively low profile which resulted in few publications. Even though when Fehn developed his career, this phenomenological and atmospherical discourse clearly and openly expressed by the two previous architects didn’t exist, when we look at his architecture, it is evident that we could fit him in the same group. His former collaborator and friend Per Olaf Fjeld expresses that “What interested him most in terms of space was the relationship between material and light”41. Also, in a similar way to Carlo Scarpa, Fehn always approached each detail with special care. In the case of his museums, he even thought about the way to present each of the pieces and that the place they are located and the platform to showcase them followed the same narrative than the rest of the building. We could even say that Fehn wasn’t just an architect, he was also a story teller. His architectural approach seemed to always be driven by a material duality. On one hand, the material as mass, born from the ground most often represented by concrete and on the other hand a more precise material that often represented its tectonics and assembly, most often represented by wood. “Each material’s characteristic worked towards a specific light and spatial presence”42. In the case of the Hamar Museum in Hedmark, one of his most renown and documented projects, he had to work within a pre-existing building in ruins. In difference to the previous projects shown in this chapter, whose relationship with the place was with more with the surroundings, the Hedmark Museum presented a challenged that had to be approached from within.

41. Fjeld, P. O., & Fehn, S. (2009). Sverre Fehn: The pattern of thoughts. New York: Monacelli Press. p. 47 42. Fjeld, P. O., & Fehn, S. (2009). Sverre Fehn: The pattern of thoughts. New York: Monacelli Press. p. 47


Fig. 57 Sketches of Sverre Fehn show his way of seeing the world and architecture



Light and Materiality to Understand Place

4.3.1. Materials related to Site

Fig. 58 Interior view of the Hamar Museum

As the previous architects Holl and Zumthor, site was of most importance to Fehn. The material and light were only a vehicle to express the ideas that followed a Heideggerian approach and a sensibility towards “Place”. “A central element to Fehn´s architecture is particular response to the particular place. In this sense site is for Fehn an element of chora that signals the possibility of becoming, revealing the place to itself and to us. In the Hedmark museum project, the site is the existing stone barn and Fehn’s intervention is conceived of an insertion that reveals the stone-ness of the stone

Fig. 59 Existing openings in the ruins are left in their irregular shape and covered with large glass panes

and the barn-ness of the barn”43. Fehn always had a preoccupation not only to place the buildings with a lot of sensibility but his approach many times tried to put in evidence situations that were already happening there before. Then, thanks to the added architecture, or by an intervention of the site, try to create an awareness of situation in the most realistic way possible. If we go back to this idea of the material duality between the concrete and the wood, we could also relate it through the eyes of Gottfried Semper as a duality between the stereotomic and the woven. “The stereotomic elements are given the expression through

Fig. 60 The concrete lets the pre existing materials appear more evident

stone, brick and concrete, which appear as carved platonic solids. The woven is the narrative of timber and glass, the warp and weft of the weave”44. Frampton himself also acknowledges in his texts about critical regionalism as an architect that couldn’t be ignored if we talk about the importance of place or the topographic. In a similar way to Semper, he identifies the dialectic in the work of Fehn but interprets it in his own words as an “interplay between roof-work and earth-work”45. In this particular project, Fehn chose to intentionally identify the existing old materials from the new. This is evident in the way the openings in the pre-existing are treated. If in the interior he uses bridge-like structures in concrete, the windows are large tem-


43. TYRRELL, R. (2018). AALTO, UTZON, FEHN: Three paradigms of phenomenological architecture. LONDON: ROUTLEDGE. p. 144 44. TYRRELL, R. (2018). AALTO, UTZON, FEHN: Three paradigms of phenomenological architecture. LONDON: ROUTLEDGE. p. 147 45. Frampton, K. (2014). Modern architecture: A critical history. London: Thames & Hudson. P. 356.

Fig. 61 The new and the pre-existing


Light and Materiality to Understand Place


pered glass panes that are hold in place by small and thin rods of iron. In the interior and some parts of the exterior, the new additions to the building are in concrete showing the wooden planks as formwork. This allows the presence of the existing materials to show themselves in comparison to more neutral and plain materials.

4.3.2. Types of Light In this intervention, Fehn allows the light to flow as free as possible. In fact, he tries to touch the ground or the pre-existing in as few points as possible. This has different intentions. First of all, as mentioned, it allows the light that comes through the tectonics of the wooden roof-work to reach the lowest parts containing ruins

Top Left: Fig. 62 Natural light filtered through the wooden skylights in the roof Top Right: Fig. 63 Natural light coming from below Left: Fig. 64 Natural light from above and artificial light from the left

of the pre-existing historic building. Second, it shows a sense of respect to the different layers of time and helps identify the old and the new together with the materiality. Third, it allows Fehn to use a recurrent metaphor in his work: the bridge. The bridge as a metaphor is what connects with the past and the present. The bridge also allows the light to come from above but in some conditions also from below. This leads to another recurrent concept that inspired constantly the work of Fehn that is the idea of the horizon.

Fig. 65 Details of way to present the object exhibited in the museum, all designed by Fehn




Light and Materiality to Understand Place

4.3.3. The Narrative The idea behind the project was to complete the roof in a way that from the outside, blends with the surrounding barns. On the inside, as mentioned previously, the idea of the bridge is the strongest element. Besides technical reasons of not altering the structure of the remains of the preexisting building, “the bridges and ramps stage new horizons, and thus he (Fehn) is always able to place the visitor somewhere between heaven and earth”. See floor plans and images of the museum. The intervention of the museum almost doesn´t alter the pre-existing objects but

Fig. 66 View of the museum from the exterior

through architecture enhances it and creates an awareness of the time passing by in a natural flow in the life of its components. In a similar way to which Fehn places the bridges and ramps levitating in the old pre-existing barn of the Hedmark museum that works as a container of history and memory, the proposed building for the old quarry in Can Baro acts in a similar way only this time, the container of history and memory is the old quarry itself. The building acts as a “horizon” allowing the visitor to levitate in between the elements that come from the ground and from the sky.

Fig. 67 Interior courtyard that articulates the wings of the museum

For me, architecture more than trying to imitate nature, should establish a presence in dialogue with the existing elements on each site to conform a place. This place could change in use throughout time but the essence and the spirit remain with the pre-existing and now with the newly added intervention of each building. As we create a built environment in either a natural or urban landscape, the architectonical intervention manifests itself as a small part of a larger whole. It doesn’t need to imitate the pre-existing since each intervention should belong to its own time but when we understand the larger whole and that there is no need for our buildings to shout for attention, then this architecture should prevail in time.


46. Fjeld, P. O., & Fehn, S. (2009). Sverre Fehn: The pattern of thoughts. New York: Monacelli Press. p. 116

Fig. 68 The curved ramp that gives access to the gallery bridge in the interior



Light and Materiality to Understand Place

4.4. Conclusions From Study Cases These conclusions were drawn from constant approaches or strategies along the three architects and the projects shown as examples. In order to support the conclusions drawn from the projects and images, theoretical citations or references will follow some of the statements. Material -

Materials can be drawn from the site or can be chosen in

consonance with the site. -

Fig. 69 Interior of the National Assembly of Dhaka by Louis Kahn

One material can have many different finishes and appli-

cations. Think about which one suits better each part of the proj-

light offer from morning to night, from day to day, from season to


season, and all through the years?” (Kahn, Credo, p.280)”48.


If there is a strong pre-existing material presence, a neu-


It’s not only about quantity of light but the quality. What

tral material can help make this presence more evident or em-

do we want the light to do? It is important when designing to take

phasize the pre-existing

these decisions, what character do we wish to give to the room?


Materials behave different in different lights and different

What “atmosphere” do we wish to recreate? What kind of light will

seasons. When choosing a material, it is important to feel how it

serve the purpose of the room? It isn’t only important to illuminate

behaves under the light that is going to be exposed to.

the spaces we design so they can be used but when we think

“When light falls on a relief at almost a right angle, there will be a

about how we want to illuminate it. It is taking design one step

minimum of shadow and therefore of plastic effect. The textural ef-

beyond. Yes, it is logical that to bring daylight we should create an

fect will also be poor, simply because perception of texture depends

opening in the wall towards the exterior but defining the exact lo-

on minute differences in relief”47.

cation in that wall (or ceiling), the dimensions, if it contains a filter,


louvers, etc. is the duty of architecture.

Materials age or react with time and use. Think how do we

want our building to look some years in advance.


During the day, natural light illuminates our buildings and

spaces; but during the night, our buildings can help illuminate its Light

environment with artificial light. It is in the hands of the architects, to decide and mold in which


Light changes throughout the day and throughout the

way and from which direction light will come through. We have

seasons. Try to offer different conditions and possibilities for light

always been used to have light coming from above since it is the

to illuminate the spaces. “In most modern rooms it is meaningless to ask: “What slice of sun does your building have?”, that is: “what range of mood does the


natural thing to occur but in the old theaters the light came from 47. Rasmussen, S. E. (1993). Experiencing architecture. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press. p. 190

below creating this mystical upside down atmosphere where the

48. Norberg-Schulz, C. (1996). Genius loci: Towards a phenomenology of architecture. New York: Rizzoli. p. 190



Light and Materiality to Understand Place

textures and features of the performers were lit from below. This can be seen clearly in paintings from Degas and Toulouse Lautrec. In a similar way, in the interpretation center, light is brought from below through a reflecting pond that captures the light from the afternoon and launches it to the interior through voids in the floor of the elevated structure that hosts the interpretation center. Also in a similar way in which Eero Saarinen brings light inside of his MIT Chapel. “Light is of decisive importance in experiencing architecture. The same room can be made to give very different spatial impressions by the simple expedient of changing the size and location of its openings. Moving a window from the middle of a wall to a corner will utterly transform the entire character of the room”49. Other -

Light and Material are directly related with the narrative of

the projects.

Fig. 70 Degas, The White Ballet 1904. Dramatism of the light from below

“How much more mysterious and inviting is the street of an old town with its alternating realms of darkness and light than the brightly and evenly lit streets of today! The imagination and daydreams are stimulated by dim light and shadow”50. -

Sometimes, the conception of the building can also come

from the inside out. “The light (and the absence of light) in the North holds particular qualities, and thus, as Fehn suggests, ‘the architect deems catching light and bring it into interior spatial presence more important than focusing on the view out’ (Fjeld 2009)” . 51

49. Rasmussen, S. E. (1993). Experiencing architecture. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press. p. 187 50. Pallasmaa, J. (2014). The eyes of the skin: Architecture and the senses. Chichester: Wiley. P. 32 51. TYRRELL, R. (2018). AALTO, UTZON, FEHN: Three paradigms of phenomenological architecture. LONDON: ROUTLEDGE. p. 11


Fig. 71 Saarinen, MIT Chapel interior detail. Light from below reflected from an exterior water pond


Light and Materiality to Understand Place






Light and Materiality to Understand Place

AN EMPIRICAL READING OF THE SITE We have already seen the topic from a theoretical point of view and looking at practical examples in built projects by architects closely related to the approach of Place. Perhaps now, we could talk about a projectual strategy in architecture. This research doesn’t pretend to find a formula or a recipe towards architecture. The main purpose is to continue the thrust pushing contemporary architects not to leave behind the particularities of the sites we intervene. After all, much of the richness in our experiences in this world come from embracing diversity. Most of us, enjoy travelling around the world learning about different cultures, looking for dif-

Fig. 72 Alvaro Siza Boa Nova Tea House in Matosinhos, Porto

ferent experiences. Besides the architects that we have seen so far, there are other examples of architects that perhaps have been praised more for other kind of topics. Still it is clear that their approach also contemplates a considerable sensitivity towards an understanding of the site and the possibility of projecting not only a building but a “Place”. For example, Alvaro Siza in the 80s was already talking about how “Each design must catch, with the utmost rigor, a precise moment of the flittering image, in all its shades, and the better you can recognize that flittering quality of reality, the clearer your

Fig. 73 Alvaro Siza Piscinas in Leca da Palmeira, Porto

design will be…”52 If we compare this with Zumthor’s ideas from his book Atmospheres we can notice a very similar approach. Sometimes it is just about being there. As human beings we already store huge amounts of knowledge in our brains. When we visit a place, sometimes just by being there, our brain starts making the connections between what we are perceiving in that precise moment and what we already know. It is difficult to translate these intentions to words since as the words of Siza express and what Zumthor expresses in the following phrase have to do with experience which is hard to describe in words. “We perceive atmosphere through our emotional sensibility – a form of perception that works incredibly quickly, and which humans evidently need to


52. Frampton, K. (2014). Modern architecture: A critical history. London: Thames & Hudson. p. 317

Fig. 74 Enric Miralles y Carme Pinos Cementerio de Igualada, Catalunya



Light and Materiality to Understand Place

help us survive”53. Both Siza and Zumthor talk about this incredibly

Whenever i think about this topic, I like to relate it to theway the

quick moment in which “Being” gives huge amounts of informa-

ancient Peruvians built their cities and buildings. There is this

tion to our brains. As architects, we need to learn how to select

sense of timelesness in many of their buildings and perhaps that

and discern from all the information the essential and try to use it

is one of the reasons that we feel so impressed by them. Peru’s

to project. Something so intuitive is difficult to express in a text in

geography is so varied that is is impressive how the location of

an objective manner.

each culture in the territory resulted in a formal and material result that responds the immediate context. Each of the buildings

This sensibility for place is wide open for interpretation as it is not

they built was made precisely for the site it is located in.

a style but an approach that brings together architecture and reality. If in one hand we have a poetic architecture that tends to-

As it has been mentioned before,what we are focusing here isn’t

wards the careful assembly of volumes, there is also the poetic

precisely a formal result or look but the approach, tha matter of

architecture that tries to respond to many different situations that

fact that we have respect for the place we are going to build in.

we find in each site. Here we are talking about the architecture of

It is our responsability as architects to make each place better

Enric Miralles. To put as an example, the Cementery of Igualada,

with our interventions and that is already a huge one since many

where an old quarry was transformed into a cemetery. There is a

times we have the perfection of nature in front of us. If we look to

high tactility in the intervention using the interpretation of gabion

the past in a critical approach and not only in a historical manner,

walls holding the rocks in their place. The topography is handled

there are lot’s of things we can learn and perhaps the technology

as if it was a creeck that connects the underworld connected with

of our days allows us to make improvements or to answer to new

the physical with the sky connected with the ethereal. The con-

problems that the present demands.

nections are multiple, the rocks with the old quarry, the earth with the sky, the old wooden railway beams inserted in the floor, the way natural light enters the underground parts of the building. All these create an awareness in the visitor about our presence in this world. There are plenty of layers behind the complexity of this kind of architecture that once again, as Holl is quoted chapters before, architecture is about a physical connection in the present time but an experiential and metaphysical connection that transcends time.

53. Zumthor, P. (2006). Atmospheres. Basel: Birkhâuser. P. 13


Fig. 75 Collage of ancient peruvian buildings made in different regions of the country



Light and Materiality to Understand Place

5.1. A Projectual Strategy in Architecture It is important to point out as it is related to what is stated in this

same line which the project was asking for.

research the fact that the first couple of proposals I made for the site were made without visiting the site personally. It happens that

In a similar way in which the Case Studies were observed, the con-

I came across some images of the site that had an impact on me

cepts in the proposed project for the site can also be understood

because of the physical features that the site has. I was looking for

through the same lenses. In this case the concept of material and

a site in Barcelona to develop a project that would look interesting

light gets closer as it isn’t only light which gives life to material

for my thesis and what is even more interesting is that failing to

but also the material is what makes different lights evident. This

be able to propose something suitable for the site, took me to the

understanding of the reciprocity of both elements is key to an ar-

decision of visiting the site in consecutive days at different times

chitecture of experience and not just an architecture of light or an

of the day and just observe the place, take some pictures and

architecture of materials.

voice notes. Being there, I started noticing details, aspects and dynamics that would have never appeared in pictures. Although it might seem something obvious for many architects, it revealed to me not only ideas to intervene the site but also the topic in which I wanted to focus the research of this Master’s Degree Final Project: Experiencing Place and translating that experience to architecture. Even though visiting the site revealed to me many important features that could potentially evolve towards an interesting project of architecture, there were two that for me, represented the essence of that specific site: 1. The tactile aspect of the exposed rocks from the old quarry 2. The enclosure that the digging of the old quarry left behind partially isolates the site from the surroundings creating a direct connection between heaven and earth These two observations obviously had some complimentary observations but these were secondary and will be used to give the project complexity, depth and scale. Together with the empirical observations several references to Sverre Fehn will be added in a complimentary way since many of his concepts followed the


Fig. 76 View of the site of the Old Quarry in Can BarĂł neighborhood. The site chosen for the thesis project



Light and Materiality to Understand Place

5.1.1. Material: Relation Between the City and the Mountain Aerial View of the City, Eixample Related to this topic, there were some things noticed and we will go from a larger scale to the more detailed aspects. Even though the physical characteristics of the quarry show it as an introverted site, it is directly connected to existing routes that also allow a view from the top. What is called the “fifth façade” or more technically, the rooftop would also be seen by many people. The relationship with the bunkers on top, locate the view of the site as one of the views in closest proximity looking towards the sea. An interesting perception when we are in the hills of Barcelona is that

Fig. 77 Picture taken from the Bunkers del Carmel. First Fig. 78 Night view from the same point of view of the the site for the thesis, then the city then the sea and the previous image horizon

there is a view of the horizon as the furthest point, then the sea, then a blurred old part of the city, a clear example and then a combination of either very compact low height dwellings or separated high apartment buildings. Is appears that nowadays these are the two ways the city transitions from its more consolidated areas towards the hills and mountains. In the case of Can Baró it is comprised of small compact parcels that don’t leave much space for open areas. Therefore, the perceptual experience of transition is that of openness in example, compression in Can Baró and release in the site next to the mountain and nature. However, there is an additional complexity in the topographical nature of the site. The fact that it was formerly a quarry, you end up surrounded by the physicality and strong personality of the mountain and the earth itself and the release or expansion after the compression of the neighborhood then guides our experience towards the sky. “The land is the architect of my buildings; the way in which the building is set in the landscape gives the project its precision. The script with its definite number is given by society, but it is the land that gives the answer. Luckily the terrain is fearless of any script. The architect finds architecture with the help of nature”54. In this case it isn´t only the land. The land forms part of a larger complex urban system that the proximity to the hills allow us to see from a different point of view. The close proximity


54. Fjeld, P. O., & Fehn, S. (2009). Sverre Fehn: The pattern of thoughts. New York: Monacelli Press. p. 108

Fig. 79 Drawing showing the location of the site in relation to the Eixample grid and the comparison in size to one of Cerda’s blocks



Light and Materiality to Understand Place

of the physical matter that the streets provide, from here gains a broader perspective. And in this perspective, the gridded streets Fig. 80 The ideal view of Cerda for the Eixample with the presence of more green and only 2 sides of each block built

of Eixample are protagonists in the landscape. “The Paradox of Sverre Fehn - Ada Louise Huxtable Author and Architecture Critic, The Wall Street Journal: Fehn says that the very act of building begins the process of destruction; that every intervention, no matter how careful, contributes to the landscape’s loss. He possesses an almost magical ability to emphasize and enhance the natural setting—the work of Frank Lloyd Wright comes constantly to mind—and yet he insists that nature should never be regarded in a romantic way, that the architect must create a tension between nature and his intervention. There is nothing romantic about this idea; it poses one of architecture’s most demanding and enduring challenges”55. This phrase relates directly with one of the first strategies of the project. Use one of the Cerda blocks from Eixample as a reference in scale and to act as a guideline and regulator in the placement of the project in the site. It is well known that the idea of Cerda for the city of Barcelona could be easily considered a Utopia. The blocks would be build maximum on three of its four sides allowing a more balanced mix between nature and built environment than what we find nowadays only leaving the inner courtyards open to the sky. More so, these courtyards aren’t always possible to be used really as free space. Using the outlines of the Cerda Block considering its historical conception is a way to create a connection between the site’s nature and the rest of the city. The idea is also the fact that the view from Turó de la Rovira or the Bunkers themselves, which are more frequented and popular each day, create a virtual connection suggested by the formal aspect of the building from above. It is also valuable to point out that the connection between the site and the rest of the city is more than formal but material since the material extracted from the old quarry helped build the city we can see in a meta-


55. https://www.pritzkerprize. com/sites/default/files/inline-files/1997_essay.pdf

Fig. 81 Conceptual diagram of the influence of the site. The Cerda Eixample Block as reference



Light and Materiality to Understand Place

physical connection that transcends time. Another physical property of the site is the existing terrace that acts in a sort of natural groundfloor or base for the rest of the cliff left behind by the extraction of material in the times of the quarry. This continuous terrace in the lower part, rises up to approximately 9m in height, a height that is almost maintained constant in a large part of the perimeter. This basement helps define an evident horizontality in the bottom that counterweights the vertiFig. 82 Rocks of different tonalities collected from the site

cality of the cliff. The last main observation related to the tactile aspects of the site is the material itself. “The character is determined by the material and formal constitution of the place. We must therefore ask: how is the ground on which we walk, how is the sky above our heads, or in general; how are the boundaries which define the place. […] Looking at a building from this point of view, we have to consider how it rests on the ground and how it rises towards the sky”56. In this case the character of this rock is a gradient that varies in color and texture throughout the walls of the quarry. Some areas are a kind of patchwork of earthy colors and the rock is occasionally interrupted by stripes of green and dense vegetation. As a difference to other parts of the hill that weren’t used formerly as a quarry, here the scar left in the ground by the quarry exposes the rock that would otherwise lie below us away from our direct experience. In this case, this exposure reveals the innermost colors and textures of the place.

56. Norberg-Schulz, C. (1996). Genius loci: Towards a phenomenology of architecture. New York: Rizzoli. p. 14


Fig. 83 Conceptual model



Light and Materiality to Understand Place

5.1.2. Light: Connecting Earth and Sky – The Horizon and the Tree I cannot agree more with Alberto Campo Baeza when he manifests that the human being has always been fascinated with the horizon. “Mankind has always been fascinated by the horizon line. Where the sky and the earth meet or separate. With Semper and

Fig. 84 Collage showing how the sky in Eixample is framed by the buildings and almost in a similar way in this site is framed by the cliffs

Frampton we would say that the horizon is the mysterious line that separates the stereotomy of the earth related world from the tectonic world related to the sky and the light”57. Either if it is because of its infinite horizontality that gives us peace or because in a way it symbolizes the unknown, what is beyond what we can directly see, the fact is that it is also that continuous line where the sky and the Earth appear to meet each other. If it is the point where the sky touches the earth, then it also represents how the light from the sky touches it. The relation of light with the horizon is that as closer the sun gets to it, the more horizontal the light gets. But if the horizon line is the point where sky and earth appear to meet, it is the tree what represents a physical connection between both as its roots dig into the ground and its branches extend as much as possible towards the sky. “The moment you lose the horizon; your desire is always to reinstate it. It is trapped somewhere between the cave and the tower, and at the same time, the earth reveals its limitations”58. In the site of the old quarry in Can Baró, light helps bring to life and gives dramatism to the carved and exposed rocks. The way in which the site is enclosed by the cliffs makes the site have a general light which somehow flows and fills the space as water fills a basin. Once the sunlight manages to hit the site directly, then the walls of the cliffs acquire a more violent play of light and shadow that evidence each hit given by men to extract the material and give it the shape it has today.

57. Campo Baeza, A. (2009). Pensar con las manos (2a. ed.). Editorial Nobuko. p. 17 58. Fjeld, P. O., & Fehn, S. (2009). Sverre Fehn: The pattern of thoughts. New York: Monacelli Press. p. 108


Fig. 85 The existing bridge in the site. Its presence emphasizes the connection between Earth and Sky



Light and Materiality to Understand Place

The physical property that gives the site its own light is the previously mentioned enclosure that in a way reminds the skylight artistic interventions of James Turell called Skyspaces. It is precisely this enclosure and framing of the sky that makes each element placed within the walls of the quarry be evidenced by light and cast a shadow in the walls of the cliff themselves. This play of light and shadows create an awareness about the light that in other places would perhaps be taken for granted. This same play of light and shadow that evidences the tactility of the site, should

Fig. 86 James Turrell Skyspace interventions

be also replicated in the interior using different ways to allow light in the building as well as making it evident this time with the materiality and tectonics of the building. As architects, we have the possibility to modify and play with the horizon, define how we wish the sky and the earth to meet. The intention in this project is to provide the building different possibilities for the natural light to enter. Many architects throughout history have praise the horizon for it’s beauty. As a matter of fact, as the glass panes got larger with modernity, the horizontal plane in many projects extends outwards projecting towards the horizon. In this case, the individual stands by as a mere observer. But what happens if instead of looking at the horizon, our building becomes the horizon? That exact and precise moment where the light from the sky and the matter from the earth meet.

Fig. 87 Hiroshi Sugimoto Seascapes – Mediterranean (1989)




Light and Materiality to Understand Place

5.1.3. Narrative: The Bridge as an Inhabitable Horizon The proposed bridge is an inhabitable horizon; it is a bridge because it connects sides at different levels. It connects the city with nature, it connects the low with the high, past with the present and the future. This bridge doesn’t act only in a metaphorical level, it connects the neighborhood of Can Baró with the trekking routes in Turó de la Rovira and with the Bunkers in the top. In a social dynamic way, it also connects the neighborhood with the rest of the inhabitants in the city. It is the place where the ethereal of the sky meets the tactility of the ground. “The presence of the bridge, its being, had a far greater impact, for Heidegger, on people’s immediate experience than it might first appear. In a technocratic appreciation of the world, building a bridge is not so much of a big deal: it might involve constructional, logistical and economic difficulties but it can be conceived with relative ease. However, to Heidegger, the building of a bridge had phenomenological significance much greater than the sum of its technical

Fig. 88 Sketches of previous versions of the project in floor plan and section

expediencies. The banks, in terms of mathematical distance, weren’t far apart. However, with regard to the practicalities of access, they were. Without the bridge, people would have to walk or drive much further to get to the other bank. By allowing people to cross the water at that spot, the bridge changed irrevocably patterns of people’s everyday lives: individuals could get to work more easily, new trade links might be forged, new friends made and lovers courted. Here is the difference between built object and built thing: as a primarily visual object, a bridge is something to be admired; but as a Heideggerian thing, the significance of a bridge consists in how its physical presence can influence the parameters of people’s daily lives”59. At the same time, the bridge isn’t only functional, it is an inhabitable horizon. It is, as a matter of fact, the place where the sky and the earth meet. In the site of the old quarry, there is no reference of a real horizon due to its enclosed characteristic. In that way, the


59. Sharr, Adam. (2007) Heidegger for Architects. Abingdon, Oxon: Routledge. p.48-49

Fig. 89 Sketches of previous versions of the project in perspective and axonometric



Light and Materiality to Understand Place

proposed building becomes an artificial horizon, it emphasizes

the memory of the place. On the one hand, crushed gravel from

the horizontality existing in the rock plateau at 9m high that acts

the site is used as an aggregate and on the other hand, crushed

as a sort of step.

bricks add another texture and color to another layer. These crushed bricks would come from the demolition of the remains of

The idea of the project isn’t necessarily to impose something new

what were once the barracks that still remain in some scattered

but more about creating an awareness about what already ex-

areas but are meant to be relocated in order to follow the plan of

ists in the site. “The [place] is not already there before the bridge

recovery and opening of the Tres Turons Park project for the city

is. Before the bridge stands, there are of course many spots along

of Barcelona. The bridge isn’t clad in stone because already at its

the stream that can be occupied by something. One of them proves

height, the exposed stone from the mountain wants to show itself

to be a [place] and does so because of the bridge. Thus, the bridge

so in this case, better stand back as a more neutral material and

does not come first to a [place] to stand in it; rather a [place] comes

let the texture of the mountain itself shine under the light.

into existence only by virtue of the bridge (1971: 154)” . As Sharr 60

mentions about the thoughts of Heidegger, the Place isn’t there before the bridge. Yes the site exists, the conditions and particularities belonging to THAT specific site are already there. But it is only when the bridge appears that you are able to position yourself in a point that was previously inaccessible, in points of view that allow you to notice situations that were already happening but just weren’t evident at plain sight. And in addition, the bridge is also there open to the possibility that new situations also happen therefore increasing even more the meaning of “Place”. The ground floor of the building is clad in local stone extracted from the excavations for the parking. The ground floor isn’t positioned over the ground but becomes part of it. On the other hand, the bridge that contains the Visitor Interpretation Center for the Tres Turons Park, hovers over the site at 9m high sharing the roof height with that of the already existing rock platform in the skirts of the cliff. The light can pierce through and go freely through the space between the ground floor and the bridge. Light comes from all over the place; from above, from below, from the sides, direct, reflected. The volume hovering above, the Bridge is made out of concrete layers consisting of different aggregates that relate to


60. Sharr, Adam. (2007) Heidegger for Architects. Abingdon, Oxon: Routledge. p.52

Fig. 90 Aerial view from the resulting project without materiality



Light and Materiality to Understand Place

5.2. Programmatic Definitions and Placement on Site The placement of the volume on site and its orientation are defined by the virtual translation of the perimeter of one Cerda block from Eixample area of the city. This strategy would create a consciousness about scale where one module of what conforms the city is brought against the natural environment that was modified by men when it was a quarry. Out of the four sides that would define the perimeter of an Eixample block, two are left free open towards the mountain as a reference to Cerda’s original utopian plan where the nature and the city would be blended. One of the two remaining volumes would stay in the ground floor accomodating facilities linked to the needs of the neighborhood of Can Baró while the other will rise hosting a longitudinal gallery with information about the Tres Turons Park, its historic landmarks and the Old Quarry that used to function in the site. Proposed Program Metropolitan Scale: Access Point to “Tres Turons Park” Visitor Interpretation Center* Connection to Bunkers “El Carmel” Urban Scale: Public Space, Plaza and Gardens Multipurpose Room for Events Local Scale: Day Center Mini-Market Cafe/Restaurant Underground Parking

Fig. 91 Volumetric strategy of the project

*Interpretation centres are a kind of new-style museum, often associated with visitor centres  or  ecomuseums, and located in connection to cultural, historic or natural sites.




Light and Materiality to Understand Place

The proposed program is meant to work in the three different levels mentioned in the previous page. The idea is that the same project attends the necessities of both the city and the neighborhood. In a semi-underground level we have the parking and a day center for the neighborhood. As day center we understand a place for people to relax, socialize, work, learn, among others. It works sort of an entertainment center so whatever you would be doing in your house, you can do it together with more people socializing and creating a sense of community. Fig. 92 Programmatic Axonometric of the project

In the ground level we find the Cafeteria / Restaurant whose location is meant to keep the plaza active together with the small supermarket also in this level. The existance of the small supermarket doesn’t attend only the needs of the neighbors but also the visitors on their way to the bunkers or the neighbors on the weekends if they want to do a picnic or activities outdoors. Another space located besides the plaza is the Multi-Purpose Room which also offers the possibility of opening towards the plaza acquiring the possibility of hosting larger events. Finally, in the upper level, the Visitor Intepretation Center for the Tres Turons Park is a longitudinal gallery with different luminical conditions in the interior and focusing on different aspects of the site. The idea is that the visitor is informed about what they will find as they continue their journey upwards towards the bunkers or a trekking route in the Turó de la Rovira hill or the Tres Turons Park.

Fig. 93 Programmatic Axonometric of the project with the dimension of the Cerda Eixample block in relation to the volume




street market / fairs (upper floor)

street market / fairs

paved plaza

multipurpose room outdoor

urban garden / orchard

outdoor theater / movies

garden / forest

picnic / bbq area

reflecting pond

paved forest

Light and Materiality to Understand Place

Fig. 95 Aerial view of the rooftops and public space. The trees have been removed from the image to appreciate the furniture elements

Fig. 94 Public Space proposal with possibility of different activities

The proposed public space offers multiple possibilities and otdoor conditions that could suit different activities. As the rest of the project, these outdoor areas intend to serve both local neigh-

Fig. 96 View from the garden forest with the building behind the trees. Urban furniture under the shadow of trees

bors and visitors. The idea is that this space would articulate the program as a common ground for bot the bridge volume avobe and the facilities in the ground level. The urban furniture in the public space is an abstract representation of the present and the history of the place. Some benches and individual sitting are just carved pieces of rock as if they were left from the old quarry. Others follow corten steel lines in the floor pattern that reminds us of the old rail tracks that existed to move the extracted material of the quarry around the place.


Fig. 97 Design for two types of benches. In the left, carved rock mixed with wooden details to soften edges. Right benches appear as folded planes of corten steel born from steel rods in the ground as an alusion to previously existing railtracks to transport material when it was a quarry



Light and Materiality to Understand Place

5.3. Floor Plans, Sections



2 11


7 1 1

10 8

3 4 2

Underground Level (-3.00m / -1.50m) 1. Parking 2. Day Center Library 3. Day Center Classrooms 4. Outdoor Theater 5. Patio





Ground Floor Level (+0.00)

1. Entrance 2. Entrance to Upper Terrace 3. Parking Entrance 4. Mini-Market 5. Multipurpose Room 6. Cafe / Restaurant 7. Day Center Common Area 8. Visitor Interpretation Center Hall 9. Offices 10. Paved Plaza 11. Forest / Garden



Light and Materiality to Understand Place




2 3

4 4


2 1

Level 1 (+3.00)

Level 2 (+6.00)

1. Upper Terrace

1. Entrance to Interpretation Center

2. Reflecting Pond

2. Introductory Audiovisual Room

3. Upper Access to Visitor Center Hall

3. Main Gallery

4. Stairs to Paved Plaza

4. Rocks Gallery 5. Elevator Tower to the Bunkers




Light and Materiality to Understand Place

Section 1-1

Section 3-3

Section 2-2




Light and Materiality to Understand Place

Section 4-4





Light and Materiality to Understand Place

5.4. Material Variations and Different Lights The rocks collected from the site allowed me to create a color and material palette from which to work the variations. The materials used in the proposal would show themselves as they are, as raw as possible. In the case of the stone from the site, the variations would only depend in the size of the cut for the cladding and if the final finish appearece is polished or rugged. This would allow us to have a chromatic continuity throughout the project and also in resonance to the site. The corten steel allows the building to acquire a patina as it ages and the rust also starts leaving traces. The wood is used for more tectonic purposes where the same nature of the assemblage are left in evidence. Wood will also be used in fixed furniture and for some elements in direct contact with our bodies such as seating areas or some handrails. Materials Used

In the case of the concrete used, different prototypes will be made in order to chose the most appropiate finish. The intention is to relate a generic contemporary material such as concrete to the site by playing with the texture possibilities the formwork ofFig. 98 Palette of colors and materials to be used in the project. Above: different cuts and finishes of locally extracted rock. Below: Complimentary materials, concrete, corten steel and wood

fers as well as varying the texture and tonalities by using different types of aggregates such as local rocks or crushed bricks from the remains of demolished barracks.


Fig. 99 Detail of three rocks collected from the site with different chromatic appearance Fig. 100 Ideas to fabricate the prototype of small concrete models using different aggregates and textures



Light and Materiality to Understand Place

Another important element of exploration in the project was the light. The idea was to allow as different luminical conditions as possible. The openings wouldn’t only allow for different kinds of light but are also intended to direct the view towards specific landmarks or features such as the tower through a skylight. Light conditions were explored using watercolor and inspiration from Holl and Fehn of how the light can come from different directions even in some cases from below reflecting in water as is the case in Saarinen’s MIT Chapel, Francesco Venezia’s Material Laboratory building in Venice or the Roros Museum of Sverre Fehn.

Fig. 104 Interior view of light entering both from above and below. Also the skylight allows a view of the tower in the background and on the right, parts of the mountain and its rocks are allowed in through the concrete wall and floor Fig. 101 Sverre Fehn’s model for the Roros Museum

Fig. 105 Detail of the section showing the light entering from below

Fig. 102 Watercolor by the author: sketch made for preliminary ideas in the proposal for the Can Baró old quarry




Light and Materiality to Understand Place

Tthe element of time passing by has been considered in different scales. It is considered as a happening of every day; how the light hits and light the building each hour and how it changes throughout the seasons. But it has also been considered in a longer time Top: Fig. 106 Frontal view of the project showing plaza, bridge volume and tower Center: Fig. 107 Aerial view from the height at which the elevator of the tower takes you Left: Fig. 108 Stair in the Entrance hall for the Visitor Interpretation Center


span. Some structural elements such as the beams for the roof of the Interpretation Center Bridge Volume have been left exposed in the main facade. As time passes by, some traces of rust will star appearing dripping down the facade showing not only the passing of time but putting in evidence the structural nature of that part of the building and bringin scale into the eyes of the visitors.

Top: Fig. 109 Close view to the entrance to the Visitor Interpretation Center Center: Fig. 110 Close view after time passing by and marks of rust appear in the concrete


Light and Materiality to Understand Place





Light and Materiality to Understand Place


CONCLUSIONS The idea of this research started with a personal intention of giving value to place and recognizing that each place in the world has particular characteristics that make them unique. Yes, perhaps some more than others. Our job as architects is to try and create better places for human beings to live in. The resulting architecture in this research both in theoretical way and as a project, not only value place but try to enhance the experience of the visitor or user creating an awareness of what is already there. Before reaching the point of starting this research, I had already explored some material strategies to link the materiality with the place the project proposals were inserted in. This concept acquired a completely new dimension with the input of not only understanding the material strategy as an esthetically appealing result but also all the connotations and real physical experience it can achieve. The fact that each material has infinite possibilities is something worth carrying on exploring in the future. Another important thing learnt in this research is that it doesn’t make much sense to think only about an architecture of material or only about an architecture of light. They are both there to complement each other and when the situations and properties of both are understood for each site, perhaps we can use them as a strategy to represent the essence of each place and create an architecture with meaning. Each of the previous chapters presented in this research lead to specific preliminary conclusions. But if we have to reach to a final idea after all this research is the importance of scale. I would perhaps add this concept to the title of this thesis since it is precisely an understanding that our perception and experience works at different scales, what can make a project much more rich. Le Corbusier will be used as an example because his most celebrated phrase could help us reach the point trying to be stated.



Light and Materiality to Understand Place


There are two ways to perceive architecture: First standing from outside the building. Our perception of the building blends with what we perceive from the surrounding landscape this is why it is so important not to think about architecture project from the perimeter of the site but as part of a landscape (urban or natural). From this scale, we see how the volumetric plasticity of the building is brought to life by natural light as Le Corbusier’s famous phrase would state. In this scale we don’t pay much attention to the detail and even the textures of materials seem to disappear in some cases. But in architecture, there is also this second experience; the one that comes from within. From this perspective, the perception gets more personal and tactile and not just predominantly visual. This scale allows us to see how each material or constructive method meets each other. The roughness or smoothness of each material isn’t only perceived or experienced by imagining how it could feel but now there is a contact between the building and our bodies. In difference to the view from the exterior, in this scale we experience light filtering through every possible hole as if it was a liquid. As a conclusion, we should understand that the experience of a building has many different scales and they should all be addressed. If we talk about materiality and light in architecture to experience place, then we should also understand the concept that this works both inwards to the building and outwards to the surrounding landscape. This is why I would like to rephrase the celebrated phrase from Le Corbusier into one that also puts in evidence an approach he also had towards the final years of his career. Perhaps it is because he also came to understand what is intended to be expressed in this thesis.




Light and Materiality to Understand Place



- Almaas, I. H. (2010). Made in Norway: Norwegian Architecture Today. Oslo: Arkitektur N.

1. Claude_Monet_-_The_Houses_of_Parliament,_Sunset 1903,_Sunset.jpg 2. Claude Monet Series The Houses of Parliament (1902) 3. Monet-Parliament-Sun_breaking_through_the_fog-galleryIntell 1904 4. Four-paintings-from-the-series-of-London-parliament-painted-by-Claude-Monet-during 5. Hamar Museum Interior – Sverre Fehn 6. Therme Vals Interior Stairs – Peter Zumthor 7. Kiasma Museum of Contemporary Art – Steven Holl 8. Group of Workers in the Quarry (1950 aprox.) 9. Old Quarry in Process (1950 aprox.) 10. Group of Workers in the Quarry (1950 aprox.) 11. Current Use of Land in Can Baró: Municipality Plan 12. Proposed Land Use in Can Baró: Municipality Plan 13. General Plan of the Intended Tres Turons Park 14. img_memartinez_20170324-210823_imagenes_lv_terceros_barracas_rovira_custodia_moreno-kUOE-656x242@LaVanguardia-Web 15. img_memartinez_20170324-204815_imagenes_lv_terceros_barracas_carmel_turo_rovira_1972-kUOE-656x421@LaVang 16. img_ajimenez_20150405-155803_imagenes_lv_propias_ajimenez_rovira1-kUOE--656x437@LaVanguardia-Web 17. img_fgomez_20160804-113609_imagenes_lv_propias_fgomez__l2o2254-kUOE--656x437@LaVanguardia-Web 18. img_jplay_20160815-085542_imagenes_lv_colaboradores_jplay_canonsplay-3-k8PEU403967298785omG-992x558@LaVa 19. Placa de Raimon Casellas Source: Google Maps Street View 20. Placa de les Pedreres Source: Google Maps Street View 21. Placa de Sanllehy Source: Google Maps Street View 22. Placa de la Font Castellana Source: Google Maps Street View 23. Placa de Can Baró Source: Google Maps Street View 24. Placa de la Mitja Luna

- Bru, E. (1997). Tres en el lugar = Three on the site. Barcelona: ACTAR. - Campo Baeza, A. (2009). Pensar con las manos (2a. ed. ). Editorial Nobuko. - Fjeld, P. O., & Fehn, S. (2009). Sverre Fehn: The pattern of thoughts. New York: Monacelli Press. - Frampton, K. (2014). Modern architecture: A critical history. London: Thames & Hudson. - Lefaivre, L., & Tzonis, A. (2003). Critical regionalism: Architecture and identity in a globalized world. Munich: Prestel. - McCarter, R., & Holl, S. (2015). Steven Holl. Berlin: Phaidon. - MacKay-Lyons, B., & McCarter, R. (2015). Local architecture building place, craft, and community. New York: Princeton Architectural Press. - Menin, S. (2003). Constructing place: Mind and the matter of place-making. London: Routledge. - Montaner, J. M. (2014). Del diagrama a las experiencias, hacia una arquitectura de la acción. Barcelona, España: Editorial Gustavo Gili. - Norberg-Schulz, C. (1996). Genius loci: Towards a phenomenology of architecture. New York: Rizzoli. - Pallasmaa, J. (2014). The eyes of the skin: Architecture and the senses. Chichester: Wiley. - Rasmussen, S. E. (1993). Experiencing architecture. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press. - TYRRELL, R. (2018). AALTO, UTZON, FEHN: Three paradigms of phenomenological architecture. LONDON: ROUTLEDGE. - Zumthor, P. (2006). Atmospheres. Basel: Birkhâuser. - Zumthor, P., & Durisch, T. (2014) Peter Zumthor: Buildings and Projects 1985-2013. Verlag: Scheidegger und Spiess AG.



Light and Materiality to Understand Place Source: Google Maps Street View 25. Artisan Street Market in Can Baró: Organized by Espai Solidari Can Baró /a.1892273671030652.1073741838.1761117700812917/1892273691030650/?type=3 26. Street Market in Can Baró: Organized by Espai Solidari Can Baró 27. View from the Hill with Quarry, City and Horizon Source: Own Picture 28. View from the Hill at Night 29. Young People Hanging Out in the Bunkers 30. La idea inicial de Cerdà para las manzanas de Barcelona distaba mucho de lo que al final se construyó. Perspectiva del Proyecto de Ensanche de Barcelona de 1859 (fuente: “Cerdà. Pionero del urbanismo moderno. Ministerio de Fomento, 1998”) 31. Cerda’s Eixample Plan 32. Densification of the Cerda Block 33. Framing the Barcelona Sky in the City and in the Mountain Source: Collage of Personal Photographs and Google Images of Eixample 34. Placing a Cerda Block in the Old Quarry of Can Baró Site Source: Author 35. Conceptual Diagram of Site Relationships Source: Author 36. Conceptual Model Source: Author 37. Urban Floor Occupation and Site Location Source: Author 38. Urban Facilities and Public Transport Accesses Source: Author 39. Urban Fills and Voids with Project Source: Author 40. Programmatic Proposal Source: Author 41. Urban Sequence Experience Proposal Source: Author 42. Location of Tres Creus Access Pavilion Source: Author 43. Toni Girones Access Pavilion to Turons de les Tres Creus 44. View from Behind the Access Pavilion 45. Access Pavilion Floor Plan 46. Access Pavilion Entrance Detail 47. Access Pavilion Interior 48. Manolo Laguillo Photograph of Barcelona from the Hills 49. Manolo Laguillo Photograph of Barcelona from the Hills 50. Proposal Floor Plan Sketch Source: Author 51. Proposal Alternatives and Study Sketches Source: Author 52. Programmatic Axonometric Soure: Author 53. Cerda’s Block Walking Distance in the Project Source: Author 54. Intellectual Map of the Research Source: Author 55. Edouard Manet, Le Dejeuner Sur L’Herbe (1863) 56. Joseph Mallord William Turner, Rain, Steam and Speed – The Great Western Railroad (1844),_Steam_and_Speed_%E2%80%93_The_Great_Western_Railway 57. Comparative Diagram Between Frampton and Zumthor Source: Author 58. View of the “Turons” from “Carretera de les Aigües” jpg 59. Districts of Barcelona


LIST OF FIGURES 60. Locating the Neighborhood of Can Baró Between the Sea and the Mountain Source: Author 68. Therme Vals Exterior 69. Therme Vals Exterior 70. Therme Vals Exterior 71. Brass Door Therme Vals 72. Types of Stone Cladding Therme Vals 73. Stone Floor and Concrete Wall 74. Rust in Concrete 75. Exterior Stone Cladding 76. Exterior Stone Cladding 77. Two Textures in the same Cladding 78. Interior Vals 1 79. Interior Vals 2 80. Interior Vals 3 81. Interior Vals 4 82. Sifang Art Museum 83. Sifang Art Museum 84. Sifang Art Museum 85. Sifang Art Museum jpg?1361456204 86. Sifang Art Museum jpg?1361423231 87. View Towards Nanjing City jpg?1361423185 88. Materiality Sifang Art Museum 89. Materiality Sifang Art Museum 90. Materiality Sifang Art Museum 91. Hutong Style Pavement 92. Materiality Bamboo Formwork Concrete 93. Polycarbonate Wall 94. Materiality Bathed by Light 95. Sifang Light Interior 96. Sifang Light Interior 97. Sifang Gallery Skylight 98. Night Glowing External Volume 99. Sverre Fehn Hamar Exterior 100. Sverre Fehn Hamar Exterior 101. Sverre Fehn Building Exterior 102. Sverre Fehn Ramp Start


Light and Materiality to Understand Place 103. Pre Existing and Glass Windows 104. Pre Existing and Glass Window Detail 105. Wood and Concrete 106. Pre Existing and Glass Window 107. Interior Materiality 108. Meeting Between Materials 109. Concrete Glass and Stone 110. Museographic Detail 1 111. Museographic Detail 2 112. Museographic Detail 3 113. Museographic Detail 4 114. Corridor Light Fehn 115. Ramp and Museography Fehn 116. Skylight Detail Fehn 117. Light From Below Fehn 118. Holl Watercolor Sifang Art Museum 119. Boa Nova Tea House Siza 120. Igualada Cemetery Miralles and Carme Pinos 121. Ponte Vecchio in Florence 122. Sigurd Lewerentz St. Peter Church Medium Detail 123. Sigurd Lewerentz St. Peter Church Close Detail 124. Sigurd Lewerentz St. Peter Church Interior 125. Picture of the Site Source: Author 126. James Turrell – Skyspace 127. James Turrell – Skyspace 128. Masia de Can Baró Nowadays 129. Aerial View of the Old Quarry in the Neighborhood of Can Baró Source: Google Maps 130. Journey from Castellana to Quarry 1 Source Author 131. Journey from Castellana to Quarry 2 Source Author 132. Journey from Castellana to Quarry 3 Source Author 133. Journey from Castellana to Quarry 4 Source Author 134. Journey from Castellana to Quarry 5 Source Author 135. Journey from Castellana to Quarry 6 Source Author 136. Steven Holl Watercolor sketch for Kennedy Center Expansion (2014) 137. Steven Holl Watercolor Sketch for the Nelson Atkins Museum 138. Steven Holl Sketch for the Sifang Art Museum 139. Model and Collage as Gilbert Garcin for All Scales of the Project Source: Author


LIST OF FIGURES 140. Color Pencil drawing for the Therme Vals by Peter Zumthor 141. Model Made with Real Stone for Therme Vals 142. Interior of Model for Therme Vals Peter Zumthor 143. Sverre Fehn Structure in Search of Light 144. ”And even the tree got the same poetry”. Chapter ”The return of the horizon” 145. Sketch with Villa Rotonda 1984-1985”. Chapter ”Beyond the image of home” p. 81 146. Hermark Museum Exterior 147. Rays of Light in Louis I. Kahn’s Bangladesh National Assembly Building 148. Edgar Degas, The White Ballet 1904 149. EERO SAARINEN, MIT Chapel, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Cambridge, Massachusetts, USA, 1955. 150. alvaro-siza-vieira-fernando-guerra-fg-sg-piscina-de-leca-da-palmeira 151. Aerial View Alvaro Siza Leca da Palmeira Pool 152. Collage of Pre-Columbian Cultures architecture in Perú Source: Collage made by the Author with Google Images 163. Hiroshi Sugimoto Seascapes – Mediterranean (1989) 185. Sverre Fehn Roros Museum 185. Sverre Fehn Roros Museum NOTE: All the diagrams, floor plans, architectural drawings, renderings, models, collages and conceptual images were made by the author of this thesis.


This work is dedicated to my parents, grandparents and my girlfriend A.Z. all without whom none of this experience and hard work would have been possible. Thank you.

MBArch Thesis Light and Materiality to Experience Place  

Master Thesis Final Project ETSAB_MBArch_ContemporaryProject

MBArch Thesis Light and Materiality to Experience Place  

Master Thesis Final Project ETSAB_MBArch_ContemporaryProject