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Editorial view Criticism, culture and campaigning for 21st-century architecture

The recent relaunch of the AR marks a new chapter in its long and distinguished history. It is not a cosmetic redesign, but a considered and comprehensive editorial and graphic relaunch, intended to offer critical thinking for critical times. Paradoxically, despite the immense advances of technology, humankind still finds itself confronting a series of potentially insurmountable crises. The prospect of ecological doomsday is well rehearsed, but heaped upon this are global economic meltdown, an alarming shortage of resources, the apparently unstoppable growth of cities and a wildly burgeoning population. By the end of this year there will be seven billion people on the planet. How can architects even begin to frame coherent responses to such issues? Therein lies the problem. Now more than ever, the profession is in danger of becoming a supine and marginalised freemasonry, with architects reduced to the status of obliging set dressers to politicians, potentates and carpetbaggers. The dolce vita excess of the Noughties was a smirking triumph of style over content, a false featherbedding that has been abruptly stripped away. So what now? In a media climate increasingly in thrall to the shallow and superficial, there is a clear need for a renewed and serious engagement with architecture and all the issues that affect and sustain it. From the napkin sketch to revisiting key historical moments, the AR provides intellectual sustenance and stimulus across the full scope of architectural production. The aim is to make

architects think more deeply and creatively about architecture, and so reconnect them with their core purpose of transforming human life for the better. Beautifully illustrated critiques of major new buildings are still at the heart of each issue, but new sections enhance and expand the AR’s agenda. Theory intelligibly reconnects the disparate currents of architectural discourse with professional concerns. Revisit looks well beyond the catwalk moment of building completion to examine how notable projects have fared over the years. Pedagogy is a unique new focus on how leading schools teach architecture, an issue of crucial importance to the profession’s future. Broader View invites leading thinkers from other disciplines to share relevant insights. Viewpoints is a forum for the liveliest opinions delivered by leading critics, academics and architects. An expanded Reviews section engages with the depth and diversity of architectural culture. Over its 117-year history, the AR has been part of the remarkable trajectory of modern architecture, campaigning and crusading across the decades. We hope that you will delight in and draw inspiration from the latest phase of its exciting evolution, intended not only to stimulate the intellect, but also the senses, through a crisp, contemporary design that celebrates the object quality of magazines. Subscribe today and take advantage of a specially reduced rate for 12 covetable and compelling issues.

Catherine Slessor, Editor

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Contemporary Art Centre, Córdoba, Spain, Nieto Sobejano Arquitectos

CONCRETE ARABESQUE

Drawing on the richness of Islamic forms and geometries, Nieto Sobejano’s new art centre in Córdoba reinterprets ancient motifs through contemporary materials and spatial relationships

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REPORT

DAVID COHN Working in Córdoba, Spain, the Madrid-based architects Fuensanta Nieto and Enrique Sobejano adapt principles from Islamic geometric patterns in both the organisation of their Contemporary Art Centre Córdoba, and in the design of its facades. Inside, a chain of irregular, hexagonal exhibition spaces string through the otherwise diaphanous interiors. Outside, the nearly opaque facades are relieved by honeycombed screens that follow the same irregular but logical patterns. The seed of the design lies in the subdivision of a regular hexagon into three irregular hexagons, leaving three smaller, four-sided leftover spaces between them. Each cluster of three hexagons, measuring 150, 90 and 60 square metres respectively, forms the basic unit of the exhibition galleries and is repeated along the building’s length, with changes in orientation, three times. A smaller, fourth cluster off the entry forms the cafeteria, and a larger cluster is dedicated to the ‘black box’, a multi-purpose  AR | SAMPLE ISSUE

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Contemporary Art Centre, Córdoba, Spain, Nieto Sobejano Arquitectos

1. (Previous page) the non-orthogonal geometry of the facade extends the cellular rhythm of the plan 2. The building occupies a riverside site on a peninsula overlooking Córdoba’s old city 3. Programmable LEDs hidden in the wall surface turn the facade into a glowing geometric screen

space for performances and other events. The underlying regular geometry of the cells allows them to couple seamlessly, forming a sequence through the centre of the building, including four open-air patios in intermediate spaces, and creating surprising cross-views between them. Areas of orthogonal space frame the galleries on both sides. On the side of the building overlooking the Guadalquivir River, a long gallery provides independent access to each cell, and ends in a media library. At the back, the cells open directly into the area of artists’ studios, with offices and laboratories on the level above them. This repetitive cellular design, nonhierarchic and ‘isotropic’ in the terminology of the architects, belongs to one of the more interesting developments in contemporary Spanish architecture, the return to Organicism. Inspired by Bruno Zevi’s 1945 book, Towards an Organic Architecture, and the work of Frank Lloyd Wright and Alvar Aalto, Spanish Organicists in the 1950s and ’60s used many of the same ideas, as seen in José A Corrales and Ramón V Molezún’s honeycomb-like Spanish Pavilion at the 1958 Universal Exhibition in Brussels,

‘Its solidity, its defined geometric forms, and its inventive use of Córdoba’s Islamic heritage plays directly against the virtual and placeless nature of the art’ or the hypostyle hall of José María García de Paredes’s 1964 Almendrales Church in Madrid. In the past decade, a number of Spanish architects have stepped away from Functionalist or Minimalist formulas to return to such ideas, most notably Luis Mansilla and Emilio Tuñón in their 2005 MUSAC Museum in León. Like Mansilla and Tuñón, and indeed like their Organicist predecessors, Nieto and Sobejano bring to this formal play the same discipline of means, materials and detailing that characterised their earlier, more restrained works. The Córdoba Contemporary Art Centre is located on a peninsula opposite the old city and its historic mosque. It is sited on the far side of the peninsula, where a congress centre was originally to have been built. In 2002, Rem Koolhaas’s competition-winning scheme AR | SAMPLE ISSUE


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1 black box 2 media library 3 shop 4 entrance lobby 5 galleries 6 exhibition concourse 7 facilities area 8 cafeteria

4. From above, the spaces of the galleries and workshops are revealed as a giant honeycomb of tessellating cells

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for the latter left the site open − Koolhaas moved his project closer to the old city, proposing a dynamic, linear structure that pointed diagonally towards the mosque. The Junta, or regional government of Andalucía, organised a new competition in 2005 for a facility on the site that would include artists’ workshops and exhibition spaces, ‘a centre for new modes of expression, digital art, video art, all that is intangible’, explains Enrique Sobejano. With heavy cutbacks in public spending, both projects are now in limbo. The congress 6

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centre was cancelled by Córdoba’s new Mayor last year. Plans to put the arts centre into operation ‘have come to a halt’, according to Sobejano, due to lack of funds and higher priorities. The architects have proposed to turn the building over to ‘groups of young artists, collectives, people who need space more than money, like the Tabacalera’, says Sobejano, referring to an 18th-century tobacco factory in Madrid that the Ministry of Culture has ceded to neighbourhood collectives for social and artistic activities. Thus, a brand-new, 22 million euro public building has the same throwaway value in crisis-ridden Spain as a ruined factory. Curiously, this convergence is anticipated by the Nieto Sobejano design, with its reduced palette of exquisitely-handled, ‘tough’ finishes that purposely emulate industrial structures. Inside the building, the marks of formwork boarding on the thick, exposed load-bearing concrete walls and ceilings are as regular and measured as laid brick. Floors are of magnesite, a seamless, high-strength industrial paving of aggregates and resin. For the steel doors, balustrades and framing, special techniques were used to increase

Contemporary Art Centre, Córdoba, Spain, Nieto Sobejano Arquitectos

5. Each cell is top-lit by a skylight the shape of which echoes the plan of the space that it pierces 6. In a modern reprise of the Moorish pierced wall, daylight dapples into a corridor through irregular openings in the facade 7. (Opposite) these lights appear as inverted or prolapsed versions of the cones at La Tourette; they also refer to the vaults of the Alhambra


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the scale of the multi-hued, crystalline surface patterns that are characteristic of galvanisation. ‘We didn’t want a neutral space’, explains Sobejano, ‘but spaces with a high architectonic charge that artists could respond to.’ In its solidity, its defined geometric forms, and its inventive use of Córdoba’s Islamic heritage, the design assumes a physical presence that plays directly against the immaterial, virtual and placeless nature of the art it was built to promote. Sobejano compares the inverted pyramidal ceiling of each gallery cell to the Islamic muqaras, the intricate patterns of miniature corbels, squinches and domes found in many of the vaulted ceilings of the Alhambra. Rising to different heights, each ceiling slopes down to a hexagonal skylight, covered

‘Sobejano describes their search as interpreting contemporary architecture and space using Islamic geometric rules, which are actually quite contemporary’  AR | SAMPLE ISSUE

by a stretched translucent membrane, that is identical in shape to the room itself. The thick, hollow walls between cells are accessible for both mechanical services and mounting exhibitions, with circular ‘pores’ that bore through the walls on a 900mm grid for use in installations. Each cell can be closed off as an independent exhibition area using motorised steel pocket doors that descend from the upper part of the wall. The studio area is equally flexible, with spaces separated by sliding steel doors, allowing artists to occupy one or more studios as needed. The exterior facades are clad in prefab panels of GRC (glass-reinforced concrete). Their screens use the same hexagonal patterns as the galleries, which again are manipulated at different scales and orientations. The long screen facing the river is actually a bas-relief, and each indentation is furnished with indirect LED lighting, converting the facade into a media screen with 1,500 ‘pixels’ for projecting moving images, a concept that the architects developed with the Berlin studio realities:united. The windows of the offices on the opposite side of the building have

Contemporary Art Centre, Córdoba, Spain, Nieto Sobejano Arquitectos

8. The cells can be divided by massive steel partitions that descend from above 9. (Opposite) a grid of circular pore-like fixings in the walls enables the installation of many different kinds of art works


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a conventional pierced screen. The concept of the embossed facade is a regular theme in the work of the architects. Bas-relief maps of Mérida cover the facades of their congress centre there, and the randomlypierced aluminium panels of their addition to the San Telmo Museum in San Sebastián (AR July 2011) are designed to host lichen and other vegetation. Here the perfect surface of the GRC is pockmarked, like Swiss cheese, by the organic irritation of the irregular hexagons. Nieto Sobejano expertly sculpt the massing, using the high profile of the black 11

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box to frame the long opening on the studio side of the building, for example. This strategy recalls the massing of IM Pei’s East Wing of the National Gallery in Washington, another design developed from non-orthogonal geometry. The connection reveals the great distance between the two works, from the regular triangular grid of the East Wing to the open-ended, bubble-like chain of spaces of the Córdoba work. Nieto Sobejano break open geometry to organic accident. Sobejano relates that they first became interested in Islamic pattern when working on the visitors centre at the site of the Madinat al-Zahra Palace north of Córdoba (AR April 2009). The project won the Aga Khan Award in 2010 and has led to new commissions in India and Morocco, where the architects continue to explore these themes. Sobejano describes their search ‘to interpret contemporary architecture and space using Islamic geometric rules, which are actually quite contemporary − they are not centred, they expand in all directions, and they are combinational. You define three or four parameters, and everything comes out of that. It’s a profoundly modern way of thinking.’

Contemporary Art Centre, Córdoba, Spain, Nieto Sobejano Arquitectos

Architect Nieto Sobejano Arquitectos
 Structural engineer N.B. 35 Lighting facade Nieto Sobejano and realities:united
 Photographs All photos are by Roland Halbe except for 4

10. Irregular vermiculation allows light to penetrate a corridor as if the concrete were as delicate as a rice-patterned ceramic 11. An austere enfilade of exhibition spaces 12. (Opposite) light plays across the crisply shuttered concrete


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DOUBLE ENTENDRE

A curvaceous youth centre and a sober addition to Roman ruins explore the duality of Mérida’s urban identity – both colourfully kinetic and quietly contemplative AR | SAMPLE ISSUE


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Perimeter Building Mérida, Spain José María Sánchez García Youth Factory Mérida, Spain Selgas Cano 1. Skateboarders at the Youth Factory, a vibrant suburban forum that hosts a diversity of activities, from rock climbing to street theatre 2. In Mérida’s historic core, the Perimeter Building forms a new minimalist cordon around the Roman Temple of Diana location plan: Youth Factory is to the north AR | SAMPLE ISSUE


CRITICISM

DAVID COHN The colourful, blob-shaped plastic ‘cloud’ of Selgas Cano’s Youth Factory on the outskirts of Mérida, Spain, and the sober massing of José María Sánchez García’s Perimeter Building around the ruins of the Roman Temple of Diana, in the city’s centre, appear to come from two opposing worlds. Both projects are magnets, but for entirely different audiences. Selgas Cano’s Youth Factory attracts crowds of local teenagers: a skate park designed for rollerblading, skateboarding, cycling, wall climbing, dance, street theatre, electronic music, graffiti and so on. For its part, Sánchez García’s Perimeter Building creates a dignified urban setting for this neglected monument amid the dense jumble of the old city. With its café, restaurant, specialities shop and cultural offerings in the small concession spaces on its upper deck, and the serene emptiness of its archaeological ground level, it is programmed to serve the tourists flocking to such sites as Mérida’s Roman Theatre, centre of a summer arts festival, and Rafael Moneo’s Museum of Roman Art (AR November 1985). However, in addition to these differences in location, use and clientele, the gulf that separates the two works is also generational. José Selgas and Lucia Cano were both born in 1965 and graduated from Madrid’s Technical School of Architecture in 1992, and their work exemplifies the exuberant formal inventiveness and optimism of recent Spanish architecture. Sánchez García was born 10 years later and finished his studies at the same school in 2002, and the tectonic integrity of his design is a deliberate reaction to what he has called ‘the terrible pressure to be little geniuses’ that he experienced in school. 3

‘Society doesn’t require so much spectacle,’ he told the Spanish newspaper El País in a recent interview. Mérida may appear to be an unlikely place for such an oedipal confrontation. With a population of only 57,000, it is the capital of the Extremadura in western Spain, a poor and isolated rural area. But like other remote regions in Spain, the city has benefited from the decentralisation of many state functions since the end of the Franco regime. Until the local elections of May 2011 that brought the Popular Party into office, the region has been continuously governed by the Socialist party. Working with scarce economic resources, the Socialists have commissioned a number of works by noted Spanish architects for the city. Moneo’s Roman Museum, built by the central government in Madrid, was followed by Santiago Calatrava’s 1991 Lusitania Bridge over the Guadiana River, a 1995 administration building by Juan Navarro Baldeweg and a 2004 congress centre by Fuensanta Nieto and Enrique Sobejano. Sánchez García, who grew up in Extremadura, won the competition for the Temple of Diana in 2006; the commission allowed him to open his own office. Selgas Cano began designing the Youth Factory in the same year, after winning competitions to build congress centres in two other regional cities, Badajoz (2006) and Plasencia (currently incomplete).

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The Temple The ruins of the Temple of Diana constitute a remarkable piece of Mérida’s Roman heritage. The temple survived for many centuries as part of the 16th-century Corvos Palace, which still occupies part of its plinth. The regional government began to clear the modern buildings that hemmed in the temple, while archaeologists discovered it formed part of 4

3. The structure creates a cantilevered platform for viewing the temple 4. Voids punched into the structure bring light down to ground level 5. The upper level will house shops, animating the viewing deck 6. The temple is screened from the surrounding jumble of buildings AR | SAMPLE ISSUE


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Perimeter Building Mérida, Spain José María Sánchez García

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7. From the air, it’s clearly apparent how the new building defines the rough limits of the original forum and how it folds around its three sides to absorb the irregularities of the site behind it, leaving the temple in serene isolation 8. The rhythm of solid and void meshes with Mérida’s dense, historic townscape, framing and enclosing the temple site

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the Roman Forum. Sánchez García’s project to consolidate the forum site, and the party walls that enclosed it on three sides after the demolitions, was carried out concurrently with the archaeological investigations over five years. His design thus required, as he explains, ‘a flexible syntax that could respond to changes that came up as work advanced’. Sánchez García describes his solution as ‘halfway between a plaza and a ruin.’ He defined the rough limits of the original forum with an elevated, L-shaped structure, a cantilevered platform and wall, which folds around its three sides to absorb all the irregularities of the site behind it. The platform is situated roughly at the height of the temple plinth, giving visitors an intimate view into the ruins. The wall behind it serves to ‘frame the temple and abstract it from the adjacent buildings,’ says the architect. Its regular openings lead to spaces with 4.8m wide for commercial and cultural activities. These spaces alternate with voids behind the wall that bring natural light to the ground level. The thick perpendicular walls between them carry loads from the cantilevers of the platform, which reach up to 4m above the ground. Both platform and wall are made of finely crafted, poured concrete, using white cement and local aggregates that approach the granite tones of the temple plinth. The platform is accessed on its extremes by metal stairs that can be hydraulically raised during off-hours, avoiding obtrusive ground enclosures. Sánchez García asked the client to leave the ground level free of programmed uses and open to the city. Within the forum’s Roman walls the ground is paved in earth of crushed granite, as it was originally, with limestone cobblestones beyond it. While the structural system, materials and horizontal openings of the Perimeter Building

are unmistakably contemporary, its solid massing and large openings to the sky, modelled by the play of sun, shadow and light tinted by the reddish earth floor of the forum, is an evocation of the spatial experience of Classical ruins under the Mediterranean sun. You can’t help thinking that the Colin Rowe of Collage City would have admired this project. The Perimeter Building is similar in many respects to Sánchez García’s prize-winning Center for the Technical Development of Recreational and Sports Activities in Guijo de Granadilla, also in Extremadura (AR December 2009). There his building takes the form of an elevated ring, 200m in diameter, creating a lookout over the landscape that is as tectonically vigorous and yet as contextually acute as his work in Mérida. Like José Selgas before him, Sánchez García won a scholarship to the Spanish Academy in Rome after he secured the Mérida commission, but his work was already steeped in a Piranesian monumentality.

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The Circus With its light materials and bright colours, the Youth Factory recalls a circus tent in its open park-like setting, an irresistible attraction. Since it opened last April, it has been overwhelmed with users. The project was developed by the regional government to channel the energies of marginalised urban teenagers, who programmed its activities through supervised collectives grouped around each interest. Due to the city’s harsh summer climate, the architects designed a shaded area for the skate park with night lighting for evening use. The three multi-purpose spaces, each about 750m2, open to different collectives on a rotating basis. The total budget for the 1550m2 facility was €1.2 million (just over £1 million).

9. Wrapped in translucent polycarbonate, the Youth Factory is an enticing beacon in the edge of town landscape. Newly planted trees will eventually grow to provide shade 10. Detail of the rock climbing structure 11. The faceted climbing structure forms a colourful coda to the embracing canopy and activity pods

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12. The thin skin of orange and white polycarbonate sheeting responds to the complexities of form and results in a lighter and more economical volume 13. The undulating canopy forms a shaded space for activities and socialising 14. Even at night, the building is animated, its polycarbonate skin suffused with light

Selgas Cano conceived the Youth Factory as a large, inviting canopy, open on all sides to all-comers. A metre thick and lit from inside, the roof forms a curving hairpin, rising to more than 12.5m to include the climbing wall. Its space frame structure is supported by the ovoid pods of the activity rooms, together with other pods for offices and services. The open ground level around the pods is a polished concrete surface for skating, with an outdoor amphitheatre in its centre and sitting areas for other activities on its edges. Though apparently open to its surroundings, its site is enclosed in a simple mesh fence with various gates. The architects planted 100 trees around the building for future shading. The canopy and spaces of the Youth Factory are clad exclusively in translucent sheets of orange and white polycarbonate, a millimetre thick. ‘It was the cheapest material we could find,’ Selgas explains. ‘It’s virtually indestructible, and can be shaped any way you want. You just screw it in place and stretch.’ The material also allowed for a considerably lighter structure. For thermal conditioning, the double layer of polycarbonate acts much like a conventional ventilated facade, according to the architects. They provided top and bottom ventilation, and extra insulation in the ceilings of the activity rooms. Selgas and Cano have made plastics one of the main areas of investigation in their work. Their home outside Madrid features large windows glazed entirely in methacrylate; the Badajoz Congress Center has polycarbonate, polyester resin and methacrylate; and the Plasencia Auditorium and Conference Center is clad in ETFE. I asked the architects how they could justify using these petroleum-based materials in a practice that prides itself on its respect for the natural environment and its resources. 13

Youth Factory Mérida, Spain Selgas Cano AR | SAMPLE ISSUE

They replied: ‘The lightest material is clearly the one that has the least amount of material in it, so consumes the least in its production. Glass requires 20 times more material than the polycarbonate we use, and much more energy for its recycling − plastic melts at 200°C and glass at 1,723°C. “Ecological” materials don’t exist. What you actually have is the material best suited to each occasion.’ As with most construction projects in Mérida, the building process was prolonged by the discovery of archaeological remains on the site, from the Roman city of Augusta Emerita, a settlement established in the first century AD. Archaeologists found nothing worth documenting, but Selgas Cano raised the building on a 1.5m high berm to protect the site, evenly distributing structural loads over a ground slab without footings. The Youth Factory and Perimeter Building are both operations of urban conditioning, in which enclosed spaces are secondary to shaded outdoor space. The urbanity of the Factory is more kinetic, dedicated to movement, activity and social interaction, and this is reflected in its fluid forms, where poles of attraction power the circular movement of its plan. The Perimeter Building, in contrast, aspires to be timeless. As a surgical operation on the urban fabric, it belongs to the tradition dating back to Baron Haussmann in Paris and Pope Sixtus V in Rome; Sánchez García himself compares it to the Baroque Plazas Mayor in Spain. But his work does not serve a Baroque operation of representation, creating a space where grand public ceremonies can be held. The plaza is ‘abstracted’ from the present of the city, as the architect observes, and is a space not so much for bringing people together as for contemplation, in which we observe the presence of others in the space as part of our solitary aesthetic reverie.


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15. The sculptured groundscape also attracts cyclists 16. One of the pods, which can be used as a classroom, rehearsal space or meeting room 17. The ground plane is a flexible armature for different functions 18. Computer suite: the building is serious as well as sporty

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Youth Factory Mérida, Spain Selgas Cano

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Perimeter Building Architect José María Sánchez García Structural engineers CDE Ingenieros, Gogaite Services engineer ARO Photographs Roland Halbe 7. Jesús Rueda Campos

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SCREEN PLAY Set within one of Barcelona’s most notorious slum districts, this new film theatre has ambitions to catalyse cultural and civic renewal

New Film Theatre of Catalonia, Barcelona, Spain, Josep Lluís Mateo 50 AR | MARCH 2012


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DAVID COHN The New Film Theatre of Catalonia, designed by Josep Lluís Mateo, is a cultural beachhead in the ongoing battle for Barcelona’s Raval district. One of the densest and most degraded medieval slums in Europe, El Raval is an infamous red light district, home to the city’s poorest and most marginalised residents. So far, the city authorities’ campaign to reform the neighbourhood has resulted only in spotty gentrification. Following a 1985 masterplan, the city has brought in a host of cultural institutions to attract outside visitors, including Josep Lluís Mateo’s Film Theatre, which will formally open later this year, and Richard Meier’s 1995 Barcelona Museum of Contemporary Art (MACBA). In the streets around the theatre, the city has cleared entire blocks to create new plazas and subsidised housing. These efforts have been followed by luxury condos, hotels and trendy restaurants, spilling over from the nearby Gothic Quarter across La Rambla, the famous pedestrian thoroughfare. The clash of high culture, luxury commerce and the neighbourhood’s traditional seediness could not be more jarring. Josep Lluís Mateo is a Barcelona native, and the urban strategy and material texture of his Film Theatre are well-attuned to El Raval’s tough character. While Richard Meier’s neo-purist composition, a few blocks north, could not be more alien, Mateo’s building is constructed of board-formed concrete with a rough texture he compares to nearby peeling walls. ‘It has no skin, no ornamentation. It’s all material, mass, the basic structure of the building,’ he explains. In his competition-winning design of 2004, Mateo minimised the building’s volume in order to maximise scarce outdoor space. Working with a site facing the existing Plaça de Salvador Seguí to the east, he set the visible portion of the building at the back of the lot to the west, bringing it hard up against the existing street wall behind it. The long, narrow superstructure, five metres deep, houses offices and the archive’s library. He left the rest of the site open to merge into the plaza, and buried the two theatres, seating 200 and 400 people, under it. Mateo designed the footprint of this building chiefly with an eye to defining this urban room. The ground-floor lobby, framed either side with uninterrupted glass walls and paved in cobblestones, visually extends the plaza through the building. Cantilevers at either end further articulate the urban space. One opens over a narrow intersection on the ancient street Carrer de Sant Pau, one of the main approaches to the Theatre from La Rambla. The other covers a more protected corner, spanning 10m to shelter the outdoor terrace of the café. The resulting pattern of open spaces plays off the courtyards and

gardens of adjacent public housing to create diagonal paths and lines of sight. The urban fabric around the building has thus become more porous and complex, more habitable and inviting, and more visually secure. Another aspect of the design that responds directly to El Raval are the screens that cover most upper-floor openings of the building. Facing the plaza, the windows of the library and offices are screened by a mesh of stainless-steel wire coated in white lacquer, with a weave of different densities that Mateo likens to a film screen that dissolves at its edges. Windows on facades facing into narrow streets are covered with denser screens: punctured Corten steel overlooking Sant Pau, and a perforated and expanded steel sheet, galvanised in a brass-like hue, on the street behind. ‘You are so close to the neighbours you have got to filter the views,’ says Mateo. Mateo compares these filters to those used for cameras and lighting on a film set, an association that he develops in a number of rather unconvincing directions. This is the thinking behind the use of coloured panes of glass in the ground-floor window walls, otherwise a bit mystifying, though pleasing when they reappear in the office partitions on upper floors. With their varying densities, the perforations in the Corten screen outline typical window openings, and those of the

1. (Previous page) embedded in the dense urban milieu of El Raval, the elongated volume of the new theatre defines the edge of a new plaza. Yet the opportunity has been missed to screen films in the plaza, a common summer cultural pursuit in Spain, which would have helped to animate the public realm

2. (Opposite) cantilevers at either end of the volume articulate the urban space. On the Carrer de Sant Pau, a veil of Corten tempers the theatre’s proximity to neighbouring apartment blocks and filters views 3. The rough concrete of the new building plays off the decaying and distressed textures of its surroundings

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New Film Theatre of Catalonia, Barcelona, Spain, Josep Lluís Mateo

4. A skylit circulation well brings light down into the building, diffusing it through glazed walls to illuminate the upper floors. At present, the interiors have a slightly static quality, as the building is not yet furnished and is due to open later this year 5. The circulation crevasse penetrates down to the subterranean level containing the building’s two cinemas 54 AR | MARCH 2012

‘Mateo develops a dialectic between the telluric descent into darkness of the underground theatres, and the ascent into light of the escalator to upper floors’

galvanised steel trace an early film clip of a bird in flight, but the viewing angles on both facades are too tight to perceive either. There is no harm done on either account, while the variations in density are attractive enough. In a similar bit of tracery worthy of Peter Eisenman, the acoustic perforations in the timber ceiling of the film theatres outline the foundations of the 17th-century women’s prison uncovered on the site (archaeological excavations, such as the discovery of Neolithic remains, delayed the project for two years). This dizzy under-over spatial juxtaposition, placing filmgoers in a situation analogous to underwater divers looking toward the surface, underscores a dialectic that Mateo develops between the telluric descent into darkness of the underground theatres, and the ascent into light of the escalator rising to upper floors, marked by a skylight well above. My greatest doubts about Mateo’s architectural rhetoric concern the structure itself, which is designed like a bridge spanning between four pylons, with the addition of its powerful, asymmetrical cantilevers. The ground floor and third floor are completely free of intermediate columns or beams, so the floors above them are hung from tension cables, which descend from crossbeams that span between the front and back walls. The concrete is post-tensioned,

and Mateo makes the plugs covering the cable ends a design feature, giving the assembly a snap-together, Lego-like quality. But the structure lacks a spatial dimension and a sense of enclosure. The two planes of its front and back walls are not knitted together visually, and the two spaces carved out of the interior for skylight wells do not bear any direct relation to the pylons or other structural cues; they are simply voids in the floor decks. The non-structural enclosures on the end walls contribute to this planar quality, which in places appears as fragile as a house of cards. Evoking the Neo-Brutalism of, say, Paul Rudolph, the concrete disappoints, while the design as a whole is closer in spirit to the High-Tech architecture of the Pompidou Centre in Paris, for example, a language of free spans and floor-to-ceiling glazing that the hefty presence of the concrete undermines. Moreover, the need for such structural calisthenics for a simple problem of offices and a library is questionable, while the truly representative and public element of the project, the film theatres, is invisible and underground. José Luis Guerín, a local filmmaker whose documentary on the transformation of El Raval, En Construcción, was an important source of reference for Mateo, observed precisely this confusion in an interview published in Mateo’s book Occasions. He also pointed out the missed opportunity for actually projecting films outdoors on the plaza in the summer, an old tradition in Spain. In the 1930s, film palaces in Madrid were equipped with open-air theatres on their roofs. Why not here? Finally, one annoying detail was probably the client’s decision: only one escalator descends to the theatres, which means either that it must be reversed for exiting filmgoers − a tricky proposition with two theatres running simultaneously − or people must walk back up to the street. Why not use some of the funds spent on the structure for a double run of escalators? The client also decided to occupy the handsome free-span space intended for the library on the third floor with its offices, including an executive suite with a balcony overlooking the café terrace, and sent the library down to the more compressed second floor. The new library location is more convenient, and the people who spend their working days at the centre now have classier digs, two facts that once again point out weaknesses in Mateo’s design, despite its notable strengths in urban terms.


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6. The language of free spans and floor-to-ceiling glazing gives the interior a sense of lightness, yet this is undermined, to some extent, by the heavy presence of the concrete 7. Panels of coloured glass demarcate offices at the upper level 8. Delicate fantail cobbles extend the plaza through the building, making it publicly permeable and encouraging exploration by the casual visitor 9. Shadowplay at the top of the lightwell. The upward trajectory is an ascent into light, experientially playing off the telluric descent into the dark underworld of the subterranean cinemas 10. Detail of mesh cladding, one of the filtering devices applied to the external walls to screen views. Mateo also uses coloured glazing at ground-floor level 11. The interiors await colonisation. Throughout the building, the presence of the city is palpable

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New Film Theatre 9 of Catalonia, Barcelona, Spain, Josep Lluís Mateo

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Architect Josep Lluís Mateo Structural engineer BOMA Services engineer Grupo J6 External mesh Codina Photographs Adrià Goula

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New Film Theatre of Catalonia, Barcelona, Spain, Josep Lluís Mateo

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EMERGING ARCHITECTURE

RED BULL MUSIC ACADEMY LANGARITA NAVARRO MADRID, SPAIN  AR | SAMPLE ISSUE


CRITICISM

DAVID COHN Japan’s devastating earthquake in March last year forced the cancellation of the Red Bull Music Academy, scheduled to open in Tokyo that same month. The Academy is an annual music festival, with workshops and concerts, bringing together 60 young musicians, DJs and producers from around the world selected from 6,000 applicants. Red Bull, the energy drink company, rescheduled the event for Madrid in October. With the cooperation of the municipal government, they found a home in the Matadero, a new cultural centre taking shape in the city’s former slaughterhouses, a complex of masonry-clad industrial sheds built by municipal architect Luis Bellido between 1907 and 1926. The site for the Academy was a derelict building with dirt floors and unglazed windows, built as a holding pen for pigs and unused for decades.

Madrid architects María Langarita and Victor Navarro, both 33, were asked to prepare the 5,000 square metre space for the Academy in under five months. The couple had won second place in a competition to transform the structure into a contemporary art centre − although the winning scheme was never realised − and they had rehabilitated the Matadero’s water tower; with the short timetable, a new competition was not possible. Three factors conditioned their design: Red Bull’s exacting acoustical requirements; the short construction timetable − spanning the month of August when businesses shut down − which meant that all materials had to be basic and readily available; and the ephemeral nature of the event, which meant that their intervention had to be temporary (following the festival, the Academy remains open as a local centre for three years). To meet these demands, the architects decided ‘to make a city instead of a building’,

in the words of María Langarita. They used many devices developed in previous projects to speed the design process, for a surprisingly clean and sophisticated result. Ten music workshops and Academy offices became one-room cabins, which they distributed along raised wooden walkways at the edges of the structure’s two high central ‘naves’. Under one nave, two larger circular pavilions house a recording studio, lecture hall and canteen. There are open spaces for concerts and social gatherings, surrounded by vegetation − potted trees and ground cover tiered in artificial berms − as well as hidden corners for private time. The architects secured the building’s openings with chicken wire, and consolidated the earthen floors, converting the structure into a kind of giant shading device. The result is something like a Club Med version of a village in the bush. The exteriors of the workshop cabins are finished in 20mm-thick plywood sheets − AR | SAMPLE ISSUE


1. (Previous page) long sections through the volume of the former slaughterhouses show the relationship of the existing historic carapace to the colourful new insertions

2. Single room cabins wrapped in plywood skins contain music workshops and offices. These are arranged along the edges of the structure’s central ‘naves’

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‘The design is not a unitary block that ages uniformly, it is made up of layers that move like mechanical belts at different speeds’

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their relatively large mass helps absorb sound. The thick double-glazing of the windows is framed directly into the light-gauge balloon framing to minimise breaks in the acoustic barrier. Right angles mix with 120 degree angles to break up sound waves, while parallel walls, which promote easy sound transmission, are avoided between adjacent cabins. To absorb vibrations, the architects raised the cabins off the ground on trusses assembled from metal studs. Skylights − glass laid over the stud framing − bring in natural light from the clerestory windows of the naves, supplemented by cheap drafting lamps. Electrical conduit is mounted over the plywood and painted red. Each cabin has a fan coil unit, which uses hot and cold water from the Matadero’s central plant. Workshops are painted in a variety of intense colours inside to distinguish them in the Academy films and photos. To meet the greater sound absorption required for the

pavilion housing the lecture hall, canteen and a radio studio, the architects built its walls of sandbags, using a dark felt bag, naturallydegradable, which was developed for highway embankments. The large-span roof is suspended on cables from the trusses of the nave. Irregular faceted domes (to break up sound) are finished in the vividly-patterned fabrics traditionally used for window awnings in Madrid. Flat sections of the roof are filled with translucent polycarbonate sheets. The recording studio required even greater mass for its walls; here the architects built thick sandbag walls with wire-fence reinforcing and climbing ivy, creating a bunker-like cave (normally recording studios are embedded in poured concrete). The architects’ acceptance of the nearly ruined state of the existing building and the temporary nature of their own intervention forms part of a considered design philosophy. Victor Navarro explains, ‘We’ve been

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educated to see architecture as a unitary object, coherent in itself. But architecture can also be understood in terms of time. We’ve worked a lot with existing buildings, and we’ve come to realise that it’s not just a question of preserving a historic patrimony. We’re working with the captive energies in every object. Sometimes we work with concrete and fabrics in the same building. They have different time spans. The design is not a unitary block that ages uniformly, it is made up of layers that move like mechanical belts at different speeds.’ María Langarita summarises, ‘Buildings are like ships that travel in time, with certain technologies from the past, and you decide if you are going to send those technologies again into the future or not.’ In the case of the Matadero, their project promises to quietly disappear, like the village of a nomadic tribe in the brush, while sending the naves onward towards a more durable reincarnation.


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3. The cluster of cabins creates intimate enclaves. Furniture includes spindly Acapulco chairs in fluorescent hues custom-made by craftsman Margarito Oscar Cano and shipped from Mexico

4. The architects describe the project as working with the ‘captive energies’ of the existing building 5. The suspended fabric roof in the lounge recalls Madrid’s distinctive striped window awnings

Architect Langarita-Navarro Arquitectos Sanitaryware ROCA Bathroom taps IDRAL Bubble lights RZB Photographs Luiz Diaz Diaz, 2, 3, 4 Miguel de Guzmán, 5

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EMERGING ARCHITECTURE

HARBOUR REDEVELOPMENT CREUS E CARRASCO MALPICA, SPAIN  AR | SAMPLE ISSUE


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CRITICISM

CATHERINE SLESSOR Malpica is a remote fishing village on Galicia’s ‘Coast of Death’ in north-eastern Spain. Clinging to a steep hillside, the settlement is a typically picturesque assemblage of buildings huddled around a harbour. But its surface charm glosses over the fact that Malpica’s fishing industry and its population have been in slow decline for the last 20 years. It’s a familiar post-industrial narrative. As prospects contract, locals leave to find work elsewhere, and a spiral of social and economic decline sets in. To try and arrest this, Portos de Galicia, the regional port authority, proposed a redevelopment project for the harbour. The commission went to the young partnership of Creus e Carrasco, based just along the coast in La Coruña. Despite the backdrop of decline, the harbour is still operational and at the heart of civic and economic life. The aim was to provide improved facilities for the fishing fleet, rationalise circulation, develop public space and cultivate the village’s vernacular appeal for visitors. ‘The harbour was analysed as a place for interaction and shelter, with the attraction of its fishing industry and views,’ says Juan Creus. ‘It’s a unique location that makes its presence felt in the town with ramps, stairs and balconies.’ In many ways, the scheme is all about edge conditions and linkages. The focus of the architects’ investigations has been to define and articulate a series of routes and promenades around the harbour and then consider how these relate outwards to the ocean and inwards to mesh with the existing townscape. Beyond the urban and landscaping intentions, the project also manifests a thoughtful approach to the precise form and materiality of the new interventions, which are beautifully and identifiably of their time. 2

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3D model of harbour

1. (Previous page) the rejuvenated harbour landscape responds to Malpica’s dramatic hillside stopography 2. A new promenade weaves along the waterfront to culminate in a belvedere 3. Elegant new timber benches provide enclaves for sitting, sunbathing and socialising


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Before Creus e Carrasco arrived on the scene, the harbour was an accretion of esplanades, wharves and dilapidated industrial buildings, including a warehouse, workshop and first aid centre. These have been demolished to extend the waterfront. Yet despite the ad hoc jumble of spaces, buildings and functions, the harbour retains a powerful sense of connection with the landscape. Cradled in a series of massive retaining walls, the horseshoe-shaped haven lies below the main level of the village, which spills down and round the cliff edge to meet it. The drama of this topography is exploited with a new high-level promenade that runs along the edge of the retaining walls, resting on outcrops and wall tops, and presenting an elevated view of harbour activity, without interfering in it. Along the way, the cliff faces are treated with homogenising shotcrete and planted with  AR | SAMPLE ISSUE

gardens. ‘This zone for rock climbers and gulls’ nests appears out of nowhere for strolling visitors,’ says Creus. The promenade culminates in a belvedere at Punta da Plancha that offering bracing vistas out over the coast. Fabricated from precast concrete sections, the promenade has a surprising dynamism and finesse. Bulwarked on one side by the cliff face, it cantilevers out over the harbourside with streamlined poise. The concrete sections tip up at the edge as if chamfered to support exquisitely slender steel balustrades. In the best functional tradition, the ensemble has a stripped-down authenticity of expression that melds with and dignifies its surroundings. At harbour level, the chamfered concrete promenade is reprised along the edge of an enlarged esplanade to form a pedestrian deck overlooking the harbour entrance. Both ends of the precast concrete sections are tilted up to define a boundary between parking and

pedestrians on the landward side, and to offer a measure of protection along the water’s edge. A series of heavy timber benches and sun loungers provide enclaves for socialising. ‘The project emphasises the potential for improving a typical situation in many Galician fishing villages, whose size prevents a “new slate” approach,’ says Juan Creus. ‘Careful treatment of a few repeated elements or organisational patterns which are often hidden can generate a different, perhaps unstructured type of beauty.’ The jury was impressed by the scheme, admiring the way it sought to re-animate the harbour in a modest yet highly responsive way that must surely have a regenerative impact on the village as a whole. Jury members were especially seduced by the elegance of the new promenade structures and by the evident skill in their design and execution. All unanimously agreed that it was a worthy joint winner.


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Architect Creus e Carrasco Arquitectos Structural engineer Thema Photographs Xoan Piñon and courtesy of the architects Lighting Bega i Guzzini AR | SAMPLE ISSUE


REPUTATIONS Josep Maria Jujol ROWAN MOORE Gaudí, we all know Gaudí: creative phenomenon; force of nature; incontinent slot machine for the Barcelona tourism business, set forever on jackpot; inadvertent maker of a multi-location theme park of himself. Less well known is Josep Maria Jujol, Gaudí’s employee and protégé. Yet, according to the not inconsiderable postwar architect Josep Antoni Coderch, ‘I believe he created works of much greater significance than those of Gaudí.’ If you have visited a Gaudí work and felt a lightness of spirit, perhaps a flicker of a smile, it’s likely you’re looking at something Jujol made under the old man’s supervision. The serpentine benches in the Park Güell are his, with their decoration of broken ceramic, and possibly the seaweed metalwork on the Casa Milà. Some panel painting in the cathedral of Palma de Mallorca is by Jujol, so loose and splashy that the paint seems never to have dried. Jujol’s debt to Gaudí is clear: the convulsive forms, the abandoned curves, the eclectic use of ancient and contemporary techniques and materials, the creation of an alternative nature in parallel to the one we previously knew, all suffused with a combination of Catholic piety and Catalan nationalism which would be indigestible to atheist liberals like the present author, if it wasn’t for the force and brilliance with which the works are carried off. But, where Gaudí is thunderous, heavy and overwhelming, Jujol is more aerial. He is Rococo to the other’s Baroque. Gaudí’s buildings are rocks, his are foam. This becomes clear in the works in his own name, after leaving Gaudí’s studio. In his Casa Negre the long sinuous gable takes a line for a walk, as Paul Klee would say in the context of painting, but in the less pliable medium of architecture. Clouds of 110 AR | DECEMBER 2012

white spread over the ochre facade like one emulsion tipped into another. Delicate sgraffito in grey-green is then laid on top of the white, showing fronds, garlands and inscriptions in honour of the Virgin Mary. Then, for some reason, a glassy box resembling half an 18th-century carriage is attached to the front, and propped on insect-like legs. Above it is a deep loggia. The facade is a work of layers − sometimes flat, like a canvas on which Jujol doodles, or a stageset, but with moments of depth and mass. The stains of age, of damp and weathering, add further layers to those of the architect. Round the back, the idea is taken further − here multiple patches of brick and stone resemble a biological culture, spreading bacteria, mottled cheese, or an artist’s palette encrusted with past mixings. Jujol achieved a rare directness between the actions of his own hand and the finished buildings. They capture the quality of a drawing or painting more than the works of almost any other architect − they have a drawing’s spontaneity, and their design tends to move readily between two dimensions and three, between decorated surface and shaped form. Sometimes he himself painted directly onto the walls, with fluent, semi-transparent strokes. Sometimes he stood over craftsmen as they twisted metal to his orders, occasionally beyond breaking point. He saw beauty in almost everything. He would pick up objects in the street, and make things out of cardboard, tins, broken glass and stones. He converted discarded agricultural tools into hinges. There is symbolism, or iconography, or imagery in his works. Some is religious − madonnas and angels. In his theatre in Tarragona, for the Catholic Workers’ Patronage society, swirling decorations in the soffits of the balconies represent an ocean on which the ship-like other levels float. In a hardware shop in Barcelona, the interior decoration was something to do with ‘twinkling algae and crackling

‘If you have visited a Gaudí work and felt a lightness of spirit, perhaps a flicker of a smile, it’s likely you’re looking at something Jujol made under the old man’s supervision’

Josep Maria Jujol i Gibert 1879-1949 Education Escuela Superior de Arquitectura de Barcelona (1896) Educator Lecturer at the Escuela Superior de Arquitectura de Barcelona from 1910 Key buildings Casa Batlló (1904-06), Casa Milà (1906-10), Park Güell (1900-14) with Gaudí; Metropol Theatre in Tarragona (1908), Casa Torre de la Creu (1913-16), Can Negre (1915-30), Vistabella Sagrat Cor Church (1918-23)

fireworks’. An odd combination, the significance of which is obscure. Generally, you feel that you are in the presence of a world-view, of some assembly of symbols and relationships, that may not be totally coherent or lucid, but which is nonetheless attractive. The Jujol universe is perhaps best appreciated as a bestiary, in which vegetable and mineral are fused into animal-like elements. Sometimes these are explicit, as in elephant-shaped iron hooks, or light fixtures in the form of beaky, Bosch-like creatures, or a pair of semi-detached houses that look like a mouse in plan (why? Who knows?). More generally there is a sense of animation, of seething life, in almost everything he made. It is in fact misleading to speak of ‘finished buildings’ in Jujol’s work. Many were unfinished for reasons beyond his control, and to his dismay, such as his shrine at Montferri, which was interrupted by the Spanish Civil War. Budgets ran out, or patrons disappeared. But there was also desired incompletion, or at least slow unfolding over time. His Casa Bofarull outside Tarragona was a matter of 15 years of modifications and tinkerings for the indulgent sisters who owned it. His way of work welcomed chance, accident and things external to it, like the random shapes of the field stones he incorporated in his structures, or the mottlings on the Casa Negre. His Vistabella church, a gothic stone mountain on the outside, had its interior scorched by fire during the Civil War. I doubt if Jujol would have liked the way in which this event left a smoky layer over some of his wall painting, but it adds to the mystery of the place. It is hard to imagine a building by, say, Mies van der Rohe, accepting fire damage so well. Much of Jujol’s architecture is about layers of time, present in his brush strokes, in the geological history of stones, in weathering and ageing. The design and making of his buildings was less a fixed event, more


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a phase in their continuing story (and, often, his projects were renovations and additions rather than new buildings). More particularly, they are fluid or liquid. They give a sense of barely holding together, of having just emerged from some ferment or chaos into which they might again dissolve, that their order, structure and identity is a temporary alliance that could unravel. They seem to be assemblies of actions and stuff, which provisionally create an event if a memorable one − in space and time. This feeling of suspension or fragility is rare in the usually over-emphatic practice of architecture. Gaudí didn’t have it, for sure. Why then, is Jujol not more widely celebrated? Partly because, in his own lifetime, he was both modest and obstinate, uninterested in adapting to the demands of others. Gaudí said that ‘he does his work precisely where he shouldn’t’. He refused to play politics, and his commissions became increasingly obscure and marginal. The Civil War didn’t help. One commission which might have made him more famous, and for which he was the best-qualified architect in the world, would have been the continuation of Sagrada Família after Gaudí’s death, but the job went to someone more biddable. He also showed no interest in joining in the stylistic and theoretical currents of his time. His approach was essentially of the era of Art Nouveau or Arts and Crafts, of the end of the 19th century. It was already old fashioned when he carried out his first independent commissions, around 1908. But he kept on in more or less the same vein until he died in 1949. He had very little architectural progeny (though perhaps the Oklahoma organicist Bruce Goff had something of Jujol about him) until Catalan architects of the 1980s and ’90s started picking up some of his motifs. He can look like an evolutionary dead end, a mutation that went nowhere. History books are usually unkind to people who step outside the march of history. AR | DECEMBER 2012 111


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A coda from the Venice Biennale. This elaborate axonometric drawing by Rafael Moneo of his 1972 Bankinter headquarters in Madrid is displayed on the final wall of the Arsenale. Moneo’s collection of vast drawings attempts to challenge the 130 AR | OCTOBER 2012

practice of architects accepting commissions beyond their native locales. It explores the irresistible rise of the ‘generic city’ and ponders a future in which local identity becomes impossible to sustain amid a globalised urban environment.


The Architectural Review - Spain Sample Issue