Tag Archives: spain

Endesa Pavilion

Endesa Pavilion in Barcelona, Spain, by IaaC, 2011.

The following text and images are courtesy Institute for advanced architecture in Catalonia (IaaC).

Endesa Pavilion is a self-sufficient solar prototype installed at the Marina Dock, within the framework of the International BCN Smart City Congress. Over a period of one year it will be used as control room for monitoring and testing several projects related to intelligent power management.

The pavilion is actually the prototype of a multi-scale construction system—a façade composed by modular components, like solar brick, that respond to photovoltaic gaining, solar protection, insulation, ventilation, lighting...The same parametric logic adapts façade geometries to the specific environmental requirements for each point of the building. It is is a single component that integrates all levels of intelligence that the building needs.

From "form follows function" (classic XX century statement) to "form follows energy": The façade opens in reaction to the solar path—active and permeable to the south, closed and protective to the north. The behavior of this skin makes visible the environmental and climatic processes that surrounds the prototype. Higher overhangs allow more energy collection and greater protection against the incident radiation during summer.

Solar houses should be built with solar materials. The wood, grown with solar power, is used now to build a self-sufficient photovoltaic pavilion. The current digital fabrication techniques, and the last advances in energy management and distributed production, make technology closer to the user, open and participatory. The Endesa pavilion is an accessible device, technologically soft and easily understandable. Its construction, materials and energy, and its climatic behavior are transparent to the inhabitant.

La Lira

La Lira in Ripoll, Spain by RCR Arquitectes / Joan Puigcorbé, 2011.

I'm not overly familiar with the work of Spain's RCR Arquitectes -- the firm of Rafael Aranda, Carme Pigem and Ramon Vilalta -- but if this pedestrian bridge and public space in Ripoll is any indication, I have a new favorite architect. La Lira Theater Public Space, as the project is called in a 2008 El Croquis devoted to their work, inserts itself boldly into a gap in the Catalonian town's urban fabric, bridging the Ter River and linking to a small public space/parking lot on the east.

At first glance what is striking about the intervention is the way it fills a gap with a void instead of a solid. Openings on the east and west respectively frame the town (building facades) and the river (trees and buildings on the other side). The architects basically line the space between existing buildings along the river, covering the floor, walls, and roof with Cor-ten steel, solid underfoot but spaced on the sides and above to admit light into the dark space. This choice of material, which extends to the various surfaces of the pedestrian bridge, gives the insertion an aged appearance. Therefore the alien presence is at home with the deteriorating neighbors.

From the east, across the Ter River, the project presents an image that is at once intimidating yet inviting. A dark space framing the buildings beyond is reminiscent of Anish Kapoor's large-scale installations that act like a vortex. In Ripoll the destination is not so mysterious, but the experience of crossing the bridge and traversing the space is heightened by the articulation of the different elements. The pedestrian bridge is basically a two-sided treatment: solid on the north and picketed on the south; this applies to both the guardrails and the walking surface. Benches peel up from the dividing line to make the bridge a spot to stop and take in the view to the south.

Arriving at the covered public space, it's apparent that the kinks of the walls do not follow the adjacent buildings; they create interstitial zones that are home to vegetation that is leaking through the gaps between the vertical slats. A lower solid zone -- Cor-ten on the north and butt-glazed glass on the south -- creates a datum line that gives a subtle sense of scale to the large space. This porous insertion in a historical fabric is an interesting precedent for filling a gap in a townscape. Here's hoping the residents find a suitable use for the space, be it for performance as apparently intended, or something else fitting its location and rusty wrapper.

Thanks to Eugeni Pons for the use of his photographs.

3D Athletics Track

3D Athletics Track in Alicante, Spain by Subarquitectura, 2011.

If one were to ascribe a work of architecture as surreal, initially it would probably arise from a formal similarity to Surrealist art, such as the painting of Salvador Dali where clocks droop. Surrealism presents the viewer with something familiar that is skewed in a surprising way, be it a dreamlike metamorphosis or a juxtaposition with something that doesn't belong. Antonio Gaudi's architecture, preceding the production of Surrealist art, certainly comes to mind -- what with familiar elements like windows inserted within alien, undulating walls -- but another strain of surreal architecture would be more subtle, taking the familiar and adding an element of surprise that is strongly linked to the former.

Subarquitectura's 3D Athletics Track in southeastern Spain is one such subtly surreal piece of architecture. The architects took a standard Olympic-sized running track -- 400-meter length, 36.5-meter radius, 1.22-meter-wide lanes (source) -- and added a tangential strip of track that rises and falls over the changing rooms like a three-dimensional weigh station on the side of a highway. Between this addition and the conventional track loop are tiered seats for spectators who can reach them via a portal from the structure below, so as not to cross any track to find the island of seats.

So why add this odd appendage, this SNAFU? It is certainly a humorous bit of design, since it takes the standard running track and curls it up and over the changing rooms like a pliable piece of paper. Yet by using the standard track as a roof the design makes it a usable extension of the loop. For runners accustomed to running on these surfaces the rise and fall expand the repertoire of what is exercised while running; it is much different to run uphill, run downhill, and run on a level surface. Competitions will definitely stick to the standard track but the tangential hill is a boon for training.

The decision to add this surreal twist of track also serves to bury the architecture, to make it disappear. From beyond the appendage the changing rooms are marked by vertical metal fins and a portal whose doors use the same fins to blend into the elevation when closed. Behind this porous facade is a narrow corridor that leads to the enclosed rooms that incorporate operable clerestories for ventilation. This "building" is basic yet functional. It is of course secondary to the track, which rolls over it and makes something new out of something familiar.

Five Projects by Rafael Moneo

Five Projects by Rafeal Moneo.

The following quotes are pulled from the book reviewed this week, Rafael Moneo: Remarks on 21 Works by Moneo and published by The Monacelli Press. The photographs are courtesy Michael Moran, from the same book.

Completed in 1981, the City Hall (top photo) in Logroño, Spain is considered by Moneo as "city as architecture or buildings configured by fragments of the city." Inspired by Aldo Rossi's The Architecture of the City, a triangular open space fronting the city hall sits at an angle to the city's grid. The two long elevations facing this plaza are treated differently, one colonnaded and the other with punched openings, what Moneo further describes as a "way of understanding the city hall through its composition in relation to urban space."

Another city hall project can be found in the City Hall Extension in Murcia, Spain (top left photo). Completed in 1998, Moneo approached the project as "revering the existing architecture while conceiving the new one free from contextual and stylistic references." The building fronts Cardinal Belluga Piazza and looks across to the facade of the Cathedral of Murcia. Moneo started the project as Deconstructivism was sweeping academia, having displaced Postmodernism as the prevailing style and approach to context. His design is between these two extremes, most prominently "a structure of superimposed pilasters that immediately brings to mind the idea of the facade as a retable [a frame with objects behind an altar]," therefore linking it to the Cathedral.

For the Kursaal Concert Hall and Convention Center in San Sebastian, Spain (photo at right), Moneo approached the project as one in which "singular geographic conditions demand an intuitive architectural response." This is one of the architect's best known projects, completed in 1999: two skewed and sloping cubes sit atop a plinth by the mouth of the Urumea River overlooking San Sebastian Bay. Moneo "deliberately strove to avoid a conventional architectural solution ... [and] avoid any reference to the existing urban fabric. Thus two cubes emerged, two abstract volumes capable of fulfilling the program [and] fitting into the landscape."

Moneo approached the Audrey Jones Building at the Museum of Fine Arts (photo at left) 1958 in Houston, Texas around "compactness as an architectural feature that accepts a building's urban condition without limiting the architect's freedom in the handling of its interior spaces." His design, completed in 2000, followed Mies van der Rohe's 1958 extension to the original museum and therefore raised the question of "whether to think of [the Jones Building] as yet another extension ... or to merely allude to it by building an autonomous volume." The latter prevailed, dictated mainly by its site on a separate block, linked to the old building by an underpass designed by James Turrell. A number of lantern skylights rise from a building with a predominantly solid wrapper. These skylights give freedom to the interior and make the museum "a machine for capturing light."

The last project, completed in 2003, is the General and Royal Archive of Navarra (photo at right) in Pamplona, Spain. "When requirements of appropriate use undermine the principle of 'indifference to function' in rehabilitating old buildings" is Moneo's description of his approach to the project. He skeptically approached the "trend of putting old buildings to new use" in erecting a new building on the ruins of the palace of Santo Domingo. A building that would house the records of the palace itself was developed, since "there was no contradiction between the terms 'palace' and 'archive.'" A "volumetric solution" for the intervention prevailed, with the existing helping to determine the new. To Moneo, "the building now appears above the old plateau where the city of Pamplona was founded as independent, enclosed ensemble in keeping with the original character of the palace."

La Cabanya Nursery School

La Cabanya Nursery School in Torelló, Spain by SAU Taller d'arquitectura, 2010.

On the eastern edge of Torelló, Spain sits the La Cabanya Nursery School, which shares its name with an adjacent park of the same name. Designed by SAU Taller d'arquitectura, the school is a triangular building -- more accurately, one could say it is three buildings in a triangular arrangement, all joined by a skylit space in the center. This triangular space links the program pieces that are laid out in rectangular bars, but it also serves as an extension of the dining area and a performance hall.

The three edges of the larger triangle contain the classrooms (overlooking the park to the south), management and services (also the entry on the north edge), and vertical circulation (on the main road to the east). The last contains a series of ramps that serve the upper floor of the second, while also providing a second access from the street. Therefore this primarily solid section of the building negotiates the site's change in grade; it also gives the school a strong image via the floating roof and an expanse of glass that gives passersby a glance into the building's triangular core.

Around the corner the management/service section features a top-floor cantilever that reaches towards the small courtyard, highlighting the main entrance and presenting a colorful face. Yet it is the classroom module that receives the most attention of the three. The plan situates nap rooms between the classrooms, in the process creating small outdoor spaces that give the classrooms corner windows. This plan is reminiscent of Eliel Saarinen's Crow Island School outside Chicago, but La Cabanya's classrooms share these outdoor rooms capped by glazed canopies. The classrooms also feature what the architects call "interactive panels," which "regulate the entry of light and can be used as a game."

Each of these three modules also presents a facade to the capped triangular space in the center. The entrance is covered in wood panels, the classrooms are white with splashes of color echoed outside, and the space under the ramps is utilized for strollers. Overhead a series of south-facing skylights, combined with clerestories, brings plenty of natural light to this space. It's apparent the architects considered the needs of the children and the providers when laying out the spaces small (classrooms, shared outdoor spaces) and large (inner courtyard). It's a simple response to a triangular site, but one that creates a strong -- and protected -- sense of place.

Building of Control CCS

Building of Control CCS in Ferrol, Spain by Diaz and Diaz Architects, 2010.

Ferrol is a city in the northwest corner of Spain, in Galicia, on the Atlantic coast. Its location enabled the city to become a major naval center, especially from the shipbuilding taking place since the 18th century. A late 20th-century decline in this sector did not bode well for Ferrol, but the construction of an outer port and new highways this century has extended its reach in trade. Where Spanish naval ships were born, now the ubiquitous shipping containers come and go.

Diaz and Diaz Architects, in collaboration with Antonio Desmonts Sierra, designed a multipurpose building for the Port Authority and Control of the Outer Harbor of Ferrol, a three-story triangular building on a dramatic site, on the tip of a narrow pier jutting into the waters. The triangular shape and projecting roof seem to point ships towards the nearby port and Ferrol in the distance. Behind the building is the Atlantic, wide and open.

As the prow of a ship ready to weigh anchor and set sail, on the hammer of the main dock of the Outer Harbour of Ferrol, opened to the views of the estuary. -Diaz and Diaz Architects

Unlike the Lisbon Harbor Control Tower in Portugal, which reaches towards the sky like a contemporary lighthouse, this facility nestles itself in the site's concrete walls and bulkheads. At first glance this seems to be a rather subdued response to the dramatic site and visibility of the building and city itself. But the louvered glass walls and floating roof still make a fairly strong statement. Looking at these photographs, the space between the roof and the enclosed floors below looks like it would make a great event space, with panoramic views towards the inner harbor and the Atlantic.

According to the architects' statement, they were striving for "uniqueness and presence, functionality and flexibility, 'intelligent' and 'high-tech' building, economy and easy maintenance." These traits can be applied to just about any building designed these days, but the first two pair seems to predominate. The shape and stacking of the floors address the first, as described, give the building its unique prow-like appearance and a presence that is rooted yet ready to "set sail."

360 House

360 House in Galapagar, Spain by Subarquitectura, 2010.

The following text and images are courtesy Subarquitectura (Andrés Silanes + Fernando Valderrama + Carlos Bañón) for their design of the recently completed 360 House outside Madrid. Photograph are by David Frutos.

A unique opportunity for us is in reality a problem that’s been posed thousands of times: to construct a house with a public program of social relation, associated with a single-family house on a sloping plot of land with privileged views, in this case of the mountains outside Madrid. It has no one solution, there are many, they’re even cataloged in books about houses on slopes.

We try not to think of domestic spaces. On the contrary, we take as a point of reference works of engineering, motorway intersections, changes of direction. We proceed from generic solutions to the problem of descending, solutions that conceal great plasticity. We seek the poetic in all that seems to have been considered from the merely pragmatic point of view. The result is the literal construction of a use diagram. In this instance, form does not follow function, but is instead function itself. Cyclical movement, routine and surprise turn into a way of living.

Its formal complexity offers the possibility of reaching all points of the house through two different routes, which multiply the possibilities of use and enjoyment. It has the form of a 360-degree loop, like the shapes skaters make, as artistic as they are precise. An extreme shape, the house is curved, generating the greatest quantity of linear meters towards the good views. It is shored up in the landscape and turns back on itself, completing the revolution. The degree of intimacy increases as the distance to the ends increases. At the midpoint is a media room, isolated and completely dark; 100% technology, 0% landscape.

With a single gesture two ways of moving are generated: going down and looking outwards. The long house, a sinuous movement, a descent by ramp and ample turning radii tangential to the setbacks of the plot of land generate a panoramic vision. The short house, the quick way in a straight line, stairs of direct descent and a deep view opens towards the landscape. A building that is black outside, absorbent, of slate, a material specific to the location, almost imposed as an aesthetic specification of the area. Inside is white, reflective, generic, neutral and luminous. Life incorporates colur, outside with the vegetation and inside with the people.

Tenerife Opera House

Tenerife Opera House in Tenerife, Spain by Santiago Calatrava, 2003.

Click images (courtesy Javier Salmones) for larger, color pictures.

Before the official opening of Frank Gehry's much anticipated Walt Disney Concert Hall in October, Santiago Calatrava's Tenerife Opera House in Santa Cruz, Tenerife will open to the public. With its inauguration on September 27, the Opera House will bring attention both to the city of Santa Cruz and the Canary Islands, a grouping of seven islands west of Morocco. An autonomous region of Spain, the islands are known more for its nightlife and beaches than for cultural amenities, though surely this building is an attempt to infuse the islands with both high culture and world-class architecture.

The enormous amounts of press given to the Disney Concert Hall in Los Angeles, California can be attributed to various reasons, including the lengthy design and construction process and the concomitant financial concerns, the architect's stardom and his success in Bilbao, and the Hall's family name and its associations. With each of these newsworthy items, the design takes second stage, especially since its inception occurred in 1987, before the design for the Guggenheim and other buildings since completed. In relation to his other work it will be seen out of order, though it will be judged on its aesthetics, its acoustics and as a product of one of the world's leading architects.

Similar consideration will be given to Calatrava's design for the new home of the Tenerife Symphony Orchestra. Aesthetically, the Opera House follows from sculptural studies that Calatrava investigated earlier in his career. With an absence of program and scale, the sculptures were useful for the architect/engineer to develop novel forms generated from the study of forces. This investigation lead to the dramatic, symmetrical form of the building, an engineering marvel in concrete and stone. His method is contrary to Gehry's, whereby designs like the Disney Hall, embody artistic intuition instead of engineering skill, though each creates objects of unique beauty.

Sited on nearly six acres next to the ocean, the building seems to rise up and over itself in the form of a wave from the waters below. Two auditoriums, totally 73,000 s.f. with a capacity of over 2000, is contained under the wave, as well as administrative offices, below-grade parking and a public plaza (click here for section). Acoustically, the two halls were designed to be adaptable to different performances and situations, with openings that can be closed for the ideal treatment. Although the building will be the permanent home of the TSO, upcoming events include plays and even conferences that justify the variability.

In relationship to Calatrava's previous work, the Tenerife Opera House sees both an increase in scale and variety of program for the architect who started with small commissions and bridges as his forte. With his architectural style suited to long spans and repetition it's not surprise that he has done train stations and airports, but this building is his first concert hall. Its design definitely says, "Calatrava" though the resemblance to skeletal forms of his previous work is less evident. Instead the graceful form is something unique entirely, resembling a wing but not necessarily modeled upon one.

Recently completed buildings, including the Milwaukee Art Museum and the City of Arts and Sciences in Valencia, Spain, have given Santiago Calatrava increased exposure internationally. His recognizable, unique structures, like Frank Gehry's, have the potential to attract attention to their locales and their companion cultures. This trend toward architecture as attractor to improve economics via tourism has its good and bad points. The emphasis on architecture is refreshing with a potential to educate the public about their surroundings, though the importance of "cutting edge" architecture may detract from the importance of a building's relationship to the greater context and intelligent thinking about urban design.

[Google Earth link]

Recycling Plant

Recycling Plant in Madrid, Spain by Abalos & Herreros, 2000.

Situated in the Valdemingómez area of Madrid, Spain, this Recycling Plant for urban waste is part of a larger plan to improve both the social and environmental aspects of the Southeast Region. Designed by Madrid's own Abalos & Herreros, the Plant is only part of a group of projects to create a system for waste treatment and recycling, while also transforming the area to achieve the regional plan's goals.

The project unifies the typically separate components - including selection, processing and treatment facilities, offices, workshops and storage space - under a single, sloping, green roof (click here for plan). In the architect's words, the roof echoes "the gravitational character of the process as it does the original hillside upon which it sits". Aside from the roof, the other major exterior feature is the polycarbonate panels - appropriately recycled. The translucent panels admit light during the day and reverse the process at night, as the Plant admits a soft, yellow glow to the surroundings.

A unique aspect of the Recycling Plant is the incorporation of a museum and a route for visitors to watch the recycling process. In addition to the actual working conditions of the Plant, it also tries to educate the public by putting itself on display. In a way, then, the polycarbonate panels allude to the exhibition of the working processes. With the structure and interior finishes showing environmental sensitivity, the overall project - both building and program - goes beyond other "green" buildings.

Intended to act as a recycling plant for 25 years, the building will either become a service building or dismantled with the parts recycled or re-used. Hopefully at that time the building will successfully change uses, because even though it is essentially an industrial container, it has been designed and built with such care that it would enhance its region, even if it exists as something else.

[Google Earth link]

National Museum of Roman Art

National Museum of Roman Art

National Museum of Roman Art in Mérida, Spain by José Rafael Moneo, 1984.

Note: The following is transcribed from The Pritzker Architecture Prize: The First Twenty Years, published in 1999 by The Art Institute of Chicago.

José Rafael Moneo is above all an architect of tremendous range. His flexibility in varying the appearance of his works based on their differing contexts is reflected in the way he takes on each new commission as a fresh new exercise. He draws on an incredible reservoir of concepts and ideas, which he filters through the specifics of the site, the purpose, the form, the climate, and other circumstances of the project. As a result, each of his buildings is unique, but at the same time, uniquely recognizable as being from his palette.

Founded by legionaries of Augustus in 24 B.C., Mérida became the most important Roman city in Spain by the fall of the empire. Almost completely destroyed after the Muslim invasion, it began to recover under Arab rule. It has endured through the centuries, and today is a modest rural town in the province of Extremadura.

Archaeological excavations were begun in the late nineteenth century, and numerous monuments, statures, and other artifacts have been recovered. Today the theater and arena are impressive reminders of the town's past. Not far from these monumental relics is the National Museum of Roman Art, which is constructed over still-buried portion of the Roman town.

The primary goal was to build a museum that would offer people an opportunity to understand aspects of the town's Roman heritage. Without falling into a strict imitation of Roman architecture, Moneo adopted the Roman construction system - massive masonry-bearing walls filled with concrete. Other Roman building techniques, materials, and proportions were utilized as well, and prominence was given to construction as an expression of architecture itself. The materiality of the Roman brick wall becomes, finally, the most important feature in the architecture of the museum.

The main exhibition hall is traversed by a series of parallel walls that have been opened with towering arches. The perspective view through the arches reveals the scale of the building and expresses the continuity of the space therein. These walls also define lateral bays for the display of some of the most valuable pieces in the museum's collection. The walls function as partitions, on which are hung cornices, capitals, mosaics, and fragments of statuary. These surfaces are not considered to be mere neutral supports for the objects; rather, the translucent white marble of the relics may be seen in a dialectical interplay with the material presence of the brick walls. Natural light, another fundamental concern in the museum's design, enters through skylights above and windows set high in the facades. The constantly changing intensity and color of the light contributes to the dialogue between the works of art and the building itself.

[Google Earth link]