Arquitectura Viva
Tuesday, September 29, 2020

Arquitectura Viva 74


Calatrava, Gehry, Holl, Ito, Miralles, Nouvel
IX-X 2000


Works to Consume.. The novelist and poet Michel Houellebecq and the latest Pritzker Prize winner, Rem Koolhaas, concur in their somber diagnostic. If the French writer describes the world as a supermarket and believes that modern architecture can only hope to design the sections of that vast shopping mall, the Dutch architect asserts that the built evidence of modernization is ‘junkspace’: an endless and undifferentiated interior, defined by contemporary technical developments such as air conditioning, escalators or sheetrock, which have forever worn down the credibility of architecture.


Luis Fernández-Galiano
Bitter Heroes
An Architectural Diagnostic Michel Houellebecq
Transaction Places
The World as a Supermarket Rem Koolhaas
Modernization's Fall-out


Buildings: Projects and Realizations  

Formal Echoes. Frank Gehry builds a rock museum whose bright coloristic bulks are inspired by musical iconography; Santiago Calatrava perseveres with his traditional biomorphic repertoire by designing a science museum as the skeleton of a cetacean; and the ill-fated Enric Miralles recreated an enchanted forest frozen within a vegetal one to house a school of music.

Frank Gehry
Experience Music Project, Seattle
Santiago Calatrava
Science Museum, Valencia
Miralles & Tagliabue
School of Music, Hamburg
Special Effects. Musical and mathematical patterns allow Steven Holl to play with perceptive effects in the headquarters of a Dutch company; geometric strictness and cold materials enable Jean Nouvel to present a renewed image of judicial architecture; and organic analogies become the starting point for Toyo Ito in his search for maximum transparency and lightness.   Steven Holl
Het Oosten Building, Amsterdam
Jean Nouvel
Law Courts, Nantes
Toyo Ito
Médiathèque, Sendai
Books, Exhibitions, Personalities  

Heritages. The Fleta Theater competition brings back to life a modern oeuvre in Zaragoza; and the international contest to build the Museum of Human Evolution connects Burgos with the archaeological site of Atapuerca.
  Art / Culture 

Justo Isasi
Zaragoza Rescues the Fleta
Ignacio Camarero
Navarro Baldeweg in Burgos
From Past To Future. If the German exhibition attempts to portray Spanish architecture of the last century, events such as the Metapolis festival celebrate and exacerbate the effects of globalization on the work of architects.   José Ignacio Linazasoro
A Spanish Century in Frankfurt
J. M. Montaner & Z. Muxí
Deconstructed Metapolis
Poles of Attraction. The Netherlands and Northern Switzerland present polemically opposed architectural landscapes, whose only shared characteristic is their being points of reference of European contemporary practice.
  Focho’s Cartoon
Cruz & Ortiz
Various Authors
Interiors, Design, Construction 

Theory and Practice. Bernard Tschumi, dean of the Columbia School of Architecture, and Jorge Silvetti, holding the same position in Harvard’s GSD, have each completed projects that put their university experience to the test: the School of Architecture in Marne-la-Vallée and a student dormitory in the Princeton campus. On their side, Vittorio Magnago Lampugnani, who directed Domus, and Pierre-Alain Croset, who was the editor for Casabella, change theory for practice and build social housing in Austria and Italy.
  Technique / Style 

Florence Michel
Tschumi in Marnee-la-Vallée
Philip Arcidi
Machado & Silvetti in Princeton
Martin Tschanz
Lampugnani in Maria Lankowitz
Kenneth Frampton
Croset & Bertolazzi in Brescia
To close, and as counterpoint to the subject matter on the cover of this issue, an article that defends a city of normality and supports an urbanism that learns from the experience of the past, rather than exclusively searching for the new.   Products
Valderrama on the SIMO
Vittorio Magnano Lampugnani
A City of Normality

Luis Fernández-Galiano

Works to Consume

Architecture is consumed in the bonfire of the world. The urban magma swallows up its works in the same way that the media magma digests its images, and both buildings and their representations are metabolized in the confusing cacophony of the territory and its kaleidoscopic perception. The most singular pieces maintain their positions on the landscape only during the short interval that stretches from the moment of curiosity about a new arrival to the onset of fatigue from déjà vu, and the most unusual images hold the attention of the spectator in the brief parenthesis between surprise and familiarity. In a universe of ever-changing esthetic tendencies, nothing is as close to the exclamation of admiration as the yawn of boredom, and in a fickle planet of lifestyles and fashion, validity cycles end as swiftly as the threshold of novelty rises.

If, as the French novelist and poet Michel Houellebecq argues, the world is but a colossal supermarket, then the average life span of architectural novelties on the shelves hardly suffices for them to be consumed and forgotten - thrown into the voracious torrent of interchanges and movements. And if, as the Dutch architect Rem Koolhaas defends, the most genuine construction of modernity is what he calls ‘junkspace’, then the most exacting works are diluted in it as soon as they are done - dumped into the formless mire of the imprecise urb like vehicles or haphazard furniture dragged by a flood of mud. It is under such scatological and inclement signs that architecture sinks in the fiasco of the city, and individual buildings melt in an ominous current of quick and viscous flows.

Neither spasmodic singularity (such as Frank Gehry’s bubbly bulks for the Museum of Rock in Seattle, where the polychromy of electric guitars drowns out the mute music of architecture) nor monumental scale (such as Santiago Calatrava’s titanic bones at the Museum of Science of Valencia, where the whale devours the cathedral) can rescue a work from the triviality of its environment. And what then of the more playful and sculptural projects? Neither the choreographic and coloristic volumes of Enric Miralles’ School of Music in Hamburg nor the random patterns of Steven Holl’s headquarters for a Dutch company in Amsterdam will save these constructions from the babel of voices. Even Jean Nouvel’s Law Courts in Nantes, with its galactic exactitude of dark reflecting geometries, or Toyo Ito’s Médiathèque in Sendai, with its bundles of structural tubes wrapped with finicky and transparent precision, eventually surrender their crystallographic perfection to the formless texture of the surrounding territory. Architecture pretends to produce the world that consumes it.

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