Arquitectura Viva
Tuesday, September 29, 2020

Arquitectura Viva 86


Experimentos europeos y experiencias ibéricas
IX-X 2002

Material Houses. Experimental or extravagant, domestic architecture reflects the spirit of the moment through the material substance of its works. As in the tale of The Three Little Pigs, the options are residential and vital: the European capital of glass emulates historic avant-garde with a solid version of the ‘glass house’; an ecological house of straw is built in a red brick British neighborhood; a textile house – half art installation, half agricultural greenhouse – goes up in the south of France. Commentaries on these works are by Jorge Sainz, Mariano Vázquez and Cristina Díaz Moreno with Efrén García Grinda.


Kruunenberg & Van der Erve
Emerald Thickness
Casa Laminata in Leerdam
Wigglesworth & Till
Reading Vitruvio Anew
House and Studio in London
Artificial Harvest
Barak House in Sommières

Cover Story  

Twelve Iberian Experiences. The twins in Portugal state their differences where plot allows and program demands; the Basque wooden chest ensures light and privacy with an industrial profile; the Madrid shell pursues mechanical simplicity; the Catalan box recalls la machine à habiter; the Canary Islands bastion anchors on the rocks and looks over the bay; the Galician house breaks its limits and local customs with a weightless enclosure; the Navarrese prism bursts quietly inside; the Andalusian shelter evokes agricultural sheds; the Portuguese house-town emerges from a rundown site; the Mediterranean choreography of pieces enters into dialogue with a palm grove; the raised platform in Barcelona connects and separates two lifestyles; and an old villa in the Spanish capital reinterprets urban rules and renews itself with a plywood suit.


Cannatà & Fernandes, Vila Real
Ercilla & Campo, Vitoria
Carmen Espejel, Guadarrama
FFPV, Barcelona
Gutiérrez & Ojeda, Tenerife
Irisarri & Piñera, Gondomar
Francisco Mangado, Pamplona
Martín & Martín, Granada
F. & M. Aires Mateus, Alenquer
Javier Peña, Elche
Roldán & Berengué, Barcelona
Nieto & Sobejano, Madrid

Views and Reviews  

Masterly Sources. The facsimile edition of the travel notebooks of Le Corbusier in Spain provides more details on his visions and ventures; and a monumental monograph on Utzon acknowledges his canonical character.

  Art / Culture 

Ángel González García
Le Corbusier’s Travels in Spain
Christopher Thompson
The Traces of Utzon

Heritage and Avant-Garde. A fine collection of Spanish contemporary art is installed in the Renassaince cloister of a Castilian monastery; and a Viennese and German one of the early 20th century in a New York mansion.   Javier Hernando
Patio Herreriano inValladolid
Carlos Jiménez
The Neue Galerie in New York
Engineering Voices. Cecil Balmond belongs to that singular lineage of engineers related to significant architectural works; his last book coincides with other texts devoted to the relationship between the two disciplines.
  Focho’s Cartoon
Zaera y Moussavi
Various Authors
Recent Projects 

On Reading. The readers of the bibliographic collections of the region of Saxony and the University of Dresden gather in a solemn, buried and top-lit hall; the users of the municipal library of the Barcelona quarter of Gracia are welcome with an alphabetic shower; the neighbors of the district of Allston, in Boston, can find in one single building rooms for community assemblies, study and reference; and the Texan owners of a noteworthy collection of books are able to enjoy it in a luminous and vaulted pavilion.

  Technique / Style 

Ortner & Ortner
Regional Library, Dresden
Josep Llinás
Gracia Library, Barcelona
Machado & Silvetti
Allston Library, Boston
Carlos Jiménez
Whatley Library, Austin

To close,  the Galician architect César Portela reflects on the deterioration of his homeland’s environment on the occasion of the sinking of the oil tanker Prestige, which has devastated kilometers of natural coastline landscape.   Products
Lightweight Panels, Furniture
César Portela
Landscapes of the ‘Prestige’
Luis Fernández-Galiano

Material Houses

We touch buildings with our eyes. Worn out by the bulimia of images to which a hypertrophically visual culture subjects us, and unable to escape iconic obesity or addiction, we find unexpected relief in the representations that promise textures to our sense of touch, and in the descriptions that seem to convey the solemn gravitas of matter. If Quevedo listened to the dead through his eyes, we gauge with our gaze the roughness of walls, the temperature of knobs or the weight of doors, digging with our eyes into the layered thickness of construction like the beggar rummages through garbage looking for the unexpected shine of the occult. This gleam that lights up the retina is only of value when it also tingles on the fingertips, offering a tactile redemption for those locked away in the bar-less jail of a cavern of fugitive shadows.


When the house becomes the virtual hostage of a phantasmagoric world of fleeting figures, we adhere to its physical substance with obsessive persistence, tamely hoping that its materiality shall rescue us from so many spirits transformed into spectres. But be it experiment or routine, the single residence is inseparable from its urban proliferation, and the best project becomes oppressive when submitted to a clonal reproduction that the industrial object takes in without objection. Trapped between the horns of sociology and narcissism, the house dithers between customized production and signature work, digging into its tactile matter to rehearse escape from the vicious circle of the image reflected in the mirror, symbol at once of the implosive introspection and the repeated multiplication that mark the familiar territory of domesticity.

After all, the debate on the house is that of contemporary individualism, a powerful force of historical change that has broken the restrictive links of traditional community structures, releasing colossal energies and initiative at the same time that it casts autonomous, elementary particles on an open field with neither fences nor paths. This ground of independence is an unploughed land, in which the freedom of the space without boundaries is paid for with the sacrifice of traces, habits and memory. Even though some houses may be as excellent as some individuals, the house itself demands a sprawling urbanism that destroys landscape just as anomy frays social fabric. And using the physical matter of architecture as a healing aid is then hardly more than a comforting fiction before the wreck of a collective canvas that unravels and melts into air.

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