A staircase becomes the focal point of Lluís Alexandre Casanovas Blanco's textural exploration of materiality, texture, and history. There is a riot going on with the staircase. An army of little interventions has taken the house by storm, showing the many lives, agents, politics, and temporalities of the interior. The infamous gotelé (stippled paint) that covered all the popular houses in Spain during the aftermath of Francisco Franco’s death is now used as a pattern in a polyurethane curtain; a hanging garden of tropical plants bridges the outside landscape and interior views; a crown-like neon lighting fixture embedded in the ceiling shows the negative of the exterior—a crenel-topped tower with lancet arch windows; a porthole that looks into the staircase provides opportunity to observe it all. This staircase is just the beginning of a constellation of actions that the New York-based architect and curator Lluís Alexandre Casanovas Blanco imagined for the renovation of this house. It is located in Cardedeu, an old village 27 miles from Barcelona that experienced significant suburban development during the Spanish real estate boom of the 1990s, transforming from a pleasant agricultural landscape into a high-density urban spot. Instead of appeasing the many contradicting histories of the place, Casanovas dug into the possible discordances of the materials that populate the house, taking familiar objects and turning them into a heterogeneous network of connections and conversations. In this sense, the folkloric crochet typology used for quilts is revived with the technology of Dyneema, an ultra-high-molecular-weight polyethylene fiber. At the same time, Casanovas considered the work to be a collective endeavor, taking into account not only client consideration but also the collaboration of teams for each intervention and even the photographic representation of the project itself. The importance of the objects marks the position of the designer. For Casanovas, the house’s original design, materials, and construction details reveal the pursuit of opulence that drove part of real estate–boom design in Spain—from the entrance veranda supported by prefabricated, cast Doric columns to the hall and the staircase covered in mass-produced Andalusian tiles, all showing the varied influences, sense of belonging, and re-territorializations of aesthetics. The privileged views over the old town from the house’s back facade at the edges of a suburban area and cow fields are under continuous threat; once the country experiences an economic recovery, the fields will probably be urbanized. But the hanging garden inside the house acts as a reminder of the possibilities of a parliament of living agents. The aesthetics invoked through these interventions are cataloged like an archaeological site, where signature design objects coexist with popular items, such as figurines or inherited furniture. These elements, along with Casanovas’ interventions, employ different ranges of technologies. The idea is to modify the architectural thinking itself and re-signify it: Instead of taking the old and new objects as isolated elements, Casanovas has brought them together to consider them as vertices in a network. The whole image seems like a teenager’s bedroom in which the varied elements do not build a monolithic universe; rather, they articulate a possible multiverse. They explain the relationship between subjective and objective means when accounting for symbolic and imaginary creation in the area of representation. They do this through shared agencies constituted in particular spaces and times, where other agents—groups (the real estate developers), individuals (the clients), objects (the different interventions)—are implicated. The distinct elements help create fluidity among spheres, categories, and relations and are used simultaneously to manage the consequences of such fluidity. Starting from a recognition of the material’s role as an ensemble of processes that form, constitute, and extend the reticulated character of social relationships, we understand that it does not only concern people, but also legislations, conceptions of landscape, and senses of belonging. The staircase is a riot because it doesn’t perform as a pacifier in the context of an architectural design, but as a continuous conversation wherein the familiar elements can gain agency in the discussion of spatial elements. The house is no longer a space of consensus and peace, but a realm of material disputes.
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Spanish architecture studio Recetas Urbanas (Urban Recipes) will be leaping to this year’s Art Basel, courtesy of New York-based arts organizer Creative Time. In the group’s first international commission, Creative Time has organized Basilea, a series of interactive projects for Basel, Switzerland locals and international fairgoers alike. Basilea will sit on Basel’s Messeplatz and involve visitors through a combination of talks, hands-on workshops, observations, and even through soliciting their help to build the pavilions. By involving the public, Basilea aims to empower guests to re-examine their role as citizens and the effect they can have in civic systems. In the three weeks leading up to Art Basel’s opening on May 23, Recetas Urbanas, headed by architect Santiago Cirugeda, will construct a public pavilion with help from volunteers. The “multi-purpose civic structure,” which will resemble an auditorium, will be built from locally-sourced and found materials, while the participants (fairgoers can sign up here) will be encouraged to learn from each other in a mutual sharing of ideas. After a run of performances and as-of-yet undetermined talks, the future home of the venue will be handed over to the public to vote on. Recetas Urbanas is well known in Spain for their low-cost “guerilla” structures, and previously represented Spain at the 2016 Venice Architecture Biennale. Spanish artist Lara Almarcegui, who represented Spain at the 2013 Venice Biennale, will construct a large-scale “quarry” installation made of gravel that will surround the finished Recetas Urbanas pavilion. The piece will grow daily over the course of the fair, as gravel mirroring the amount removed from a local Basel quarry will be deposited on the Messeplatz, and ask viewers to consider the destructive impact humans have on the environment. Dominican-American artist Isabel Lewis will round out Creative Time’s program, and using her training in dance and philosophy, and experience staging interactive shows, will host a series of workshops and events. Throughout the fair, Lewis will encourage visitors to rethink how they conceive of “self” versus “community”, and how citizens form relationships with the urban space around them. Basilea marks the first time the trio of artists will collaborate with each other, and their program at Art Basel should layer and complement each other’s work. Art Basel 2018 will run from May 23 through June 17.
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Constructed adjacent to a UNESCO World Heritage site, the new Palace of Justice in Córdoba, Spain delivers a contemporary take on the traditional courtyard typology and Moorish screening techniques found throughout the city. Led by Dutch firm Mecanoo and Spain's AYESA, the 51,000-square-foot super dense project was initially awarded after a competition in 2006, and after a long delay, it was designed and built from 2014–2017. The exterior cladding is responsive to large massing blocks that accommodate deep courtyard recesses for daylight admittance. These voids in an otherwise imposing monolithic block doubly function as spatial dividers for various internal zones serving civic, judicial, administrative, and institutional spaces. The resulting semi-public patio spaces offer up an opportunity for admittance of natural light and ventilation deep into the core of the block, where a central circulation “spine” runs. The cladding strategy is precisely coordinated with the massing of the building, relying on 33 versions of white glass fiber reinforced concrete (GFC) panels, articulated with a loose grid of punched window openings and recesses in the facade for texture. The depth of this system offers solar shading at glazed openings to help buffer the building’s occupants from southern Spain’s subtropical climate. A large cantilevered entry, and numerous courtyards, assist in the self-shading strategies of the building massing. A bronze-anodized aluminum lattice composed of vertical plates and horizontal tie rods clads the courtyard walls. These screens sit outboard of various window configurations to accommodate the office program beyond. While the Córdoba city center is located south-east from the site, the building volume was condensed to create a generous ramping entrance square to the north which connects the Palace of Justice with the existing Huerta del Sordillo gardens. The building contains a courthouse with 26 courtrooms, a wedding room, a Forensic Institute, offices, a cafe, an archive, a prison, and a parking garage."One can say that the sustainability of the building is not achieved by expensive technological mechanisms but by an intelligent interpretation of the vernacular architecture," said Mecanoo, referring to the unique shaping of their building, in a press release. "The massing strategy creates urban integration through fragmentation. It follows a similar strategy to the spontaneous growth process of medieval cities resulting in a volume which is carefully sculpted to adapt to the surrounding context. This results in a puzzle-like structure which hints its process of formation and emulates the experience of the dense historical center of Córdoba." Francine Houben, a founder of Mecanoo, will be delivering a keynote presentation at The Architect's Newspaper's (AN) upcoming Facades+ New York conference, a two-day event in mid-April focused on the design and performance of the next generation of facades. More information on the conference, along with registration details, can be found at facadesplus.com.
The Architectural League of New York’s Emerging Voices award and lecture series highlights individuals and firms with distinct design “voices”, singling out those with the potential to go on to even greater heights. 2018 saw two rounds of judging; first by a panel of past Emerging Voices winners, and a second to pick the winners. The first-round jury included Virginia San Fratello, Sebastian Schmaling, Wonne Ickx, Lola Sheppard, Marcelo Spina, Carlos Jimenez, and Marlon Blackwell, as well as members of the second-round jury, Sunil Bald, Lisa Gray, Stella Betts, Jing Liu, Paul Makovsky, Tom Phifer, Chris Reed, and Billie Tsien. AN profiled all of the emerging voices firms in our February print issue. Mexico City-based Fernanda Canales will deliver her lecture on March 8th, 2018, at the SVA Theatre in Manhattan. After studying architecture at prestigious schools in Spain and Mexico, Fernanda Canales quickly discovered that the rigorous techniques she had learned had little relevance in the real world. Since starting her firm, in 2002, she has opted for a more flexible, thoughtful, personal approach. “Instead of relying on formal, definite solutions, I try to give informal, indeterminate strategies,” said Canales, who has no office, no employees, and spends most of her time on construction sites, morphing her projects through constant observation and feedback. “I realized that my preparations didn’t match the reality of what clients want, what workers can do, the limits of budgets, and the reality of everyday life,” she said. The Bruma House, located on a rural site about two hours from Mexico City, began as a fairly typical home for a couple and their two children. But once her construction team began work, Canales realized that the project needed to better adapt to its lush landscape and to a climate that swung dramatically from day to night. Now, no rooms are directly attached, so every space has at least two windows, allowing for maximum natural light. The building meanders its way through the site, maintaining existing trees and plant life in the process. Since starting her firm, Canales has also shifted her focus to highlight the intermediate, often-neglected spaces between public and private. These, she noted, often have greater impact on the users and those living around the projects. The Portales Dwelling, a multifamily apartment in Mexico City, diverges from the city’s typical housing blocks, with their closed stairs, shut-off alleys, and unimaginative envelopes. Portales opens up in every place it can, with large balconies in front, uncovered patios in back, open stairs in between, and roof terraces above. “It addresses the beautiful climate of Mexico City, instead of ignoring it,” said Canales, who added that the addition of green and open spaces helps the development better fit into its context, minimizing the usual scorn from neighbors. With the Elena Garro Cultural Center, also in Mexico City, Canales converted a long-abandoned private manor into a public amenity. The first step was removing a large wall between the home and sidewalk, reinforcing that all were welcome. To further show the public what was inside the cloistered historic house, Canales created a large glass-walled addition in front, framed in concrete, exposing books and other amenities, which are surrounded by a series of updated gardens and courtyards. To keep her work as simple as possible, Canales generally avoids complex new materials, working often with concrete, which she values for its affordability, durability, and ease of use. “I go for what workers know how to do. It’s the most practical solution,” she noted. Her reading rooms, built for the Mexican Ministry of Culture for use around the country, are modular concrete structures that function as meeting and recreational spaces. Their perforated facades, which create an effect that Canales calls “social lanterns,” allow them to be easily built (without glazing or other complications) and their interiors to be visible from the outside, making them safer. Her careful, socially oriented approach, Canales pointed out, is not new, and she’s long been studying Mexican social housing—particularly its boom times, like the 1920s and 1950s. She’s soon publishing a book, called Shared Structure, Private Spaces: Housing in Mexico (Actar Publishers). “I can’t imagine doing without thinking or thinking without doing,” she said. “It’s all important research.”
If you find yourself in Valencia, Spain, and you're tired of Santiago Calatrava's immoderate, Jurassic Park–like Ciudad de las Artes y las Ciencias, there is a much smaller and more interesting cultural space for you. The Alfaro Hofmann Collection is a small compound in an industrial quarter of the city that includes a collection of sculptures by the important Valencian artist, Andreu Alfaro; a small research institute; and the architectural offices of Fran Silvestre/Andres Alfaro, who created the complex. The Hoffman Collection focuses on the culture of everyday objects of the 20th century. It features a collection of hundreds of home and personal appliances (irons, toasters, radios, etc.) that includes some of the most important industrial designs of the century. Unlike, say, the Museum of Modern Art’s design collection, which really highlights design, this collection looks at the importance of these objects as they contributed to the evolution of the appliances' function and their importance to our culture. The collection of commercial refrigerators would never be found on West 53rd Street, but here they make a convincing argument for the evolution of this cooling machine. The Alfaro also features a collection of artwork and promotional literature on each of the objects in a research center that is open to the public. The collection is located at Fusters, s/n, Pol. d’Obradors 46110 Godella, Valencia, Spain.
For clients who wanted two separate houses, one for the first floor and one for the ground floor, they couldn’t have found a better architectural match than in Fake Industries Architectural Agonism and Aixopluc. Headed up by Cristina Goberna and Urtzi Grau, the New York–based firm is constantly exploring new approaches to architecture. One of Grau and Goberna’s theories is on expanding the possibilities of replicating and copying architecture, and they have written a monograph on the topic: Architectural Replicas: Four Hypotheses on the Use of Agonistic Copies in the Architectural Field. As a result, the OE House in Alforja, Spain, is a mash-up of a Case Study house on the ground floor with Le Corbusier’s Maison Jaoul on top. The Case Study house is for summer use while Maison Jaoul is for winter. It is, as Fake Industries puts it, an architectural “exquisite corpse.” The clients wanted to be able to completely close off one “house” and then move to the other “house,” depending on the season and their current needs. “There are two different ideas of domesticity,” Grau said. “The sense of enclosure [on the upper level] and a traditional Catalan rural style of home, then the airy Case Study on the ground floor that has a relationship to the outside and the landscape.”
The challenges of this construction—super heavy and robust on top and permeable and light on the bottom—as well as what elements, like the staircase, could be used to reconcile the two, took careful planning. Fake Industries, in collaboration with Aixopluc, developed open-source systems and interchangeable components so that the house could be completed in 12 months. But “it was hard to find someone to do dry construction in Spain; specialized workforces who could do things like the brickwork are disappearing,” Grau said. All in all, it took five years to complete the house due to the economic crisis in 2008 and initially selecting the wrong contractor.
However, throughout the five years, the house became a part of the family’s history. They lived across the street, and their children grew up playing in the construction site and watching the house gradually rise. It was completed January 2016; the family has moved into the second floor while the first floor is currently a massive playground. “It is very similar to the way the Eameses had their living room organized—as a place to play,” Grau said. “And it’s like the Case Study houses where the social aspect and relationship were more important than the furniture itself; that is already emerging naturally here.”
|RESOURCES: Architects Aixopluc Construction Engineer Jordi Royo Engineer Josep Maria Delmuns|
AN reported last week on the yearly Cevisama ceramic fair in Valencia, Spain, and the award winning Harvard project, Extruded Tessellation: Ceramic Tectonics, of industrially produced clay extrusions from the university’s Material Processes & Systems Group. But it was not the only award-winning project of architectural interest at the fair. Cevisama’s most important award went to the La Gavina School Gymnasium in Valencia. The structure was designed by architects Carmen Martinez Gregori, Carmel Gradoli Martinez, and Arturo Sanz Martinez. The gym has a ceramic tile facade that acts as a screen, light diffuser, and acoustic barrier for the facility. But a second student award had perhaps the most experimental use of ceramics and potential to create a new type of easily and cheaply reproducible urban space and form. The project, Transhumant Renovation by Laura Alonso Blasco, proposes a shelter community for the migrant shepherds making their way along livestock routes. The scheme is also imagined as a place of refuge for any travellers that have reached the end of a stage of their journey along the livestock routes, paths, and trails. It uses colorful small ceramic pieces that can be easily replicable as part of of a series of covered wooden huts that frame a central sheep-grazing plaza.
Cevisama is the largest annual ceramic and terracotta exhibition in the world. Architects and designers from the whole world are here, but there is almost no North American representation—either displaying products, media reporting on building advances with the material, or architects looking for new products. Thus it was surprising to run across this Harvard University Graduate School of Design (GSD) project from their Material Processes and Systems Group student studio. It is one of the most advanced and exciting projects in the entire fair. Have a closer look below.
This week, AN is at Cevisama ceramic tile fair in Valencia, Spain. In day one we visited San Gines, a small tile factory in the village of Talavera de la Reina near Toledo. A studio that still produces tiles painted and fired by hand, San Gines is currently producing and exquisite tile mural for a new Philippe Starck–designed restaurant on Brickell Avenue in Miami. The mosaic riffs on tattoos and graffiti to update the factory’s antique handmade tradition and produce a unique and spirited interior. The restaurant will open this summer in Miami.
The Spanish Church of Santa Barbara, designed by Asturian architect Manuel del Busto in 1912, faced severe deterioration from years of abandonment, until Church Brigade skate collective slid in. The collective's transformation, Kaos Temple, is a skate park completely immersed in geometric street art. With support from online fundraising and energy drink maker Red Bull, Church Brigade designed, built, and installed skate ramps inside the church. Church Brigade commissioned Spanish street artist Okuda San Miguel to paint the interior. In one week, San Miguel, with the help of three assistants—Antonyo Marest, Pablo Hatt, and MisterPiro—finished the transformation. Light filters in through stained glass windows, illuminating walls colored with geometric skulls, wildlife, and human faces. “I fell in love with it, even more after finishing it," San Miguel said of the church. "The contrast of my contemporary painting over the amazing classic architecture is incredible.” The street-artist called his completed transformation a "temple of urban art." Thanks to Church Brigade and San Miguel, the Spanish Church of Santa Barbara is, once again, a place of pilgrimage. Watch videos of the transformation here, and visit Okuda San Miguel's website to see his other works.
The Chicago Athenaeum and the European Centre for Architecture, Art, Design and Urban Studies have revealed Spanish architect Santiago Calatrava as the 2015 winner of the European Prize for Architecture. In awarding Calatrava the European Prize, the jury recognized the Spaniard's notable works including the Stadelholfen Railway Station in Zurich, the Bac de Roda Bridge in Barcelona, the Peace Bridge in Calgary, Canada, the Milwaukee Art Museum in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, the Innovation, Science and Technology Building at Florida Polytechnic University in Lakeland, Florida and the City of Arts and Sciences of Valencia, Spain. “Calatrava is more than just an architect,” explained Christian Narkiewicz-Laine, the president of the Chicago Athenaeum, in a statement. “He is a visionary theorist, philosopher and utopian and a true artist in the craft of engineering and architectonic expressionism. His buildings are not just ‘buildings.’ They are powerful works of art, inspired by a master’s gifted hand and sculpted by a superior, critical eye: immensely evocative and fiercely intellectual.” The award ceremony will be held at the World Trade Center in New York City on November 17 this year. Calatrava's works are set to be published the Metropolitan Arts Press and will be available via the European Center. Past winners include Finnish architect Marco Casagrande (2013), Italian architect Alessandro Mendini (2014), and Dane Bjarke Ingels (2010).
On September 4th, IE University in Madrid announced Martha Thorne as the new Dean of the IE School of Architecture and Design. School leaders anticipate that her knowledge of the international architecture and design worlds will further IE's mission of training forward-thinking designers and architects. Previously, Thorne served as the Executive Director of the Pritzker Prize. From 1996 to 2005, she acted as the Associate Curator in the Department of Architecture at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago (SAIC). Thorne has authored and edited numerous books and articles, including The Pritzker Architecture Prize: The First Twenty Years and Skyscrapers: The New Millennium. Thorne received her Master of City Planning at the University of Pennsylvania and a BA in Urban Affairs from SUNY Buffalo.