Posts Tagged ‘Antoni Gaudí’

Books | Concrete Buildings – What’s Not to Love Now?

Friday, August 7th, 2015

Pierresvives by Zaha Hadid Architects, 2002 > 12, Montpellier, France
Archives, a library and sports department offices for the Hérault region.
The inclined concrete building combined with graphic
windows combine to give an impression of rapid movement

Photo © Iwan Baan

100 Contemporary Concrete Buildings
By Philip Jodidio
Published by Taschen
Hardcover, 2 volumes in slipcase,
730 pp, full colour

Bicentennial Civic Centre by Lucio Morini + GGMPU,
2010 > 2012. Córdoba, Argentina
Ministerial offices with cutout concrete facade
Photo © Leonardo Finotti

In the minds of many, concrete is synonymous with real or fictional, dysfunctional worlds. And, no matter how good they are, novels such as J G Ballard’s Concrete Island, in which his character Robert Maitland, a wealthy architect, finds himself stranded in a section of wasteland in the middle of a relentlessly busy motorway intersection and is forced to survive in his crashed Jaguar on whatever he manages to forage, don’t do concrete’s reputation any favours. Taschen’s non-fiction two-volume boxed set, celebrating the diversity of the best buildings constructed from this versatile, man-made stone, just might.

Editor-in-chief of French art magazine Connaissance des Arts in Paris since 1980 – his numerous published books include the Taschen series on contemporary American, European and Japanese architects, as well as monographs on Tadao Ando, Norman Foster, Santiago Calatrava, and Richard Meier – the books’ author, Philip Jodidio’s reputation and experience lend gravitas to subject matter already weighted down by its long-established association with urban decay and the detritus of past wars and present conflicts, but paradoxically imbues concrete’s history with unexpected lightness and sensitivity, in what must be the most comprehensive study thus far on the subject.

Amongst the global selection of individual architects (except for Foster, probably excluded because concrete is of a lesser importance than glass and steel in his building palette) and architecture practices’ projects, all the aforementioned practitioners are included. Alongside other famous names, such as Luis Baragan, Marcel Breuer, David Chipperfield, Antoni Gaudi, Herzog & de Meuron, Denys Lasdun, Oscar Niemeyer and of course Le Corbusier and Zaha Hadid, the publication also features many architects whose names are probably less familiar, but nonetheless worthy of inclusion.

Roberto Garza Sada Center for Arts, Architecture and Design,
Tadao Ando, 2009 > 12. New Mexico, USA
Part of the University of Monterrey, Monterrey.
The massive concrete
anchor of the building provides ample shade for pedestrians

Photo © Shigeo Ogawa

Jodido’s informative introduction reminds us that the Romans used concrete, but it comes as a surprise to learn that the ancient Egyptians invented and sometimes built with a variation of it. It’s interesting to discover that the concrete rotunda of the Pantheon was constructed without steel reinforcement – the key element that greatly strengthens the substance, allowing it to perform far better under stress, and which has been the backbone of countless concrete structures since the technique was invented by a Frenchman in the mid-1850s. By 1889, we learn that the first reinforced concrete bridge had been built in San Francisco and the construction of the Théâtre des Champs Élysées in Paris in 1913 established concrete – up until then regarded as ‘vulgar’ in certain quarters – as a ‘quality’ building material. Used, misused and abused, it is one that is as ubiquitously employed today in the construction industry, as once were bricks, wood and stone. Jodidio’s book set is about now rather than then, and our picture selections compare three recently-completed very different ‘quality’ buildings of similar scale from around the world, built for very different uses and designed by three very different architectural practices.

Lavishly-illustrated with high-quality photographs and sometimes the building plans of monumental as well as retail and small-scale residential projects, and with mug shots of the majority of the architects, as well as a respectable amount of informative text in English, French and German, you certainly get a lot for the modest price. From a readers’ perspective, however, the very long measure used for the relatively small – 11 or 12pt – condensed, sans serif text, throughout the book, might have been easier on the eye with more leading, or split into two, or even three columns.

Taschen has been known to publish gigantic books, as well as small fat ones. These two are neither excessively large, nor, at 352 pages each, so abnormally thick as to invite comment, but not only is the 100 Contemporary Concrete Buildings package designed to resemble a sturdy and uncompromising block of concrete, it is almost as heavy as one.

All images courtesy Taschen

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The Blog’s publishers insist that all images supplied for publication in our posts are cleared for that use before being sent to us. Whether pictures are sent to us as email attachments or made available as downloadable files, any responsibility for fees that may, under any circumstances whatsoever, fall due, must be borne by the source supplier

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Architecture | Álvaro Siza: Buildings as Sculpture

Friday, May 24th, 2013

Álvaro Siza
Complete Works 1952-2013
Philip Jodidio
Hardcover, 500 pages

Álvaro Siza tells a story about his first being impressed by architecture when, at the tender age of 10, he travelled with his family from their home town of Porto, Portugal, on a trip to Catalonia. In Barcelona one evening his brothers took him to Antoni Gaudí’s Sagrada Familia, which frightened him. The following day, however, taken to see Gaudí’s Casa Milà, he observed that although the building seemed to him to be a sculpture, it had the same elements – doors, locks, windows – as any house. ‘It impressed me very much, how those normal things I knew in my house could be put together to make a something else.’

For his own architecture, Siza received a formidable number of awards, among them; the European Community’s Mies van der Rohe Prize in 1988 and the Praemium Imperiale in Japan in 1997, the 2009 RIBA Gold Medal, and the Golden Lion for Lifetime Achievement at the 2012 Venice Architecture Biennale. His work is strongly rooted in the modern movement, nevertheless he has a subjective approach, and continually seeks out alternative interpretations of modernism. He is noted for approaching each project with sensitivity to context without relinquishing the autonomy and strength of the new construction. In designing the Serpentine Gallery Pavilion in 2005, Siza sought to guarantee that the new building, while presenting a totally different architecture, established a dialogue with the Neo-classical gallery. While the resulting structure, based on a simple rectangular grid distorted to create a dynamic curvaceous form comprised of interlocking timber beams, mirrored the diminutive scale of the Serpentine building and made coherent use of the landscape between the two structures, it also achieved a contiguous relationship with the surrounding Park.

Siza studied at the University of Porto School of Architecture from 1949 until 1955, and opened his first practice in the city before completing his studies in 1954. Many of his best known works are in Porto: the Boa Nova Tea House (1963), Porto University’s School of Architecture (1987-1992), and the Serralves Museum of Contemporary Art (1997). During the 1980s, he undertook increasingly larger institutional projects in Portugal, including The Teachers Training College at Setubal (1991). Siza designed the Santa Maria Church in Marco de Canavezes, Portugal (1997) and the Portuguese Pavilion at Expo ‘98 in Lisbon, (with Eduardo Souto de Moura). But he had started building abroad in 1983 with the Schlesisches Tor Apartments in Berlin, Germany. In 1994, he returned to Germany to build the Vitra factory at Weil-am-Rein, the same year he designed the Centro Galiziano (Museum of Modern Art) in Santiago de Compostela, Spain. Between 1995 and 2009, in collaboration with Rudolf Finsterwalder, he worked on an architecture museum on Hombroich island, near Düsseldorf, Germany.

There’s a very touching video on YouTube, shot in 2004, of an animated converation between a 71-year-old Siza and Oscar Niemeyer ‘the man who built Brasilia‘, 21 years his senior, who died in 2012. The film is without subtitles and the two giants of architecture are speaking the Portugese language common to both, but from the drawings and buildings each sketches in the air with fingers, hands and arm movements one senses that their understanding of one another and their subject is on a higher plane than the mere spoken word. Commissions to build whole cities from scratch are few and far between, and although Siza, now 80, internationally famous and with a glittering career behind him, has come closer than many – he was awarded the Pritzker Architecture Prize in 1992 for coordinating the renovation of the Chiado area of Lisbon that was almost completely destroyed by fire in 1988, and since the mid-1970s has produced numerous designs for public housing – he hasn’t been given that particular job yet. On a smaller scale, in 2000 Siza began coordinating the rehabilitation of the monuments and architectonic heritage of Cidade Velha founded by the Portugese in 1462, on Santiago, in the African Cape Verde islands archipelago, which is now a Unesco World Heritage site.

Taschen’s heavily-illustrated, large format monologue, Álvaro Siza: Complete Works 1952-2013, by prolific author Philip Jodido, is available via the publisher’s website at £99.99/ €99.99.

Images from top
Meteorological Center of the Olympic Village, Barcelona, Spain, 1992

Iberê Camargo Foundation Museum in Porto Alegre, Brazil, 2008

Santa Maria Church and Parish Center in Marco de Canaveses, Portugal, 1997

All photos ©Duccio Malagamba

Tell us what you think
The Blog is about art, architecture, gardens, books, design and anything else that currently interests us which we think might interest you

The publishers of The Blog insist that all images supplied for publication in our posts are cleared for that use before being sent to us. Whether pictures are sent to us as email attachments or made available as downloadable files, any responsibility for fees which may, under any circumstances, fall due, must be borne by the source supplier

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