Banco De Bilbao 101

The columns of the structure of the building are set back from the external glass wall, leaving a zone for easy circulation around its periphery. By hiding the bearing structure and the vertical service elements in this way, by minimizing the detailing of the building, curving its corners and projecting the awning elements, Oiza has given to the Banco de Bilbao an overall feeling of smoothness and continuity rather than angularity and a markedly discontinuous articulation of elements. These qualities produce the impression of a sensuously crafted object rather than a mechanically reproduced artifact. Characterized more by skin than skeleton, the tower integrates well with the surrounding buildings, which explains the rather warm feelings of the inhabitants of Madrid towards this imposing structure.

The building also differs from the majority of office towers in that its main entrance is neither monumental nor forbidding. One descends to enter from ground level. The doors are set back from the plane of the facade, thus providing a recessed, covered area planted with greenery, which at once invites and protects the visitor. Once in the lobby, one is surrounded by an unexpectedly polychromatic, cheerful interior. It is a double-floor space which includes a reception area, the entrances to the lifts and a ramp.

The organization of the tower follows the prototypes of the 1930s and '40s: there is a central service core, while most offices are attached to the periphery of the building. From the point of view of livability and efficiency, this solution remains an unsurpassable prototype.

In defending his functionalist position, Saenz de Oiza echoes the pre-war champion of anti-formalism, Hannes Meyer, who. submitting his proposal for the Palace for the League of Nations in 1926-27, said that 'as an organic structure it expresses sincerely that it wishes to be a building for work and cooperation ... As a deliberately conceived man-made product, it presents itself as in legitimate contrast with nature. This building is neither beautiful nor horrible. It asks to be evaluated as a structural invention.'

With a renewed interest, in the 1990s, in realism, Oiza's propensity for problem-solving rather than critical commentary, functionality rather than rhetoric, innovation rather than stereotyping, offers an important precedent.

(This page) Exterior view and section

(Opposite, above) Plan of the twenty-seventh floor

(Opposite, below) General plan of the ground floor

(This page) Exterior view and section

(Opposite, above) Plan of the twenty-seventh floor

(Opposite, below) General plan of the ground floor

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Nicholas GrĂ­mshaw and Partners Ltd SPORTS HALL FOR IBM

(Hampshire. England) 1980-82

Very much in the tradition of 'high-tech' architecture. Nicholas Grimshaw, a one-time collaborator of Terry Farrell, believes in the virtues of technology and in exposing it on the surface of a building. In his Sports Hall for IBM. one of his first projects, the five space-frame portals that support the walls and roof of this 18-metre long, clear-span building are painted black to stand out, somewhat exhibitionistically, against the white exterior of the building. The pivot at their base and the diagonal bracing that connects them is bare and open to view. As a spatial concept, this is a 'universal space' as it was practised in the 1940s, using updated technology and a light structure. In borrowing techniques previously associated exclusively with industrial buildings. Grimshaw is very much in the tradition of Mies's Crown Hall in Chicago (1952-56), Charles and Ray Eames' house (1949) and Jean Prouve's Palais des Expositions in Grenoble of 1967 (especially in the hall's curving corners).

The wall panels of the IBM Centre are highly glazed in a laminate of grey-tinted, dark plastic. 5250 mm long by 500 mm high and 42 mm thick, they are simple industrial door panels, bolted at each corner to cleats on the frame. PVC sheeting and preformed upstands of rigid PVC were used for the roof, a solution that makes it watertight, unlike the glass and steel roof of Crown Hall, the great prototype of clear-span buildings, as John Winter has pointed out in his discussion on the building in the Architectural Review. The gaps that separate the four walls and the gaps between walls and ceiling are filled with fibreglass. This has the additional advantage of translucency and lets in natural light without glare. At night when the lights are on, the translucent rounded corners, viewed from the outside, are luminous.

The undemanding programme for a low-cost building equipped for badminton and other indoor sports allows for future expansion. The exposed external structure consists of five tubular steel trussed portal frames 5.25 metres high at the centre and spanning 18 metres. This results in flush walls inside. The cladding sandwich panels are bolted to cleats welded to the main frame and to the gab-e mullions. The mullions have been detailed fc easy modification of the structure. The entire gable wall can be unbolted and taken down.

This shed is appropriately easy to use and. more significantly, easy to understand. Its athletic image of lightness and physical agility is achieved without having to resort to unnecessary violations of space, a Venturi 'duck', or to Venturi's other roadside publicity decorations.

Moreover, it sits in the middle of the green park, where the intricate contraption of its space-frame supports, pivoted at the base, gives a strong impression of the 'machine in the garden'. But if one looks at the same elements as space-ordering devices, some thing of the English classical-picturesque tradition also comes to mind: the placing of simple, articulate, highly geometrical structures in nature to stress its wilderness.

(Opposite) Exterior view

(Top) Isometric view, including possible future extension

(Above) Detailed section of the facade (Right) Detail of the facade

(Opposite) Exterior view

(Top) Isometric view, including possible future extension

(Above) Detailed section of the facade (Right) Detail of the facade

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