Casa Kalman

Antonio Cruz Villalon Antonio Ortiz Garcia HOUSING BLOCK ON DONA MARIA CORONEL STREET

(Seville. Spain) 1974-76

Neither the geometry of its curved internal court nor any of the decorative elements of the facade is borrowed from the regional architectural tradition of Seville. Yet this building by these two young architects at the beginning of their career does exude a strong sense of the city. At a time when the spread of unchecked urban development was threatening what was left of the long-neglected, declining structure of the historical centre of Seville as a place of encounter and identity, this project was one of the first carried out in what we have identified as the 'critical regionalist spirit' - a call for placeness' and community, much like Rafael Moneo's Bankinter building (1976. pp. 78-79) and. a little later. Alvaro Siza's Bouca Housing (1977. pp. 90-91). Such regionalism has nothing to do with tourist folklorism or chauvinistic sentimentalism. Selecting a few but key memories of local, artifacted space, divorced from nostalgia and escapism, regio nalist architecture provides a critique against mounting, flattening technocracy and bureaucracy.

This housing block is in the historical centre of Seville, built on an irregularly shaped site, about 500 square metres in surface. Each apartment had to measure approximately 110 square metres. According to planning regulations. 25 per cent of the space of the site had to remain unoccupied as a means of controll ing the high density of this area of the city. Given these constraints, the architects chose to concentrate all the free space into one collective patio, a reference to the traditional Sevillian house, but they were required to accommodate it to the irregular lot by making it kidney shaped. This unusual form became a feature which both referred to the traditional patio and preserved a critical distance from it. while at the same time maintaining the deeper social, communal values inherent in the patio space. This was rightly seen as an act of faith in traditional forms of urban life and as a critical statement about the choking of the old city centre by wanton development, on one hand, and by a tawdry, inane, folkloristic regionalism, on the other.

(Opposite, far left) Tho housing block seen from the stroot

(Far left and loft) Two views of tho kidney-shapod intomal courtyard

(Below) Plans of tho roof (left) and ground floor (right)

(Opposite, far left) Tho housing block seen from the stroot

(Far left and loft) Two views of tho kidney-shapod intomal courtyard

(Below) Plans of tho roof (left) and ground floor (right)

Renzo Piano & Richard Rogers


(Paris. France) 1971-77

The Pompidou project is. in terms of its references, an amalgam of the architectural visions of the Russian Constructivists. Buck-minster Fuller. Yona Friedman. Serge Cher-mayeff and. to a lesser degree. Louis and Albert Kahn. Marshall McLuhan and Archi-gram. It is the first implementation in a long tradition of significant, but previously not fully realized, conceptual inventions on the construction and operation of buildings. A feat of what is called 'architectural syncretism' - the deliberate and conscious bringing together of different elements and styles to create a new type of building - it is the chef d'oeuvreof two young but experienced architects. It can also be seen as a wholehearted act of faith in the Enlightenment ideals of development and progress, technique and emancipation. Its spatial organization can be traced to various planning ideas of Serge Chermayeff: the zoning. at least partly, to Louis Kahn; and the general space concept to Albert Kahn. Archi-gram's influence provides the inspiration for its gigantic, visceral exhibitionism, and Yona Friedman's the vision of total flexibility. To Fuller and to the Constructivists one can credit its technological spirit and to Marshall McLu han the belief that information is ultimately the building block of any product, including buildings. Finally, the Enlightenment encyclopaedists could be said to have provided inspiration for its commitment to knowledge, democratic values, unity between the arts and techniques, and exhilarating optimism. The exceptional invention of this work lies in the way such ideas have been brought together into a synthesis.

The programme for the Centre was extremely ambitious, requiring a building which, within its 93.000 square metres, would accommodate a museum of modern art. a reference library, a centre for industrial design and a centre for acoustic research and music, as well as bookshops, cinemas, restaurants, a children's centre, administrative offices and parking. Behind this programme lay a multitude of other ambitions: to try to recapture for Paris its status, lost since the Second World War. as the centre of the international avant-garde art community: to try to use such regained territory as a springboard in a bid to achieve superiority in other fields, such as fashion, publishing, mass-media and culture In general, areas in which France had fallen behind. Paris had to compete, at the beginning of the 1970s, with other European capitals as the predominant cultural, commercial and banking centre of the European Community. This was the moment to assert its predominance after a long period of economic growth had produced significant capital. Furthermore, the French establishment, after the shock of Spring "68. had to prove that it was not as culturally sclerotic as the young students claimed and that it was the leader of the field in creativity and innovation.

There was also a need to revitalize prime areas of real estate in decline, such as Le Marais. where the Centre was finally located. Implanting such a major magnet project into

(Opposite) Section (Below) Front facade

this area was seen as a good way of activating it. The Centre, with the Concorde and the new business centre of La DĂ©fense, was meant to proclaim the new French self-confidence. No wonder it was Robert Bordaz, the man who had negotiated the French withdrawal from Vietnam and ex-director of the French radio and television systems, who was appointed administrator of the project, directly accountable to President Pompidou and in charge of a staff of about 150.

Bordaz's style of administration was that of an enlightened head of a multi-national corporation. The programme for the international competition for the Centre was visionary, the staging and organization clear, the committee excellent, headed by Jean Prouvé, Oscar Nie-meyer and Philip Johnson, among others. A total of 681 entries were received from all over the world and the final choice, announced on 15 July 1971, was a stunning 'anti-monument', a 'spaceship', an object that captured both in its radical populist content and its science-fiction form the wildest dreams of the May '68 generation.

Interpreting the programme and the mood of the times. Piano and Rogers submitted an entry in which they saw the opportunity to create not just a major cultural facility, in the traditional sense, but, in the spirit of Spring '68. a 'dynamic communications machine', a people's centre, a university of the street reflecting the constantly changing needs of users', mobilizing the most up-to-date technology for putting together and running the building, open to constant change and development.

Once the winners of the competition had been chosen, many complex negotiations between client, technical specialists and architects followed. These resulted in several serious modifications to the original plan. For instance, the proposed virtually complete flexibility of the interior and an amazing, architecturally de-materialized screen-facade - an idea prefigured in the J.W.E Buijs and J.B. Lursen building for 'De Volharding' in The Hague - did not survive. Yet. much to the amazement of the international public, this ultra-radical first prize was completed and delivered as scheduled, on time and under budget, in January 1977, with most of its original ideas triumphant. It has since functioned with great success, at a running cost of one hundred million dollars, with an average attendance of approximately seven million people a year.

More than a decade after its opening, despite some serious difficulties in its operation and several changes in the programme and in the interior (carried out by Gae Aulenti), the complex is still enormously popular - too popular, many might say - and still maintains its aura of youthfulness. still continues to amaze, despite major shifts in sensibility and world outlook, and still retains its identity.

This extraordinary success was a result of the programme's vision and inventiveness, and was also due to the rigour with which technology was applied to realize that vision. The building occupied only half the site provided; the rest was turned into a public square in order to enhance the project's civic character and to encourage the urban piazza activities meant to take place in it. This space

(Opposite) Soction of Piano and Rogers' original dosign

Right! Site plan

(Below) Ground floor plan

The Power of Meditation

The Power of Meditation

Want to live a stress-free, abundant life? Discover The Power of Meditation And How It Can Work For You To Increase Your Success In Your Personal And Work Life. Use These Steps To Practice Meditation In Your Life And Business.

Get My Free Ebook

Post a comment