Estudio Rafael Moneo BANKINTER

(Madrid. Spain) 1973-76

Bankmter stands in the grounds of the small, late-19th-century villa of the Marques de Mudela. The site is among the last vestiges of the urban tissue that once made up Madrid's Paseo de la Castellana: it is now occupied by the massive, mighty, high-rise business area carved out of the city centre during the later part of the Franco years. In the early 1970s, in an effort to preserve what little of the historic fabric survived there, new regulations were enacted that strictly limited the volume of new construction. This was an important step towards arresting the destruction of the historically defined, characteristic Madrilenian sense of place by the spread of mainstream commercial, bureaucratic buildings. Bankinter was the first building erected in accordance with these regulations, and it was also one of the key buildings that triggered a 'critical regionalist' movement in Spain. The desire to respect the original house and grounds and keep their Integrity was among the principal reasons for the selection of Rafael Moneo. an architect already known for his devotion to the problem of continuity in architectural evolution.

As Moneo has written, the 'authentic protagonist' in this building is brick construction, a regional attribute. If there is one image the visitor retains of Madrid's architecture, it is the prismatic volumes, the rigorist. jointless. red brickwork. Although the majority of Spanish architects of the previous generation - Alejandro de la Sota and Julio Cano Lasso, for instance - had used this architectural vocabulary. Moneo made a point of choosing as his model the architecture of Francisco Cabrero's Casa Sindical in Madrid, from the end of the 1940s.

The brick, 'cubic' project of Cabrero had succeeded in creating a building with a public face beyond the pompous Escorialism of many of his contemporaries. He amalgamated a more vernacular Madrid tradition with the neo-monumentalism of the Milan architects of the 1930s. Moneo went one step further in this approach towards inclusiveness and syncretism by introducing rules of composition derived from a distant and unexpected source, the Finnish architect Alvar Aalto.

During the 1950s Aalto was virtually unknown In Spain. His sensitivity to site conditions. his openness to regional context and his concern for 'place' proved to have a special appeal to Spanish architects at a moment of crisis, when the alienating 'urban sprawl' was taking hold during the 1960s. Several projects by another Spanish architect of the period. Antonio Fernandez Alba, testify in their design to Aalto's influence and warm reception in

Spain. In Moneo's project, given the severely constrained site conditions, physical as well as cultural. Aalto provided the necessary balance to Cabrero's lack of response to site con ditions. The pin-wheel composition, the shifiof I scales on each side of the building, the facade I with many faces, the breaking of the mon> ] iithic volume into discrete units, their fit into the urban setting of the Paseo de la Caster lana, resulted in a paradigmatic contextual urban design.

Bankinter displays the same planarity. the I same play of recesses and appearance d | solidity as Cabrero's Casa Sindical. However, with its sharp wedge to one side and a rounded wall to the other, the building is also obviouslj taking liberties with this meticulous geometric rigorism, breaking the familiar regional pattern.

In its syncretism, the creative combination^ I architectural precedents, the project can be seen as a representation of the inclusiveness, reconciliation and opening up of the new. post I Franco dynamic Spain. In the same spirit d I conciliation, no doubt, are the cast bronze I floral reliefs on the upper part of the facade; Of the Spanish artist Francisco Lopez Hernandez 1 they are directly inspired by Louis Sullivan's I buildings in Chicago.

The impact of the project was immediate I and was felt as strongly outside Spam as ] within its borders. This doubtless contributed, along with Moneo's Museum in Menda (1980-66. pp. 148-51). to his appointment as chairman of the Graduate School of Design at Harvard in 1984.

Opposite, left) Axonometrie section showing detail of the wall

¡Opposite) The facade on the entrance side centre) and in relation to the villa (right)

(Above) Axonometrie drawing of Bankinter m4 the villa

(Rlfht) General plan of the two buildings


(Locarno. Switzerland) 1974-76

This small house in Locarno, overlooking Lake Maggiore. is an intentional act of provocation in relation to the gaudy, vulgar, nouveau-riche vacation houses that surround it. It marks a return, like his collaborator and friend Mario Botta's critical regionalist Riva San Vitale House on Lake Lugano (pp. 64-67). to the moral values associated with the original Hellenistic Roman villa: the espousal of a moral, healthy, natural way of life and the exaltation of the land. However, unlike Mario Botta's project - in fact unlike most of the critical regionalist projects of the 1980s internationally - it makes no reference to an existing vernacular building type. With its roughcast concrete walls that seem to fuse with the craggy terrain, and its minimalist, self-effacing. austere volume, the building is an attempt to be true to the topographic rather than the architectural genius loci. As such, it can also be seen as a return to the aesthetics of wilderness and natural roughness associated with another Swiss, the 18th-century figure Jean Jacques Rousseau, author of the celebrated Promenades. Snozzi's building expresses the idea of yet another Swiss, Le Corbusier. and his notion of the promenade architecturale.

The design of the Casa Kalman is dominated by circulation. It is entered by a walkway bridging a small stream in front of the house. One can follow the building's curved retaining

Casa Kalman Ground FloorCasa Kalman Plans
(Opposite) Exterior view of the Casa Kalman within its landscape

(Above) The terrnco, looding down to the pergola

(Top right) Elovation of the house

(Above right) Plan of tho slto and house (driwing-room floor lovel)

wall along the line of the steep hill, pass to an outside terrace and. continuing that line, arrive at a miniature pergola. Throughout this itinerary consistent with the Picturesque and Rous-seauist traditions, a memorable hierarchy of views is encountered by the promeneur. As Snozzi writes. 'The visitor's first impression is one of bold outlines and a progressive disclosure of spaces: the initial architectural encounter at the entry, then across the stream, up the steps through the living room and along the terrace to the pergola.'

There is something heroic about Casa Kal-man's refutation of bourgeois domestic comfort. its austerity, its exaltation of the landscape. its back-to nature viewpoint of foregrounding the landscape, of 'defamiliariz-ing' the sense of place and. therefore, of making the viewer aware of its real values. But in addition, the purpose of this latter-day Rousseauiste appears therapeutic, 'sentimental' in the original 18th-century sense, a 'sweet and deep revery" to restore health to the psyche through the eye's contact with the outside objects. The contemplation of the surroundings is meant to occur, in Snozzi's words, 'in a number of ways, ranging from the immediate impression of nearby meadows, vineyards and trees and ending in a view of the Bay of Locarno".

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