Social Housing On The Boulevard Vincent Auriol

(Paris. France) 1987-90

This is a low-budget social housing project for 123 units, subsidized by the City of Paris under its mayor Jacques Chirac. The site is located at the end of the Boulevard Vincent Aunol near the Quai de la Gare road in the 13th arrondissement. a major traffic artery leading out of Paris. Across the river is the warehouse-punctuated landscape of Bercy.

The boulevard, a mainly residential zone traditionally separated from the historic centre of Pans by the Gare d'Austerlitz and the mammoth complex of the Salp&rigre Hospital, had been becoming progressively run down. As is the case with so many commissions given to the younger generation of architects, the site is harsh. More specifically. It is a typically Fou-cauld landscape composition. It is immediately adjacent to the smoke stacks of the massive Salp6tri6re Hospital and to a home for the elderly.

What dominates the area is the 19th-century Métro Aérien (which fascinated Roland Barthes so much), which runs from one end of the boulevard to the other. Its heavy stone and steel structure embodies more than anything else the genius tocioi the boulevard.

The architect might have chosen to negate the surroundings of the site and to retreat into an idealized world, like the post-modernists of the previous generation, for example Rob Krier and Oswald Matthias Ungers. Instead. Bouchez chose a simple, straightforward option: far from denying the site, he incorporated in a most unexpected way its most dominant unifying element into his own design - the elevated metro. In the architect's words, the choice was made because 'it was the only element to play with'.

Behind the double row of sycamore trees that separate the building from the metro line.

the metro is reflected in the building. The facade, broken down into two blocks divided by three inner courts, reproduces the inflexions and rhythm of the metro's stone piers and metallic arches. The three inner courts are 'carved out' at equal intervals along its surface. which helps to distance the apartments from the noise of the traffic. A variation on the theme of cold grey stone and shiny metal, the grey, prefabricated panels of polished con crete that clad the facade, grey on the street side, white on the side facing the inner courts, were produced by IB Morin. They are not only of high visual quality, they also help to reduce the impact of the 40-decibel noise level outside. Visually, they are separated by three horizontal train rails of stainless steel. The irregular»/ placed openings imply movement through their broken patterns, as if imitating the jerky, staccato cadence of passing metro cars. The

(Bottom) The Metro A*rlen In front of the facade

(Opposlto, above left) Volumetric plan of the building and site

(Opposite, below) Typical unit floor plan

(Opposite, right) The facade, screened by trees from the Metro Aerien

(Bottom) The Metro A*rlen In front of the facade tnses soleilon the southern side of the build-ng, made of two glinting tracks of perforated, galvanized steel that swerve out from the roof 0« the building into the sky. also refer to the ineme of the flying metro. The building, which combines high-quality construction with a very ow budget - as the French architectural critic Francois Lamarre points out - and a good standard of urban livability. also succeeds in grasping in its static form le mythe moderne: in Baudelaire's much quoted phrase, the transitory, the fleeing, the contingent".

Chemetov & Huidobro Architect«»


(Paris, France) 1982-90

For years France's Ministry of Finance was accommodated in the north wing of the Louvre. The design of its new building, perpendicular to and partly straddling the superhighway along the Quai de Bercy to the east of Paris, is the result of an open national competition held in 1982. The winning project, despite its sculptural, volumetric affinities with El Ussitzky's horizontal skyscraper (1923-25), carries the memory of the old classical, conservative spatial layout schema.

As Agnes Vince has remarked, the more innovative aspects of the building are related to its technical construction rather than its spatial organization: not necessarily a drawback. There are virtually inexhaustible possibilities in the classical way of partitioning a building, in its orthogonal grid structure, in its functional differentiation between servant and served, public and private, both differentia tions expressed spatially in terms of the simple duality of room and corridor. And as the Ministry's plan shows, this classical formula, implemented through the paratactic ordering of offices along the two sides of a long rectangular prism, the services running down the middle, achieves a very satisfactory balance between efficiency and effectiveness, flexibility and spatial clarity.

It is obvious that, with the workplace units in a row on the two outside walls of the linear skin, the formula easily satisfies needs for natural light, view and natural ventilation. There is a window for every office, incidentally in response to a demand made by the staff stating their aversion to 'introverted' office spaces. It is interesting that the post-May '68 users considered this kind of environmental amenity as their first priority rather than more ideological considerations concerning, for example, the issues of emancipation or 'space appropriation" in the workplace. At the same time, the formula provided an arrangement with a low cost of circulation for the employees and low disturbance. Avoiding the hierarchization of offices in terms of centrality makes any future reorganization of administrative departments relatively easy. Finally, such a linear, tripartite schema is easy to remember and understand, therefore easy to find one's way around.

There are also symbolic benefits to be gained from this kind of traditional, undifferentiated. ordered schema: it can be taken as a representation of egalitarianism. utopianism and the absence of the ritualistic expression of homo hierarchicus. The only major exceptions to this flexible spatial organization are the

spaces designated for the ministers and the? immediate collaborators. These are located strategically at the prow of the bridge-buiidng in a cubic volume whose slight de-axing « oriented towards Notre Dame. A different arrangement is prescribed for the administrative offices as a whole. On all other floors. onN the dimensions of the rooms reveal a hierarchy of the employees. Unfortunately, the bas»: concept gives rise not only to these posit,-.e qualities, but also to a prevailing character of bureaucracy and its inevitable corollaries: routine, monotony, impersonality.

The design of the facade of the bui.'ding stems from technical considerations, but its formal variety results to a great extent from an obvious effort to break away from the severe character of the plan (with some concern for acknowledging the influence of the 'rationalist motifs of the late 1970s). A facade, however, can be more than a statement of variety and fashion, especially if the building in Question not only represents a massive information processing industry, as any ministry does. M also happens to be a major government building.

The indecisive, and to some extent, unenthy siastic and somewhat banal character of the project is not the result of any lack of inspiration or some new kind of restrictive theory adopted here about architectural Inventiveness. It springs rather from the overt absence of a new kind of architectural programme that redefines the role of the workplace, the bas>c identity of the project, as well as the role of the state, the project client, at a moment when new lifestyles and new world views are emerging in the advanced technological countries at the close of this century.

All the same, when one approaches ire building from the road, travelling perpendica larly towards and under it as it soars above one towards the river, its profile is quite exhilarat Ing. Its effect is similar to what one imagines might have been created by El Lissitzk/s horizontal skyscraper project, conceived as an elevated propyiaeum opening onto the pe*> pheral ring surrounding the centre of Moscow, had it ever been built - an example of 'highway architecture' in the best sense.

'Right) The building stops at the Seine

Bslow) The Ministry seen from the Seino

Opposite) The building straddling the road

Bslow right) Volumetric plan of the building •(thin its site

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Building Workshop Ronzo Piano S. NICOLA FOOTBALL STADIUM

(Barl. Italy) 1987-90

This structure is an immense white rose, as in Dante's vision of Paradise in the Divine Comedy. that emerges out of the unsullied landscape of Puglia. The upper level, consisting of independent segments, rises like a soaring whorl of petals from a cup planted in a verdant mound of land. A roof of luminescent teflon seems to float in the sky above the upper edges of the petals, creating an illusion of pure white light over the white rose. Next to the stadium. Piano has preserved a single trullo. a small, traditional, cone-shaped, whitewashed building common in this area: in this context, it conjures up the image of a rose bud.

Piano is no stranger to wild metaphors. One has only to recall the concert chamber in the shape of a gigantic violin which he designed for the performance of the Italian composer Luigi Nonno's Prometeo in Milan (1983). But the association here, between a paradisial rose and a football stadium, between exalted purity and a theatre of ritualized violence, is unexpected. It generates a semantic dissonance that lends an aura of absurdity to the activities occurring within the structure.

More closely examined, this fantastic form, in addition to being a statement about an often violent kind of mass-culture, is a shrewd and pragmatic invention. The lower level of seats is carved out of the mounded base, while the upper level consists of 26 independent segments. The gaps between the segments help to separate rival factions among the 60.000 spectators it is designed to hold - a high priority considering the recent history of violence at football matches.

Peter Rice, of Ove Arup & Partners, was the structural engineer who turned this metaphor into an engineering feat. Each of the gracefully curved petals uses a minimum of support and is composed of precast barrel staves assem-

Wed on site and held up on internal beams attached to colossal pylons. The roof of metal-braced teflon, which dips on the short sides and rises on the long sides of the oval-shaped 'ield. is supported by steel ribs placed around the upper rim of the seating.

As in most of Piano's architecture, the design is extremely functional. The circulation inside and outside the stadium works very successfully. The route to one's seat is clear. Following the radiating paths from the parking lots to the stairs, one never leaves daylight. Other facilities, such as public lavatories, offices, bars and information desks, are compactly placed under the shaded portico below the stands. Underneath the stands runs an internal route along which are the dressing rooms and four gymnasia; this also gives access to emergency exits. The extensive sloping pine grove that separates the parking areas from the stadium tends to neutralize the negative effects of the overheated asphalt of the car parks and to cool the inside of the stadium, as well as providing an environmental amenity for the spectators - an unusual feature in mass sports facilities.

(Opposite) Urban plan and exterior view (Above) Elevation

(Centre) Structural detail of canopy (Right) The stands

Building Workshop Renzo Piano BERCY II SHOPPING CENTRE

(Paris. France) 1987-90

(Above) Sit* plan

The Bercy II Shopping Centre is located on one of the busiest traffic nodes in the Paris area, at the extreme eastern boundary of the city where the boulevard p4riphenque intersects the A4 highway. With its smooth, curved outer rim and its gleaming surface, this strange megastruc-ture. which contains 100.000 square metres of shops and services, looks like the segment of a hypertrophic car bumper. It is as if the structure were meant, in its reflective capacity, to capture the gaze of the on coming drivers, offering a car-fetishist culture an astounding, if fleeting, moment of self-awareness.

However extravagant the cultural message of this metaphorically loaded monument of the road, like most of Piano's buildings it employs a highly original and innovative approach in its construction technology. The envelope of the building is composed of three layers: a skeleton of wood-core plywood beams with the purlins following the curved line of the roof: a waterproof membrane of PVC attached to the skeleton: and a permeable membrane made of satinized stainless steel tiles on top of the PVC

membrane. As the architectural critic Jean-Pierre M6nard notes, sophisticated computer modelling generated 34 standard sizes for the 2 700 panels, each made of ten stainless steel tiles, to fit the 13.000-square-metre curved roof. The tiles are paradoxically tilted upwards instead of downwards to channel rainfall between them onto the impermeable PVC skin beneath, which has its own draining system. This arrangement is intended to maximize the surface sheen: there is, therefore, a technological rationale behind the paradox. In fact, in what is a typical Piano motif, the skin, instead of being glued onto the body of the structure, is suspended in front of it. a device which has proved highly beneficial for waterproofing.

Once inside the building, the 'high-tech road' look gives way to a grandiose but more intimate, handcrafted impression. The curving purlins are made to look, as Piano has stated, like the wreck of 'the wooden hull of a ship resting gently on the concrete structure at different levels'. This handcrafted quality is complemented by 'shafts of light which come

(Above) Sit* plan

(Opposite, above) The exterior viewed from a distance

(Opposite) Details of the skin


(Far left) Construction detail

(Left) Diagram showing attachment of the outside skin panels to the structural frame


(Top) Roof plan and column grid

(Centre) Typical floor plan

(Bottom) Section

(Far left) Construction detail

(Left) Diagram showing attachment of the outside skin panels to the structural frame


(Top) Roof plan and column grid

(Centre) Typical floor plan

(Bottom) Section through holes made in the roof that dramatically illuminate the atria and reach the trees in the grove below'.

Bercy II was conceived as a highly functional facility. Priority, from this point of view, was given to aspects of orientation. The plan is divided into parallel strips, each providing shops, a central mall and little boutiques. This clear spatial concept is placed parallel to the Seine in order to enhance even more the awareness of location and reinforce the clarity of what Kevin Lynch called the 'cognitive mapping' of the project in its context. Three atria divide the central mall. The middle is planted with trees, 'like a grove", which adds not only to variety and a sense of nature, but. once again, increases the quality of the plan as an image. Finally, as people arrive by car and enter the shopping area from the underground car park, then take escalators or two panoramic lifts to the upper levels, a kind of map of their location with respect to the complex and its surrounding landscape is revealed to them, thanks to the large, curved roof and the expressiveness of the directionality of its wooden structure.

The geometry of the construction itself is one of the most intriguing aspects of the project, resembling in its meticulousness the soundbox of an enormous stringed instrument. According to Piano, the project's biggest challenge lay in defining the curvilinear form which was achieved during the development of the logic and the method of construction of the exactly divided grid of panels. 'Form, construction and geometry* were, in his words, 'constantly and strictly linked as the project grew up.' 'In a way', he continued, 'the building had first to be determined in an extremely subjec tive and visual manner, as for instance, a sculptural piece (all imperative conditions and functional requirements having first been considered); geometry, then, created the skeleton of the form which rose from the combination of three sectors of circles (each one with a different radius) and different lengths of sections. Consequently, the roof had to be constructed with three independent elements: one for the structure, made of wood-core plywood beams (purlins following the curving line of the building); one to form a watertight membrane; and. finally, one of stainless steel sheets held over the membrane.'

Bercy II is a fascinating project, successful in many ways, both on a large scale and. equally, on a very small scale. It is a unique piece of highway architecture, a wonderful artifact of contemporary technology, which brings together many subsystems of construction into one well-tempered synthesis.

Arata Isozaki & Associates PALAU D'ESPORTS SANT JORDI

(Barcelona. Spain) 1985-90

The serene and gently curved roof of the Sant Jordi Sports Palace, the main indoor stadium for the 1992 Barcelona Olympics, rises gracefully. fitting into the contours of the hill of Montjuic overlooking Barcelona. None of the currently fashionable exhibitionist and techno-philiac design mannerisms showing off the magnitude or might of construction is applied in this building. The 17,000-seat arena Is 14.4 metres below the central plaza from where the spectators approach the stadium. Unobtrusive ramps, local stone and regional ceramic materials dominate the area surrounding the complex, contributing, together with the discreet profile, to the quiet transition between the stadium and its environment.

Once inside the building, the character of the project changes dramatically. Vibrant, reflective, overtly high-tech materials take over. The structural members of the space-frame of the roof are exposed and foregrounded by the arrangement. Natural light descends from the huge dome through specially installed skylights in the roof and from the fold-lines between the dome and its supporting pendentive ring. By dividing the roof into a dome and a ring, piercing it to let in sunlight that shoots down the great sports hall. Isozaki uses an architectural device with a tradition as old as St Sophia to create a 'sublime' effect of a structure appearing to float, as if miraculously suspended in space.

Between stadium and service road is a sub-arena. as well as facilities for athletes and officials. For the lighting and ventilation of these inward-looking spaces, isozaki has employed once more a regional element, the patio. The building is served from a high ring road to the south.

Although the stadium Is designed for volleyball. basketball and gymnastics during the Olympics, and can accommodate, with its 200-metre track, indoor field and track sports, it can also be used for other events, such as exhibitions, commercial fairs, conventions and even opera performances, providing multifunctional facilities all the year round.

For all its understated technology, it is here that one of its most important qualities lies. The very process of its construction was, as Ignacio Paricio. professor of engineering in Barcelona, has remarked, a significant learning experience. The dynamic 'pantadome-method' applied in the roof construction consists of five steps: first, parts of the roof and the ring are assembled on the ground independently, using only small cranes. Larger cranes are then introduced to fit together the assembled parts of the roof. During the next stage, a jack placed under the hinges raises the whole roof structure, with the light and acoustic platform suspended from it. This phase com pleted. the jack is removed and the space sealed. What we see is a unique cooperation between architectural and structural conception and production techniques.

The combination of sophistication and self effacement in the use of technology, the integration of a massive structure to a culttr ally and aesthetically sensitive site and the multi-purpose function of the facility all contn bute to the efficiency, but also the urbanity, of the complex. Such features point to the ne* kind of architecture emerging at the end of this century, an architecture which maximizes the use of innovative technology with clear, unprecedented benefits, while at the same time minimizing unforeseen, negative impacts-an architecture of high intelligence, an expression of what Paricio calls 'the will to do things wefr.

(Above left) Facado of tho complex

(Abovo) Ground plan


(Top left) Interior corridor

(Left) Stagos of the construction - the pantadome mothod

(Right) Interior of tho roof structuro

Santiago Calatrava Vails Archltectelngonleur S.A. STADELHOFEN RAILWAY STATION

(Zürich. Switzerland) 1985-90

(Above) around plan

Left) Plan of underground pa»» and arced«

(Opposite, above left) Section showing underpass and bridge

(Opposite, below left) View of crossover bridges from the hillside

(Opposite, right) The platform on the street side of the station

(Above) around plan

Left) Plan of underground pa»» and arced«

(Opposite, above left) Section showing underpass and bridge

(Opposite, below left) View of crossover bridges from the hillside

(Opposite, right) The platform on the street side of the station

The return of interest in the construction aspects of architecture in the mid-1980s -with particular focus on the sculptural elements - is very prominent in the work of Santiago Calatrava. whether in his design of furniture or large-scale engineering projects. The most original and intricate architectural composition by Calatrava is the Stadelhofen Railway Station, part of the local rail network.

With remarkable clarity and veracity, the basic scheme of the station emerges out of an interplay between two kinds of constraints: the topology which Is determined by the function of the station, expressing movement and its transportation facility, and topographical considerations defining the available paths and obstacles of the site, which is located at the foot of a park-like hill, once the fortified edge of the city. The site is characterized by the coexistence of two adjacent zones - the hill contour and the alluvial plain. Within this landscape contour, the train tracks are laid down, curving gracefully at a radius of 400 metres. The station is 270 metres long. Its covered gallery promenade and cantilevered platform roofs conform to the site's gentle shape.

There are three levels: underground, ground and above ground. The ground level is incised by the train tracks and it is bound back by three light steel bridges crossing the hillside and the plain. An underground shopping complex spreads under the tracks, serving as an underpass.

Bridges and platform roofs dominate the. composition visually. As in most traditional railway stations, the dominant feature of the project is the cantilevered glass and metal roof. Technical considerations, traditional patterns and patterns derived from fractal geo metry are ingeniously combined. This, for example. Is manifest in the columns which arc triangular in section and spaced at a distance of 6 metres. They branch into a Y-configuration in order to grasp the torsion pipe which, running the entire platform length, stretches out its cantilevered arms to hold up the glass roof. The biomorphic motif of the bridges recurs in the glass and steel platform roof and its supporting light steel structure, and again in the long, arching light steel "pergolas' sweeping back at 4 metre intervals from the edge of the promenade as one overlooks the tracks from the hill above. The translucent roof held by the 'pergolas' reflects the same motif. Hills, tracks, vine-like and metallic branches, supports, cantilevers and bridges, passing trains, climbing, descending and mingling crowds, all join together into a complex mufti level representation of movement, Interaction

and vitality. The informal, friendly way in which the urban fabric adjoins the station, the immediate proximity of a park, the repeated elements of the structures, interlinking construction elements in steel, ferrovitreous. reinforced concrete, the weaving of paths, passes and passages - not to mention the ease with which the station can be used - all contribute to the joie de vivre of the project, reminiscent of the way railway stations were in the last century, before they were replaced in modern times by grim or seedy "public transportation facilities'. (See also pp. 284-85.)

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