To his air | Sergio de Miguel

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Sketch of theMaravillas College, Alejandro de la Sota

In 1962, the unforgettable Sota left us a jewel in Madrid.

A gymnasium, for a school. A building transition. A section. An attitude. An exercise of architectural goodness.

It was necessary to save a desnivel incorporating an extension to the school Maravillas. Resolve the stair. Giving a soil to the playground of games by up and a façade to the street by down.

And in way a prodigy.

The memory of the project explains:

“Existent terrain in strong slope; walls of staggered containment of concrete in mass. Difference of heights between street of façade and upper playground, 12 metres. Orientation, Midday. Accesses, inferior from the street and upper from the playground. Sótano Allocated to changing rooms of the gymnasium and field of training of hockey on skate; low plant, to hint of games and chamber of professors of gymnastics. Entreplantas First and second, congregations, ancient students and psychotecnics. Destined high plant to Museums of Natural Sciences, Physical, rooms of conferences, of games, of Music, reading, etc. upper Playground for games to the free air, continuation of the most reduced, already existent. 

Dominant subject: gymnasium covered.  Structure of concrete in sótanos, of iron the rest. In the room, pillars of eight metres of height separated to six metres, bearing beams-bridge of 20 metres of light. Forged of viguetas metallic and Viroterm, absorbent of noises, in the low line of the beams, used jointly like flat of the upper plants and ceiling of the gymnasium. Wooden elastic soil in hint. It treated  to achieve a loaded environment of mankind, neutralizador of the gymnastic coolness; they used  hot materials in colour and matter; it was this the main architectural worry environmental.”

And Sota, some years later, appears:

“This building of the year 62 was born to his air. Worried with the urban, economic problems, utilization of the solar evil, it did not give margin to worry for a certain architecture; because of it he lacks any of them. Maybe be different; maybe. To explain it would lead to the polemic of: Architecture yes, Architecture not. Placed the volume of the gymnasium in strict sense in the just level, are added by the architect to the program the basement, the classes (cover of the gymnasium) and the terrace (court of games) in the level of the College. With the choice of the appropriate structure architectural effects are obtained, inside the gymnasium and the classes.

The exterior viewing-points return to him to the great wall the urban scale. It is finished off quite by the protection fence of the court, which plays with the set and also it is a front.”

It left us his “architectural effects”. It gave us many lessons “loaded with humanity”.

But the most eloquent thing, in my opinion, is that it was born “to his air”.

His comment ends up by saying:

“The gymnasium of Marvels is already 22 years old. Do not be why I made it like that but what yes I know it is that I am not upset with to have done it. I believe that not to do Architecture is a way to do it and we all all those do not do it we will have done more for her that those who, learned, continue doing it. Then a problem was solved and it continues working and it seems to me that nobody begins in there is absent the Architecture that does not have.”

How to do without doing. How to construct “without architecture”. How to live with silences.

Spent already many years from his disappearance, Sota continues counting.

His attitude of resignation, his overflowing architectural intelligence, they put to our scope something more than “wonderful” buildings. They emphasize the existence of one “not architecture”.

The power of the denial.

The air is of all.

Work of the Maravillas College, Alejandro de la Sota

Sergio de Miguel, architect
Madrid, march 2010

Sergio de Miguel García

Ph.D. Arquitectura, Universidad Politécnica de Madrid, (ETSAM) 2016.
M.A. Arquitectura, Universidad Politécnica de Madrid, (ETSAM) 1990.
Profesor en la Universidad Politécnica de Madrid, (ETSAM) desde 1995.

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