Binnacle | Antonio S. Rio Vázquez

«If we could load on the architecture the responsibilities that weigh on the construction of ships, we would have for time buildings better than the Parthenon»[1]

Horatio Greenough

Jørn Utzon, Sydney’s opera. Photography: Balthazar Korab (1988)

For the architects of the modernity, the naval construction has been a constant reference. Peter Collins, in his test Changing Ideals in Modern Architecture (1750-1950), remembers his how, already in the 19th century, the american sculptor Horatio Greenough was claiming that the architects were turning the sight towards the naval design:

«If our constructions on firm land were facing the same tests that are realized in the shipyards, little more would be necessary to add. Instead of fitting by force the functions of all kinds of buildings into a general form, given before, and of adopting an exterior form without considering the interior distribution, let’s begin for the heart progressing from there towards out»[2].

Collins mentions other examples where architects in search of the modernity find new courses on having studied the naval construction: The historian of architecture James Fergusson nalyzed the manufacture of ships from the epoch of Guillermo Conquering up to the «last ship thrown in our wharves», while the writer Prosper Mérimée was sorry in several articles that steam ships were designed taking like I shape the ancient galleys, opinion that also there were sharing Eugène Viollet-le-Duc and his disciple Anatole de Baudot, who writes:

«Do not we have one of the most useful and interesting examples in the new terrestrial and maritime vehicles? There were given to these the forms of the carriages or ships of the epoch of Luis XVI? By no means: the interrelationships and the appearance were deduced of scientific and industrial information. Why, then, the fixed refuges, that is to say, the buildings, are not they designed in a similar way?»[3].

The notebooks of binnacle of the modern architects are full of designs of ships. Le Corbusier, beside seeing in the ships «the wise, correct and magnificent game of the volumes assembled under the light»[4], transformed the barge Louise-Catherine into a floating asylum on the Seine for the Army of Salvation. Alvar Aalto called to his boat Nemo propheta in patria, dedicating to his design the same attention that to his refuge deprived in Muraatsalo, only accessible crossing the waters of the Päijänne Lake, Ramón Vázquez Molezún was giving form, summer after summer, to his pier-house in Bueu —from where it was going out to sail— and Ralph Erskine managed to turn a sailboat —La Verona— into his temporary study.

Jørn Utzon´s  case is even more singular: his father, Aage Utzon, was a naval engineer and it was employed at the project of several ships along his life. From child, the future architect was visiting the shipyards of his natal city and was helping his father to realize the planes and the models of the ships. Aage’s last design is sailboat that named Sisu, name that Utzon will take again for the girders that support the «candles» of the Sydney´s Opera and that honoring remains as a sense to the beginning of his architectural day_s run.

antonio s. río vázquez . architect

a coruña. juny 2013


[1] GREENOUGH, Horatio. «American Architecture». En: TUCKERMAN, Henry Theodore. A memorial of Horatio Greenough consisting of a memoir, selections from his writings, and tributes to his genius. New York: G.P. Putnam & Co., 1853, p. 125

[2] GREENOUGH, Horatio. «American Architecture». En: TUCKERMAN, Henry Theodore. Op. Cit., p. 125

[3] BAUDOT, Anatole de. L’architecture: Le passé. Le présent. París: H. Laurens, 1916, p. 3

[4] In the page 79 of Vers une architecture aplica esta definición al paquebote Empress of Asia de la Canadian Pacific.

Antonio S. Río Vázquez

Antonio S. Río Vázquez (A Coruña, 1981) es arquitecto por la E.T.S.A. de A Coruña, master en Urbanismo y doctor por la Universidade da Coruña. Especializado en teoría y diseño, su línea de trabajo se ha centrado en la investigación y divulgación del patrimonio arquitectónico moderno. Ha desarrollado proyectos de modo independiente y ha colaborado con varios estudios de arquitectura. Es socio fundador de Aroe Arquitectura. Es profesor en el Departamento de Proyectos Arquitectónicos, Urbanismo y Composición de la Universidade da Coruña, y ha sido profesor invitado en la Robert Gordon University de Aberdeen (Reino Unido), en la Universidade do Minho (Portugal) y en la Università degli Studi di Roma La Sapienza (Italia). Es miembro de la red UEDXX Urbanism of European Dictatorships during the XXth Century, del Grupo de Investigación en Historia de la Arquitectura IALA y del Grupo de Innovación Educativa en Historia de la Arquitectura. Ha formado parte del proyecto de investigación FAME Fotografía y Arquitectura Moderna en España, 1925-1965. Los resultados de sus investigaciones, tanto personales como conjuntas, han servido como aportación a eventos de debate y difusión científica y han sido publicados en libros y revistas.

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