Albi’s lasting testimony | Oscar Tenreiro Degwitz

Kahn’s drawing, done in 1959

Whenever it saw the drawings of Louis I. Kahn (1901-1974) the great architect Estonian – American, were called me always the attention those of Albi’s Cathedral, with his buttresses planned with ascending spirals. They were indicating all the interest it put Kahn in this building of the 13th century, interest that I see now expressed in words, on me having stumbled yesterday over this text of the same Kahn, written in the first ones seventy:

“In Albi’s presence I could feel the faith in the selection of his architectural elements and all that I delight and patience they combined her to begin and to work up to his completion. I drew Albi from below up as if he was constructing it. And I felt the joy. The patience that took to construct it was not needed by me because I drew it without worrying about corrections or correct proportions. It wanted to catch only the excitation in the mind of the architect…”

The images and the name took me to us and to my wife up to the city crossed by the river Tarn, from whose margin right spies the profile of the Cathedral, dedicated to the holy one of whom there took the name my mother, Cecilia, additional reason for the visit.

The most surprising of the building is that the structure of support and the external paraments are of brick, being of stone only the props and vaults of crucería you hospitalize. There are very few examples in France of Gothic in brick because the stone is abundant in this country and his expert utilization allowed to build there the highest examples of this architecture. They are the clays of the Tarn, which led to using this material and the desire of the region to be enough to yes same and in certain way to isolate as logical inheritance of the resentments left by the crusade against the sect of the Cathars, or albigenses (of Albi), undertaken by the Pope Inocencio XIII and the king of France. The instrumental villain was Simón de Monfort, who directed the slaughters and Beziers’s slaughters in 1209. So in his exterior, the sequential presence of the buttresses along the ship, was replaced with a few enormous cylinders of brick, of great inertia to neutralize the horizontal efforts.

El extremo oriental de la Catedral.
The oriental end of the Cathedral | Photography: Óscar Tenreiro Degwitz

Here, like in many examples come from the history, there are ruined some of the “modern” myths that sometimes restrict the decisions of the architects; as well as they take force and felt the most important offers equally inherited from the Modern Movement.

The cathedral is actually a walled enclosure that repeats the constructive scheme of the adjacent fortifications of the city to the river, or that a utilitarian beginning adopts in a symbolic building, of worship, of prestige. The cylindrical fingerprint of the buttresses, useful militarily to facilitate visual is here necessary to increase the step of the light towards the vertical windows and his vitrales. A clear link between need and form, modern beginning. On the other hand, the temple is of an alone ship, looking for concentration, compactness, equally military attribute; and the entry is not frontal but lateral, the only (there is one North very small, almost private), protected by the most beautiful front page of late Gothic, added later. They are refutations to the schematic way Fine arts of the century nineteen that persisted according to other forms in the “modern” frozen vision.

El Palacio de Berbie evoca a Louis I. Kahn
Berbie’s Palace evokes Louis I. Kahn | Photography: Óscar Tenreiro Degwitz

This poem of arches and cylinders of brick came to constitute a key motive for Louis I. Kahn, who opened with it a very rich chapter for the development of the architecture, in force up to today, which claims the possibility of using former inheritances derived from the way of constructing in the formal conception of the most current buildings. Something that for example Walter Gropius in the times of the Bauhaus rejected and extended to his educational experiences in the United States. Prejudices that Le Corbusier, on the contrary, began to dismantle from ends of the thirties.

Ahmedabad’s Managerial Center, projected by Louis I. Kahn in 1961-62, construído entirely of brick, and his Governmental Center of the capital of Bangladesh, Dacca, of the same epoch, has to very much to Albi’s formal universe, being particularly Berbie’s Palace, today Museum Toulouse-Lautrec, which gets up closely together of the cathedral, a direct reference to the language of his last architecture.

La escala de los cilindros de ladrillo.
The scale of the cylinders of brick | Photography: Óscar Tenreiro Degwitz

This visit came to be for us not only the personal discovery of the historical only building, which combines his austere external presence with a very profuse pictorial internal decoration in the vaults of crucería, of Renaissance invoice, in the untensest perfectly preserved blue, an extraordinary Final Judgment on both sides of the presbytery and a medieval sculpture of great value that borders on the choir; it was especially a current, alive, dynamic lesson received from the centuries.

Óscar Tenreiro Degwitz, Architect.
Venezuela, september 2008,
Entre lo Cierto y lo Verdadero

Óscar Tenreiro Degwitz

Es un arquitecto venezolano, nacido en 1939, Premio Nacional de Arquitectura de su país en 2002-2003, profesor de Diseño Arquitectónico por más de treinta años en la Universidad Central de Venezuela, quien paralelamente con su ejercicio ha mantenido ya por años presencia en la prensa de su país en un esfuerzo de comunicación hacia la gente en general de los puntos de vista del arquitecto acerca de los más diversos temas, entre los cuales figuran los agudos problemas políticos de una sociedad como la venezolana. Tenreiro practica así lo que el llama el “pensamiento desde y hacia la arquitectura”, insistiendo en que lo hace como arquitecto en ejercicio, para escapar de los estereotipos y cautelas propios de la “crítica arquitectónica”. Respecto a la cual no oculta su desconfianza, que explica recurriendo al aforismo de Nietzsche sobre el crítico de arte “que ve el arte desde cerca sin llegar a tocarlo nunca”.

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