The public architecture in Madrid and in the beginning of the 21st century (V) | Antón Capitel


Municipal palace of Congresses, by Moreno Mansillaand Tuñón

A new building of Municipal Palace of Congresses, contiguous to the “four towers”, was summoned by a contest, with a juror that also I prefer not remembering, and that gave to him the prize to the project of Luis Moreno Mansilla and Emilio Tuñón, designers who normally have very convincing results, which the one who writes is in the habit of admiring and which before it praised.

But I cannot think, in this case, which a disc put of foot, a luck of great wheel, for much that he inhales and even it achieves to represent to the Sun, could manage to be a good building. It seems to me that all the things, even the contemporary formalism, and up to the sense of the humor, have his limit, and I think that this one is one of them.

Certain it is, I it know, that an arena gains something of rationality, in someone of his aspects, if it puts of foot, since his horizontal strata – his plants – do not remain affected by the inflexibilities of the round form. Anyhow, the traitress circular geometry also conquers you in this case, since it is forcing you that the horizontal platforms have the irrational size that the circle dictates. Were authors meeting so sure of achieving something enormously qualified? Since only this might excuse such an irritated formalism. Since the formalism only reaches sense, really, if it manages to be forgotten; this is, if it achieves that, finally, the form looks like a result and not a point of item. Very difficult it had been, in this case.

Nevertheless, this promotion has been taken also by the wind of the recession. We do not know if it will return to the compass of the happiest new times, if it is that these manage to appear.

Cultural Center Caixa Forum, by Herzog and De Meuron

In one of the last numbers of the magazine “Architecture”, which was directing, the one who writes dedicated a critical article to the building of the “Caixa Forum”, of the Swiss architects Herzog and De Meuron. The one who is more interested party can look for it there, so here it will become slightly more summarized.

And different. It seems to me to be important to treat here the fact of the false conservation of a patrimonial building, matter that is in the base itself of this action. Do not be if the remains of the old house that in his day was an electric power station were deserved by it or not to be a protected building. But, if it was like that – at least less, for hypothesis-, it have to of having remained. And, if not, it turns out slightly superfluous that has been in use as a pretext proyectual, more or less conceptualista. The electric power station already does not exist, has turned into a spoilt corpse, by what the patrimonial conservation has been defrauded. It had not been better than had allowed to make it eliminate, and that like that the new project had been intellectually more honored to the have had to look for his inspiration in another more reasonable and attractive matter?

Because to use the rind of the central old woman to represent the miracle of cutting her for his base and of making her suspended in the air as a formal topic allegedly unusually, allow me to say that it is not another thing that a bad joke. It is a joke almost so badly as that of the square of Castile, with the towers that fall and that do not finish of falling, and that, as such joke, turns in disgustingly when it lasts, and lasts, and continues lasting. Since the architecture has this well-known characteristic of his absolute stubbornness, which it never changes, for what his formal topics need to bear well the step of a cruelly invariable time.

I do not believe that the building of the Caixa Forum has conquered the primary problem of composition, either, that the architects themselves appeared when the volume made grow up. I think that they have failed in this so clear topic simply completely, and that the result only can satisfy the most vicious fans of a modern – ancient “collage”, already enough gone out of fashion.

On the other hand, and to finish, there seems to me to be disappointing enough the very important detail of which, on having come to the cafeteria, in the high floor, the plates of steel cortén are pierced to give something of light and of sight, but they do not withdraw the sufficient thing to offer the splendid sight that might have on the Botanical Garden and the sector East of the city, and that exists of turns this just looking for a little hole. I think that the formalism shines this way, in this building, much more than the quality, and that for this it was not necessary to bring to foreign supposedly brilliant personalities. And, certainly, without contest.

It has been this one be afraid of a great disappointment.

New back of the Prado Museum, of Rafael Moneo

Other rehabilitations have been much more important and, for fortune, and in the opinion of whom he writes, much more qualified.

The first one is the extension of the Prado Museum, of Rafael Moneo, after a contest of ideas with free program and of other one restricted to the selected ones in that one and with a very strictly determined program.

The extension has solved the functional lacks that in the Museum were endemic (lack in assembly hall, in rooms of exhibitions, confusion in the accesses, lack of different services..), managing to arrange very adequately an available limited enough space, of a part, and saneando in a very satisfactory way the urban spaces of the back of the building, of other one.

The one who does memory will remember that Villanueva’s building, betrayed in his revolutionary typology for Arbós’s retrograde reforms, first, and of Joke and Lorente later, that distorted his original exempt disposition and without courts, was presenting a very unfortunate back, and in that the new volumes that had worsened it were shamming figuratively that they were original, as if the time had not passed and the ignorance had been innocuous. The building was suffering from a meeting with the area that was continuing undecidedly between the horizontalidad and the sloping condition, and that to solve it had been turning his back into a luck of giant “court Englishman”.

Nothing to see with the urban order, the spatial and volumetric cleanliness and the adequacy that today we see. The “garden of the myrtles” of the cover has domesticated the semi-underground surface of the extension, that entesta adequately with the spurious fronts, and that liberates by means of a court the apse vilanoviano, that had been so diminished and questioned for those. The peatonalización of the street Ruiz de Alarcón has remained valued with the convincing union between the new volume concerning the cloister and the Church of the Jerónimos, and all this urban sector shines today with an order that has exiled the old inadequacy and the traditional abandon that before him was own.

There have been many that criticized figurative aspects so much exterior as boarders, and perhaps it is true that there are in the extension visual not completely successful, or convincing questions, do not be. They do not seem to me to be important next to the order and the adequacy that today everything breathes, and that have managed to do of the Prado Museum a physical institution and architectonically at a height of the most important collection of painting of the world.

 I think that Madrid is in this case of congratulation.

(to be continued…)

Antonio González-Capitel Martínez · Doctor architect · professor in ETSAM

Madrid · march 2013

Antón Capitel

Es arquitecto y catedrático de Proyectos de la Escuela de Arquitectura de Madrid, fue director de la revista Arquitectura (COAM) de 1981-86 y de 2001-09. Historiador, ensayista y crítico, ha publicado numerosos artículos en revistas españolas y extranjeras sobre arquitectura española e internacional. Entre sus libros destacan diferentes monografías sobre arquitectos.

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