The birds | Jorge Meijide

The aviario of the Zoo of London Cedric Pice in collaboration with Frank Newby and Lord Snowdon

The birds

Occasionally, and only occasionally, in the architecture they give themselves stellar moments. Moments of this that “shine on the night of the ephemeral thing”. Fleeting moments in the time that there unleash more important and lasting actions that they themselves. Moments similar to those of these historical miniatures as which the Austrian writer Stefan Zweig reports in his book stellar Moments of the humanity in 1927. The same writer who decided, together with his second wife, to finish with his life in the Brazil of 1942, oppressed and depressed by the belief of which the Nazism would finish with all that for what he was breathing and for it he was feeling unable to continue doing it.

In the brief prologue that initiates the book the celebrated suicide says to us, almost becoming aware, that “everything what of essential, everything what of lasting is obtained, gives itself always in the few ones and extraordinary moments of inspiration”. Facts that are prepared by the time and that of crisis, of appearance, are praised in “that one the only instant that everything it determines and everything decides it”, provoking a succession of events that “each of these stellar moments marks a course during decades and centuries”.

One of these stellar architectural moments is constructed in the Zoological garden of London, and from 1961 up to today it continues waiting telling us a history that still has not finished. It is a question of the enclosure for the birds, more known as the Snowdon Aviary. The peculiar structure is a work of such an atypical as brilliant architect Cedric Price and it was realized in collaboration with the photographer Antony Armstrong-Jones, to the season Lord Snowdon, and the engineer Frank Newby.

The beautiful structure, which it is, is realized by the most advanced technology of the moment, in aluminium and stainless steel. Four big tetrahedrons and two pieces in v are supported, traccionadas, compressed and tightened by cables, like structure of tensegridad; an extensive mesh assembles them, wrapping them, containing the maximum possible space to allow the flight of the birds. A few small sluices in every end allow the visitors’ access the interior across a tour in zigzag.

The work of the aviario, only of Price that a today continues in foot as is was constructed, it is a magnificent example of his architecture and of his way of understanding the architecture, and the fact that still it is kept in this condition is a sign of that still has not realized his assignment. Price, who was saying “I am radical because the architect’s profession has got lost ” and that it was continuing ” the architects are sure and of his own importance“, he believed in a calculated uncertainty in that the adaptable or temporary constructions were more useful and were fulfilling better his function that different stabler, rigid or permanent. This way he was understanding that all the buildings must accept his own disappearance or his complete transformation. The architect, inside this scheme, must give freedom to the user to give form to his environment simultaneously that to adapt and to be evolved by the company.

Nothing better than Will Alsop’s words, which it worked with him at the beginning of the 70s, to explain the work of the aviario: “The aviario was projected for a community of birds and his idea was that once the community was remaining established it would be possible to withdraw the mesh. The skin was something temporary: only it had to be kept the sufficient time to do that the birds sit down in his house and after it already they will not want to leave her”. The mesh that encloses the space encloses also the whole declaration of intentions that speak about a way of seeing the architecture and to which this one must answer.

The aviario is a great moment to Zweig, one that shows an attitude that comes out his own constructive fact. It is not a question only of an assessable work for if the same, isolated and concluded, it is the beginning of an action, of an offer of action that goes mas there of if same. Because of it the aviario continues in foot, because still it has not fulfilled his mission. The day that does it will disappear or will transform as other works Price. And not for it it will be less architecture than those that they remain.

In the posthumous article written by Peter Cook in August, 2003, this one includes a comment of Rem Koolhaas, one of the architects whom it influenced notably, that was saying: “Cedric is a prince who tries to turn desperate into a frog”.

What is what we want to construct, palaces or reservoirs?

jorge meijide . architect

a coruña. august, 2012

Arquitecto por la ETSA de A Coruña desde 1991. Colabora en el estudio de Juan Navarro Baldeweg entre 1991 y 1992. Máster de proyectos integrados por la fundación camuñas, madrid 1992. A la vuelta A Coruña se incorpora al estudio de su padre, Carlos E. Meijide Calvo con el que trabaja hasta 2001. Desde 2004 hasta 2009 colabora con los arquitectos Patricia de Marichalar y Fernando Martínez. En el año 2009 forma, junto con Patricia de Marichalar meijidedemarichalar arquitectos.

Desde 2014 trabaja en solitario colaborando con estudios y arquitectos amigos. Es profesor de proyectos arquitectónicos en la Escuela Técnica superior de Arquitectura de A Coruña desde 1997; es tutor de proyecto fin de carrera y ha sido presidente del tribunal de PFC. Colabora con blogs y publicaciones de arquitectura.

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