Objet trouvé [04] : Sostres and the radiator of the “MMI” House | Rodrigo Almonacid

Interior court of the house Moratiel de J.M.Sostres (Barcelona, 19556-57). Photography: F. Catalá-Roca

In the middle of the 50 of the 20th century, the Catalan architect Josep Maria Sostres (1915-84) leaves the environment pirenaico of his natal locality of Urgel’s Cathedral to give beginning to his more brilliant stage linked to the Mediterranean littoral. In less than one decade it is capable of projecting a series of works that reflect a great wisdom and a disciplined trade, which they have (as set) the quality of being exceptional links inside a chain without beginning or end. I refer principally to the house Agustí in Sitges, to the row of four one-family houses in Torredembarra, to the house Iranzo and to the house Moratiel (known by the initials “MMI” of his owner).

It is probably the latter, the MMI house, the richest and simultaneously the most complex of all of them, due to his numerous references to the architectural modern culture. It has a point of “unfinished” (if it is that an architectural work it can be perhaps), of “work-in-progress” as they would say some today. The collision of forms, details and sensations is such that would seem that his author had to detain the process of the architectural project in an unforeseen moment not to delay any more the beginning of his construction. Or probably not, and this is alone the way in which one would like to understand it, as if it was a fixed still inside a sequence in permanent evolution. This way it is revealed by the sketches of this tiring project, real struggle between two antagonistic versions of the idea of house: the house – belvedere” and the house – court. Said differently, it might affirm that the house finally constructed MMI settles the looks extrovert and introspective, which exercise estrábico deliberate, trying to explore a conciliation of objected of impossible reconciliation as all we know1.

Fairly, the MMI is a house known enough, studied and published2. Nevertheless, I want to claim in this text the importance of the unforeseen thing in a work, of those corners where (paraphrasing Goya) the dream of the reason produces monsters, but “monsters” (it yes) of the good ones. Along this project Sostres’s imagination managed to blur almost his methodical and rational way of approaching the project of architecture. His attitude is entirely modern, since it is interested in the experiment in yes that in the definitive result. And if this way it is estimated on having continued to develop of the project, when we come closer the work again it infringes his own rules to introduce unexpected changes, unpublished solutions that surprise but without which this one acts it would not be so brilliant.

The original composition of the plant was contemplating a court opened for the sky with a tree reached on his center. The above mentioned court would be visible from the principal bedroom across a totally glazed wall in his north side, which was giving sense to the disposition of a screen of wood that would slip in parallel to the window to isolate the piece of the living close to the chimney and to indicate an idea of corridor towards the body of bedrooms. This transverse topic was induced placing a furniture rack in the lounge that was preventing the advance of the visitor for the principal axis of the house on having come to the gravit center of the house.

Plant of the project of execution and Interior sight of the house Moratiel de J.M.Sostres (Barcelona, 19556-57). Photography: F. Catalá-Roca

On having directed the work, the “composer” Sostres altered decisively the physiognomy of the central court of the MMI house, meeting affected his adjacent spaces. Surprisingly, the court turned the back to the principal bedroom, denying his conference to him. The tree disappeared and with him, the sight of the sky, replaced with a lattice of muds that were acting as a luck of gnomon on the pavement and the identical walls. The sliding panels, covered already the bedroom, did not find raison d’être, and the wall of the living was unified by the same painting in all his extension, exiling the initial idea of re-dressing his interior section in a panelado of noble wood. For if it was not small, the rack of the lounge was replaced with an unexpected radiator of elements of smelting, real “objet trouvé” of the housing. His position exempts in the middle of the principal space, his geometry of vertical lines dress to cross-light as another lattice of shades more, and his height coinciding with the level of the horizontal amount of the south window of the lounge, they indicate us that the new domestic scene was taking shape on having been constructed and experienced by the senses.

In the house MMI it would be said that Sostres’s habitual paper like “main composer” went on to a secondary place when the author turned into “conductor”, blowing own life to those unarmed elements arranged on the plane. The inconvenience and abstraction of the final solution is, nevertheless, a lesson of architecture designed to be perceived by the senses, that it comes out of a mere formal composition for brilliant that this one is. Though, sometimes, like largely of the Sostres’s most interesting works, only it is a question of happening the time looking at the movement of a few shades…3

Rodrigo Almonacid [r-arquitectura] · doctor architect

valladolid. juny 2015


1 The conciliation of opposite is a fundamental topic in Sostres’s work, since Carlos Martí Arís describes in his qualified text: “Sostres’s architectural thought”, en: ARMESTO, A. y MARTÍ, C. (eds.): Sostres. Arquitecto. Architect. Barcelona: Ministerio de Fomento de España, Col·legi Oficial d’Arquitectes de Catalunya, Centre de Documentació, 1999.

2 A study detailed on the house MMI (and his sister, the house Iranzo) is the monograph: Cfr. ARMESTO, A. y LIBERATORE, C.: “Iranzo y Moratiel”, en VV.AA.: José María Sostres. Casas Iranzo y MMI. (Barcelona 1956 y 1957). T6 ediciones, Pamplona, 2006.

3 The Majorcan architect Guillermo Sagrera explains his personal perception of the importance of the shades and of the radiator of the house MMI in a letter directed J.Quetglas, published entirely in Arquitectura del COAM Magazine, nº 263, at november-december in 1986, pp. 66-70.

(Teruel, 1974). Licenciado en Arquitectura (1999) con premio extraordinario y Doctor “cum laude” en Arquitectura por la Universidad de Valladolid (2013), compagina su actividad académica como profesor doctor de la E.T.S. de Arquitectura de Valladolid con la profesional al frente de su propio estudio [r-arquitectura]. Es autor de dos libros: Mies van der Rohe: el espacio de la ausencia (2006); y El paisaje codificado en la arquitectura de Arne Jacobsen (2016). Colaborador habitual en blogs de actualidad y crítica arquitectónica.

Proyecto edificios singulares y sostenibles en mi estudio [r-arquitectura] desde el año 2000 con la colaboración un equipo multidisciplinar de especialistas de acreditada experiencia profesional. [Especialidad: Sector Terciario].

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