Visiting “The César Carlos” … (Sota, 1967-70) | Rodrigo Almonacid

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Colegio Mayor César Carlos, Alejandro de la Sota

“But, teacher … I do not deal why they have led us to seeing ‘the Caesar Carlos’. One might explain it?”

We were returning in bus on returning to Valladolid. It was already by night, and the day had been intense. But I could not remain without this gift that the students deliver you with unpayable generosity when you are his teacher: his thoughts. I went at the end of the bus, there where they are in the habit of always assembling the most “rebellious” in any excursion (as all we know), with the intention of knowing what they had liked more of this trip of studies to Madrid to seeing to Fisac (Teacher training college), Oíza (tower Banco Bilbao) and Sota (Major college César Carlos), and the exhibition in parallel of Fisac’s work and Jack in the ICO Museum (magnificent, certainly). The result of the survey concluded without unanimity; but in the middle of the crossing comment, one of the students lifted the voice and formulated the question mentioned to the beginning of this post. The innocent question was, actually, a ” poisoned dart ” for any teacher of a School of Architecture (since it is my case), though I have to admit that the one who was formulating it did not seem to show “twisted intentions”.

Yes, reading darling, actually the question was to explain the architectural values of a building that nobody would discuss for his quality. I must confess that always it looked like to me a folly to speak about a work if to have visited her, especially if the opinion is not favorable. I, as one more student, had just visited don Alejandro’s building for the first time, and, therefore it did not have an opinion very formed till then. Do not be if I have it now, after the visit, but at least I could answer to the question with knowledge of reason, almost with the sensations and emotions flush with skin …

I do not try to turn this post into an explanation of a work so celebrated as the major college César Carlos, who even has monographic own book. But yes to share with you one of the lessons that I learned when he was a university student: the best class of Architecture is received visiting the buildings, not reading books. Do not misinterpret me, I am not throwing an assault to this wonderful companion of trip who is and it will be always a book… By no means. But it is true that often the critique and the architectural teaching has elaborated from an office, without having trodden on the building in question. This, unfortunately, he has been one of the big males of the spreading in Architecture, and, in my opinion, it must be fought with firmness to revalue the authentic critical exercise. To comment and, even worse, to criticize a work without having seen her in his place is a foolishness. Any analysis would overlook topics as decisive as the surrounding landscape (conference, orography, natural environment), the relation with the city (accesses, urban morphology), the local climate (solar orientation, dominant winds). And others, not less important but often “big forgotten” factors as the quality of the solar light (type of sky), the relation with the neighborhood (urban sociology, acoustic levels of the environment), and, the most important thing, his users or owners.

In “the Caesar Carlos”, Jack demonstrates a clear will to give a sense to a lot, beyond even of the buildings that occupy it. The environment of tranquility in the University City of Madrid, the difference of the lot, beautiful available conference and a group of young opponents to whom one was offering housing and collective services (cultural, sports, of scattering) are key in the final result. It is here where the teacher Alejandro de la Sota teaches us how an idea of architecture is to the service of such a peculiar community, for that the architect tries a few spaces presided by the concentration, by the precise silence for every individual. But to the time, an architectural set that favors the links between the inhabitants, as if it was a question of monks inside a monastery. As he itself recognized:

“The destination of a Major College is that of good to study and well to coexist in him. To define so clearly the end of the things helps to his resolution.”

It is tried desmasificar dividing and dividing the human groups up to coming to the group which number allows the direct relation. This allows that inside a possible series of indefinite growth, not deshumanicen the relations”

(See the memory of the project in the digital file of the Foundation Alejandro de la Sota)

It is as well as we understand the manipulation of the area in different platforms, the will to disperse the volumes for the lot (instead of unifying everything in the only volume), the importance of the plantations of trees (today enormous and beautiful chestnut-trees strategically placed in the lot), the location of every activity in the buildings (every piece is a mixture of individual and collective uses, there is no functional strict segregation), the covered ones like privileged inhabitable terraces… and even be afraid so seemingly minor as the underground step between the buildings, the distribution of wooded masses and his scale with regard to the buildings, the disembarkations to half a height between floors of bedrooms, the form staggered and organized into a hierarchy in plant of the rooms, or the treatment of the plane of the soil in the exterior enclosures (the carved one of the court re-sunk together with the library, the diagonal causeways towards the blocks of apartments or the peldañeado in spillage towards the swimming pool and the field of tennis are, for mentioning some, really models).

César Carlos Major college, Alejandro de la Sota

These (and great others) appraisals are impossible to meditate of not having visited this work, which now I admire “for own will, not for the borreguil assumption foreign opinions … To listen to his current users César Carlos to speak proudly about the major college, to there be amazed before the particularities of the diverse rooms that they are called “mousetrap, “sausage, and “suites (governed all for a maximum utilization of the available space on the basis of a commitment admirable furniture – room), to be present at the life in his collective spaces, and to observe how they appropriate of his spaces outdoors they provide sufficient arguments to answer to the question to that, as teacher, it had to attend.

I admit that, after my brief explanation, many of the students remained convinced enough in the interest of this work, but not for my arguments but because everyone began to recognize the architectural values of a way more conscious than we had done during the visit. I claim this experience as unavoidable to grow as architect, and even more as student (in spite of that the current study plans do not favor this labor by no means at present), when the preconceived ideas still do not drown the capacity of judgment and surprise. To be left to go up to getting excited on having visited the Architecture is an experience that they us cannot steal, for much that the Technical Code is a vademecum for the professional of shift, or however much the pedagogues of the Plan Bologna cannot understand our particular form of learning. And nowadays, plunged in an atmosphere of low autoesteem and discredit, what better claim that the good Architecture to reconsider our social and cultural role as architects?

Rodrigo Almonacid [r-arquitectura] · doctor architect

valladolid. october 2013

(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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