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Old February 23rd, 2006, 06:07 AM   #1
hkskyline
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Exhibition : Architecture's Effect on Spain

How to give a city a new face
New York's MoMA showcases the talents that have transformed Spanish architecture.
By EDWIN HEATHCOTE
15 February 2006
Financial Times

The debate about what architecture can do for a city has, in recent years, been dominated by Bilbao and Barcelona. The former has given its name to a new "effect": a single structure, Frank Gehry's billowing, titanium-skirted Guggenheim Museum, revitalised a formerly run-down, industrial port. In Barcelona, another former industrial port, the 1986 Olympics provided the spur for swaths of thoughtful, urbane development that have made it one of the world's design capitals and one of Europe's most consistently enjoyable international cities.

The extent to which Spain has embraced contemporary architectural culture is astonishing, not only selecting the finest and most formally articulate inter-national architects but also nurturing two generations of home-grown genius.

The show surveys Spain's contemporary scene in a dazzling, if rather arbitrary, selection that seems to cover every mode of current architectural expression. Spain's architectural explosion dates from the end of the reactionary Franco period and, equally significantly, from its accession to the European Union in 1986. That period, which saw the injection of huge amounts of European cash, led to a wonderful wave of well considered architecture, a rash of serious modernism that had been suppressed during the 40 years of Franco's reign. It is a shame the period is not covered - 1998 seems an odd place to start - but perhaps there would have been too much to show.

In the past year alone Spain has seen the completion of some astonishing new structures. Barcelona's Torre Agbar, designed by France's Jean Nouvel, is a corollary to London's "Gherkin", an expression of some elegantly attenuated phallic zeitgeist, and is every bit as enthralling, its rich use of colour making amends for a structure marginally less elegant than Foster's. It was Foster of course who was commissioned to redesign the Bilbao Metro system, which has allowed Gehry's dancing structures to flourish. Foster's old sparring partner, Lord Rogers, has made his own contribution with Madrid's stunning Barajas Airport, with its theatrically undulating roof. Nouvel also pops up in Madrid with his sci-fi-scaled extension to the Reina Sofia Museum. The ubiquitous, always reliable Herzog de Meuron appears with a flamenco centre in Cadiz, its delicately perfor-ated facade derived from layered Islamic calligraphy. Also represented are the cosmopolitan but London-based Foreign Office Architects and Zaha Hadid, who remain under-represented at home.

But it is the smaller, less-lauded buildings that des-erve most attention. Spanish architects excel at designing buildings that reinforce local building culture and metropolitan life. While discussion in Europe and the US revolves around icons and suburbs, the Spanish have been thoughtfully mending and reinforcing their cities, with powerful municipalities taking big risks on young, untried and often remarkably experimental architects.

A new city hall for a Barcelona district by Manuel Bailo and Rosa Rull displays a fragmented, folding and peeling facade; an arts centre in La Coruna by Acebo X Alonso Architects powerfully revives a functionalist expression; a local health centre in Ibiza provides another elegant modernist kickback; while the selection of public housing shames most other countries. Also included are small interventions including escalators snaking up a hillside in Toledo (by the outstanding Lapena & Torres).

There are gaps. Some of the best architects (particularly Mansilla & Tunon and Abalos & Hereros) are represented by only one project and the show could have benefited from more backstory - political as well as architectural - as to how this creative situation arose. Background on the inventive buildings of the 1980s by architects who later became superstars - Rafael Moneo, Santiago Calatrava (Ground Zero transport hub) and Enric Miralles (Scottish Parliament) in particular, would have been welcome.

There is also nothing explicit about the regionalism that has allowed architects such as Miralles (and his widow Benedetta Taglia-bue) to create extraordinary structures such as the dazzlingly colourful Santa Caterina market in Barcelona, which form an obvious continuum with the eccentric organicism of the Catalan Gaudi. The show's format - simple models, big photos - is also unadventurous, although this is MoMA'sreliable architecture curator Terence Riley's swansong before departing to Miami to build a new museum.

Perhaps Spanish architecture will once again exert the influence it did in the New World centuries ago. Rafael Moneo's outstanding Our Lady of the Angels Cathedral now stands across the road in downtown Los Angeles from Frank Gehry's Disney Hall, an ominous glimpse of Spanish potential and a far cry from the kitschy villas that litter the Hollywood Hills, so far the greatest penetration of Spanish style into the American heartland. This show could see a whole new cultural conquest that ought, this time, to be welcome.

'On-Site: New Architecture in Spain' is at MoMA, New York, until May 1.
Tel +1 212 708 9400
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Old February 23rd, 2006, 08:15 PM   #2
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Not exactly 'Citytalk'... more 'Countrytalk' or 'Architecturetalk'

You have a habit of doing this HK, please re-read the Citytalk rules, thanks
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Old February 23rd, 2006, 08:32 PM   #3
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Very interesting article, but why omit Valencia? Some staggering stuff going down in that city as well.
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Old February 26th, 2006, 09:23 PM   #4
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Pursuits: Spain:'s architecture soars ahead of the curve
By Benjamin Forgey
The Washington Post
24 February 2006

New York -- A QUARTER-CENTURY AGO, the idea that Spain might be considered a vivid center of architectural creativity would have been considered definitely silly, and possibly cruel.

The great nation was still awakening from the long cultural slumber enforced by dictator Francisco Franco, who died in 1975. Franco's idea of great architecture was a deadening, nationalistic sort of classical kitsch. Modern architecture, for the most part, was something for the tourists -- mile after banal mile of hotels that were degrading to the local culture and the fine beaches they were built on.

And, yet, here we are. Spain today is "an international stage for architectural innovation and experimentation," says Terence Riley of the Museum of Modern Art. Mr. Riley backs up his words in "On-Site: New Architecture in Spain," a riveting exhibition of models, photographs and words that opened earlier this month in Manhattan.

Of the 53 projects in the MoMA show, 35 are under construction or in design. The oldest of the 18 completed projects was built all of eight years ago, and the others were completed since 2000.

This up-to-the-moment focus has its drawbacks. Each unfinished project is represented by a splendid scale model and informative photographic panels showing site plans, floor plans and other important data. Even so, a visitor often finds himself mumbling: "Hmmm. Maybe, maybe not."

Of course, that is the nature of architecture exhibitions -- they always are made up of representations. Even artful photographs of completed buildings can deceive.

I am convinced, for instance, that the Barajas Airport terminals in Madrid, designed by the Richard Rogers Partnership in collaboration with Estudio Lamela, are as smart and as beautiful as photographs make them seem. But I won't really know until I go there.

Nonetheless, this exhibition is completely convincing as to its main point, and thoroughly fascinating in particulars. An amazing amount of exciting, imaginative, provocative architecture is being built in Spain -- designed by Spaniards and foreigners alike -- and much of it is world-class.

This is due in part, as Mr. Riley emphasizes in his catalogue essay, to the intelligent way Spain has spent the approximately <euro>90 billion in financial assistance the country has received since it joined the European Union in 1986. Not only has Spain's antiquated infrastructure been overhauled, but the job has generally been done in ways that extend the benefits beyond this particular road or that particular bridge.

In Barcelona, for example, planning for a creative outbreak from Franco's rule started in the universities even before the dictator was dead, and this emphasis on excellence has continued to this day.

Other Spanish cities and regions followed suit -- the spread of the "Bilbao effect," for instance, is due not simply to the choice of American architect Frank Gehry as designer of an extraordinary riverside museum, but also to the fact that Mr. Gehry's building was part of an intense overall strategy to improve that run-down northern city.

Quite a few of the projects in the exhibition illustrate the close relationship among planning, infrastructure and architecture. In particular, the question comes down to such issues as: If you are going to build an outdoor escalator, of all things, why not make it beautiful?

That is exactly what the medieval mountain city of Toledo did to solve problems of tourist access. To get visitors comfortably from an underground parking garage up to the historic city's core, architects Jose Antonio Martinez Lapena and Elias Torres Tur carved escalator slots into the city's old walls. The result is an original piece of infrastructure-architecture that is supremely convincing -- the right, if surprising, thing to do, done in the right way.

In Spain, as throughout the EU, architects for civic projects are chosen by competition, but that can't be the sole reason for the daring inventiveness of so many of the projects on view. Maybe it is just something in the air, a continuing post-Franco ebullience bolstered by civic vision and confidence.

How else to explain medieval Seville's selection of a series of wildly biomorphic forms, made of laminated timber, to cover a new downtown park like a field of giant mushrooms? Designed by Berlin architect Jurgen Mayer H., these definitely avoid my maybe, maybe-not list. They are slated to be completed next year, and I am betting they will be useful, elegant and perfectly playful.

Similarly attractive, and almost as surprising, is the wavy, colorfully tiled roof invented by architects Enric Miralles and Benedetta Tagliabue to cover the Santa Caterina Market in Barcelona.

Sometimes the inventiveness of the program for civic buildings is as important as formal originality. The Ciudad del Flamenco in southwest Andalucia, said to be the cradle of flamenco music and dance, is a hybrid that includes an auditorium, dance school, research center and museum. The building, designed by the star Swiss team of Jacques Herzog and Pierre de Meuron and scheduled for completion in 2008, is astutely complex. But its sheathing, in a stucco pattern based on traditional Arab and Gypsy ornament, is one of those maybe, maybe-not propositions.

Mr. Gehry is present not with his famed 1997 Bilbao Guggenheim but with a winery and hotel (designed with Edwin Chan) scheduled to open in September in the Basque countryside. The project is, as might be expected, at once curvy, complex and comely.

And the Museum of Cantabria, by Emilio Tunon and Luis Mansilla, to be completed by 2009, consists of a series of jagged peaks -- surrogate mountains, in effect. The floor plans, however, look to be adaptable to traditional and unorthodox installations.

By contrast, the sharp concrete folds of the Valleaceron Chapel play against the gentle curves of distant mountains. The building, completed in 2000 and designed by Sol Madridejos and J.C. Sancho Osinaga is a fresh take on the late buildings of the 20th-century Swiss master Le Corbusier.

Even more plentiful than unpredictable shapes, however, is the rationalist box. That is hardly surprising -- rectangular buildings, after all, remain the most efficient containers for many everyday functions. But the boxes here are subjected to all sorts of twists and turns, and many are sheathed in brightly colored materials or even translucent panels that allow a viewer to half-see colorful shapes inside. Occasionally, however, it appears the box makers are reverting to unpleasant modernist habits.

The panel accompanying the model and photographs of four "Bioclimatic Towers," designed as part of a larger housing development by Inaki Abalos, Juan Herreros and Renata Sentkiewicz, refer to the sophisticated, sustainable elements underlying the design. But, isolated in a field, the towers definitely recall the bad old days of modernist planning. Of all the maybe-nots in the show, these head the list.

Mr. Riley said he took some flak from Spanish architects for including many buildings by non-Spanish architects, but it was the right choice. For one thing, many of the Spanish architects measure up, and then some. For another, the inclusion of such compelling talents as Zaha Hadid, Toyo Ito, Thom Mayne, Jean Nouvel and Alvaro Siza, in addition to those already mentioned, drives home the show's main point.

Something is happening in Spain. Maybe-nots and all, the exhibition affirms the creative fecundity of today's architecture, and it celebrates the role of civic leadership in the creation of bold plans, bold buildings.
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Old February 27th, 2006, 01:12 AM   #5
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Interesting
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Old February 27th, 2006, 10:58 AM   #6
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Some details on the escalators mentioned above in Toledo.

http://www.carmalaga.com/spain-archi...-escalator.htm
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Old February 28th, 2006, 05:06 AM   #7
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Quote:
Originally Posted by hkskyline
How to give a city a new face
New York's MoMA showcases the talents that have transformed Spanish architecture.
By EDWIN HEATHCOTE
15 February 2006
Financial Times

The debate about what architecture can do for a city has, in recent years, been dominated by Bilbao and Barcelona. The former has given its name to a new "effect": a single structure, Frank Gehry's billowing, titanium-skirted Guggenheim Museum, revitalised a formerly run-down, industrial port. In Barcelona, another former industrial port, the 1986 Olympics provided the spur for swaths of thoughtful, urbane development that have made it one of the world's design capitals and one of Europe's most consistently enjoyable international cities.
...
Barcelona Summer Olympic Games were in 1992, NOT 1986!
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