aml

random thoughts on architecture history theory and criticism

tres bibliotecas de borges

en cierto sentido, claro, borges tuvo muchas bibliotecas—pero en este post me voy a limitar a tres. la primera, de la que menos datos tengo, es la biblioteca nacional de buenos aires, de la que fue director cuando tenia su sede en la calle mexico. esta imagen, la unica que pude encontrar, es particularmente triste por estar vacia (una biblioteca sin libros suena a cancion de sabina).

la segunda, la biblioteca que borges construyo—la biblioteca de babel, que segun el autor,es infinita y periodica:

…se compone de un número indefinido, y tal vez infinito, de galerías hexagonales, con vastos pozos de ventilación en el medio, cercados por barandas bajísimas. Desde cualquier hexágono se ven los pisos inferiores y superiores: interminablemente. La distribución de las galerías es invariable. Veinte anaqueles, a cinco largos anaqueles por lado, cubren todos los lados menos dos; su altura, que es la de los pisos, excede apenas la de un bibliotecario normal. Una de las caras libres da a un angosto zaguán, que desemboca en otra galería, idéntica a la primera y a todas.

la tercera biblioteca nunca la conocio. borges fue director de la biblioteca nacional de la republica argentina entre 1955 y 1973. durante su gestion, se promovio la construccion de un nuevo edificio, disenado en 1961 por clorindo testa, francisco bullrich, y alicia cazzaniga. para el proyecto se uso el mismo sitio en donde estuviera el palacio unzue, la residencia oficial de juan peron y su mujer, evita peron. unzue fue demolido por motivos politicos en 1958, y el terreno adjudicado a la biblioteca para su nueva sede. la construccion comenzo en 1971, y termino finalmente en 1992, seis anios despues de la muerte de borges.

[imagenes del interior disponibles aqui]

me pregunto si testa penso en la biblioteca de babel mientras disenaba esta… tal vez pudieramos decir que si la biblioteca de babel es infinita, es porque crea un universo alterno, que es lo que busca el diseno de testa & cia, aislando al lector en una burbuja que flota por encima de la realidad. pero si el enfasis de la historia de borges esta en el universo de los libros, la biblioteca de testa esta enfocada al momento de lectura: los libros estan almacenados en tres sotanos, y las imagenes nos llevan a idilicos momentos de lectura aislada, enmarcada con la vista del horizonte infinito de buenos aires.

el apodo de testa para su obra es ‘el gliptodon,’ y esa es la impresion que da: la de un animal solitario, errante, con un duro y grueso carapacho que le da el aspecto de estar siempre a la defensiva. esa es a menudo la actitud que les toca a las bibliotecas en sudamerica, en donde leer es un lujo que se mantiene contracorriente. pudieramos especular que una biblioteca parece ser un programa politicamente neutral, dificil de oponer, y por tanto apropiado para un sitio con rezagos politicos. ironico, puesto que las bibliotecas nunca han figurado como arma politica: ningun politico promete bibliotecas en campania. el gliptodon no ataca, no muerde, pero tampoco hace amigos. camina solo, tercamente, por su propio sendero.

ps. abanico es la revista de la biblioteca, publicada en linea mensualmente.

pps. un precedente interesante, la torre velasca en milano, de belgioioso, peressutti, y rogers, pero yo argumentaria que las proporciones de la biblioteca transforman al espacio superior en una celula flotante, mientras que la verticalidad del edificio en milan solo logra dividir el cuerpo en dos sin que el volumen superior se desprenda de la base.

pps. si quieren algo mas literal, esta la biblioteca vasconcelos en mexico: infinita y periodica… tiene tambien su propia historia politica, pero no entra en este post.

ppps. para porno de bibliotecas, recomiendo el trabajo de candida hofer.

Filed under: ., borges, brutalism, reading, testa,

i heart concrete

this recent post by bustler on the housing tower at kripalu center for yoga by peter rose + partners elicited an old familiar reaction—ohhh pretty concrete! recently, discussions on the relocation of the whitney museum from its original building by marcel breuer and negative reactions to the ohio historical center by ireland and associates have kept the topic of concrete animosity in the news [i’m particularly fond of breuer, having helped in the efforts toward conservation of his grosse point library, one of his non-concrete buildings]. but as an architect raised by concrete-loving, unapologetic modernists, i can’t help myself [and why should i?]: i love concrete [coincidentally, recent post here on lovability or lack thereof of brutalist buildings and their preservation chances].

perhaps it’s the fact that i went to several all-concrete architecture schools—starting with my alma mater in gye [sorry the pic is so blurry!]: picture a fallingwater-type composition layered on the side of a tropical hillside but made by a poor man’s tadao ando [i love the building but economic conditions did not allow for a good clean finish]. the architects if i remember correctly were bravo & robalino, both still teachers at ucsg. in any case, animosity against concrete always confuses me. why the hate, when there’s so much to love?

so without further comments, some concrete porn for all kindred souls who also salivate a little at the sight of some good concrete…

poetic: tadao ando at vitra factory in weil am rheim

unexpected: frank lloyd wright’s guggenheim during renovation in 2007

rough: paul rudolph’s government service center in boston

… and soft: rudolph’s government service center stairs

sculptural: column at st. mary’s cathedral, sfo, by pier luigi nervi and others.

infrastructural: underspass in sfo periphery

whimsical: casa del puente, by amancio williams, in mar del plata

floating: carlo scarpa, tomba brion at san vito d’altivole

mythical: carlo scarpa, iuav gate at venice

… and underneath that roof: faites l’archi, pas la guerre!

ps. plug for my pals from heroic: boston concrete

pps. i cannot resist giving you one more:

surreal: sesc fabrica da pompeia by lina bo

Filed under: ., bo bardi, brutalism, scarpa, wright,

3 stadiums in colombia

…tied to jorge gaitan cortes, architect, politician, mayor of bogota, and part of a group of architects involved with the state during postwar latin america, whom i’m interested in. the stadiums were done in collaboration with gonzalez zuleta for the ardeco firm. also, world cup-themed post, of course.

atanasio girardot stadium, medellin 1953. note elegant tilt down for reduced seating (and maybe a change of grade? not sure) behind the goal posts. in another life, i used to design soccer stadiums.

pascual guerrero stadium, cali 1937, remodeled 1948. very nice expression of structural ribs and underside of seating. looking at the section published in proa in 1955 (sorry, can’t post here), there seems to have been a later addition in the bottom, which definitely clutters the base. or, the section drawings omitted this portion. any colombian readers out there?

nemesio camacho ‘el campin’ stadium, bogota 1938, remodeled late 1940s. nice projection of the seating into sculptural wing, closed, in contrast with the bare bones aesthetic of the previous stadium.

note: no, i’m not from colombia. i’m from ecuador. i just happen to like these stadiums. coincidentally, when the nemesio camacho stadium was inaugurated in 1938 ecuador beat colombia 2:1. at least that’s what wikipedia says, therefore it must be true.

ps. also cool: the baseball stadium in cartagena, 1947 by solano, ortega, gaitan, santacruz, and burbano.

Filed under: ., brutalism, stadiums,

brutalist and tall

sesc pompeia by lina bo bardi

angiolo mazzoni’s work, via owen hatherley’s latest post, just reminded me of lina bo bardi’s sesc-pompéia factory in são paulo.  it should be no coincidence since both grew up in italy. while mazzoni got his commissions through his connections to the fascist party, bo was involved with the italian communist party. twenty years younger than mazzoni [b. 1894], bo [b. 1914] must have grown up with mazzoni’s railways, built mostly between 1920 and 1940 as part of the fascist regime’s public works campaign.  perry anderson [via another hatherley italian-themed post] has discussed the italian tradition of longing for a classical antiquity, and understanding culture as a passport to power.  these ideas would actually approximate the pci to the right.  appropriately, the sesc pompeia project was designed and executed during brazil’s military dictatorship of 1964-1985.  bo is not the first european architect from the left working in latin american under extreme right dictatorships, although sesc is a private institution managed by the confederação nacional do comércio.

Filed under: ., bo bardi, brutalism, italy, mazzoni, politics, ww2,

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