random thoughts on architecture history theory and criticism

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,

a light post about architects and death

ildefonso cerdá liked the grid, perhaps a bit too much.

louis sullivan was keen on ornament up to the end

carlo scarpa will forever peek into tomba brion [i mean really dude. let go.]

frank lloyd wright not only has a wrightean grave, it’s empty and has a crazy story behind it. wright was one for drama even after death.

and mies’s grave… close your eyes… you know what it looks like, right? i mean, do i even have to link to it?

ps. if you are curious about someone else, you can go here.

pps. fyi, this light post actually includes a stealth commentary on the dangers of caricaturizing your own work. i’m just too lazy to write it.

ppps. john soane’s grave inspired gg scott’s design of the iconic london phone booth. more here.

pppps. video of corb’s funeral [via sam jacob]

ppppps. i just visited miralles’s grave at igualada, where the archifaithful have left messages for enric. 20120622.

Filed under: ., cerda, death, mies, scarpa, sullivan, wright,

a tale of two cemeteries

carlo scarpa’s tomba brion (san vito d’altivole, 1970-72) and aldo rossi’s san cataldo cemetery (modena, 1971, 1978-84) were both designed for sites the veneto area in the early 1970s.  the similarities and differences between both works highlight some of the tensions between neighborhood and metropolis [a polarity borrowed from alexander d’hoogue]. the fact that brion is in a small rural town and modena is in the periphery of a busy urban environment is almost incidental. brion itself is a neighborhood, and modena is a city.

brion public entrymodena corridor

both projects are adjacent to an older cemetery, and react to this relationship by both contrast and analogy.  scarpa designed two ways thresholds to brion: one allows for the private experience of the individual, and the other is accessed through the public cemetery, presenting the tomb entry as one of the cemetery’s various mausoleums. within the ‘public’ realm of the cemetary, brion blends in with the context, but establishes a point of entry and separation for the private realm.  in this way it establishes a ‘neighborhood’ type of separation between public and private: friendly but clear.  in contrast, rossi’s cemetary is contextualized through a metropolitan strategy. the new cemetery addresses the old (cesare costa’s project of 1858-1876) through its proximity and the use of similar scale and proportions.

the strongest difference between both projects is that of ownership. brion is a private tomb, a luxurious extravagance for a small family that happened to like scarpa and was able to afford him. modena is a public cemetery, so public that actually the older cemetery requires a fee to access it while rossi’s project is open to the public [or at least that is what i decided upon finding the door open and no sign]. wandering through brion, the intense materiality of grass, concrete, water, keeps life around you. in modena, we are always in the home of the dead: in fact, when i visited on a hot italian sunday afternoon, the dead seemed to be following me, counting my footsteps and patiently waiting for me to leave. perhaps it was the loud plastic flowers, or the silent black and white photographs on every tomb, but the dead are always present in modena. in brion, they are part of the archeological fiction that scarpa has woven for us.

Filed under: ., death, rossi, scarpa,

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