How to create a monument to deindustrialization?

Two architects from Porto have recently challenged one of the axioms of heritage preservation theory: the one that says a monument may be dislocated only in exceptional circumstances. I know examples of dislocation being done when some public works (dams) of extreme importance were built, yet the values of monuments were also unique and worth preserving. But what happens if the monument has been put out of use and stops making sense in the contemporary city?

This is what happened to the Maria Pia bridge in Porto, designed and executed in the second half of 1870s by an Eiffel’s collaborator, a Belgian engineer named Théophile Seyrig (Seyrig has also designed the other bridge, that of Dom Luiz I, that is still in use and links Porto with Gaia).

The Maria Pia bridge is out of use since 1991. Not even pedestrians can cross it – I personally checked, but there is a locked gate that prevents access. It has no purpose but to be beautiful. Around it, in the central zone of Porto, there are five more bridges that took over the transportation functions.

So why not repurposing the former monument, dedicated to great achievements of the industrial revolution?

This is what the team of young architects, Pedro Bandeira and Pedro Nuno Ramalho, suggested in their entry for the competition that was held last summer in Porto: dismantling the bridge, and then reassembling it at a prominent position in the Porto city center, making it a major landmark, and thus contributing to local identity and economy by attracting visitors. They have even calculated the costs, and it turned out quite feasible (way more affordable then building another Casa da Música, for example)!

esquema desmontagem_640

Bandeira Ramalho 4 pormenor_640

However, I think their proposal is more valuable in a philosophical sense: we are living in the post-industrial age and some proper monument of the present state of things is to be proposed.

It is also a way to give a breath of life to the structure that has lost its sense in the contemporary epoch. Reversing the process!

This brings to mind Le Corbusier’s thought on historical monuments I remember from the Athens Charter: “Death, which spares no living creature, also overtakes the works of men. In dealing with material evidence of the past, one must know how to recognize and differentiate that which is still truly alive. The whole of the past is not, by definition, entitled to last forever; it is advisable to choose wisely that which must be respected”[1].

Photo credits: http://www.pedrobandeira.info/Relocalizacao-da-Ponte-D-Maria-2013

 

[1]Le Corbusier, The Athens Charter, New York 1973, p. 86 (The Athens Charter was first published in 1943).

Advertisements

Sensing Spaces. (just ended)

Too bad we need the UK visas, otherwise I would not miss the Sensing Spaces exhibition that just ended in the Royal Academy of Arts in London.

The idea was to call seven architects/teams to make installations taking around 23 000 square feet of their interiors, and “reimagine architecture” by addressing not only the eyes of the visitors, but also by emphasizing olfactory or haptic properties of the exhibits. Engaging visitors went also in the direction of giving them opportunity for a creative experience – by letting them finish an installation (weaving colourful plastic straws in the white space of Diébédo Francis Kéré).

ex11

One of the installations (Chilean architects Pezo von Ellrichshausen) was in a particularly strong relation with the exhibition space: it brought visitors high up to the ceiling of the hall, the closest possible to the gilded details of its decoration, that would otherwise not be experienced.

sensing-spaces-royal-academy-of-arts-designboom-01

Among the great seven from all around the world, two Portuguese architects were invited to participate! Siza and Souto de Moura, the Pritzker prize winners, were present with their works. Souto de Moura was exploring heritage and meanings through creating concrete copies of the door cases and juxtaposing them with the originals. And Siza…from what I saw on the photos, it was something in the museum yard, and the information available said that it was “beautiful” 🙂

Sensing Spaces Royal Academy of Arts_Eduardo Souto de Moura_Joao Paulo Nunes_The Style Examiner (10)

sensing-spaces-royal-academy-of-arts-designboom-08

The architect’s own explanation, though, cleared things up: the installation was about “the birth of column”.

Some wonderful links:

https://www.royalacademy.org.uk/exhibition/4 (a bit about the exhibition)

http://www.archdaily.com/475585/siza-souto-de-moura-kuma-reflect-on-their-sensing-spaces-exhibitions/

(Siza talks)

The house in Alenquer

Another post about the Aires Mateus brothers!

Just because I am amazed with this decisive project of theirs, that is exactly about harmony of old and new, about giving new, contemporary life to a ruin and enriching the meanings of the new structure.

ALE 14

 The project is, however, from the past century (the house was built between 1999 and 2002). Initially, the plan was to adapt the old stone house in Alenquer near Lisbon, and the first version of the project was developed in that direction. And then, the old structure partly collapsed, so the architect brothers started thinking differently. The problem became an opportunity, a potential for the new whole (too bad there is no photo of the old house anywhere online, nonetheless one of them can be found in the recent monograph on Aires Mateus brothers’ work by Francesca Vita)!

House_in_Alenquer_2_by_ArchieB

The old walls embrace the new house (and the swimming pool), protect the privacy of the owners and create a lot of multifunctional nooks and crannies. The volumes of the new structure’s first floor overlap the ground floor and thus create shade or shelter in case of rain. And everything is in white & wood, enhancing even more the sense of unity of two epochs in this contemporary casa portuguesa!

Alenquer_02

tumblr_m2ua052HsX1r904b7o2_1280

Galo Louco, Part 3: Platu (getting to know Portuguese designers)

“Platu” is not merely a beautiful object: it is directly linked to interpretation of the Mediterranean nutrition pattern, and thus to promotion of the intangible culture of the country. So, let’s tell the story!

Thanks to a recent transnational initiative, Portugal has just got its second inscription into the Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity: in 2013, the Mediterranean diet was added, based on the joint proposal, also including Cyprus, Croatia, Spain, Greece, Morroco, Italy. In the inscription document, the Mediterranean diet was defined as a “set of skills, knowledge, rituals, symbols and traditions concerning crops, harvesting, fishing, animal husbandry, conservation, processing, cooking, and particularly the sharing and consumption of food”. Every country that submitted and application has designated a representative municipality that best reflects contemporary presence of the Mediterranean nutrition tradition. For Portugal, the city of Tavira in Algarve has been selected (note to self: got to go there!)

86b2cbad6405c497faa22d4c23d65020

“Platu” (2008, with recent update), a work of the Portuguese designer Miguel Pinto Félix, is dedicated to one of the pillars of the Mediterranean diet – the olive oil. It is the plate meant for the refined experience of olive oil tasting. The form resembles an olive tree and bears to mind fluidity of the oil. It is “an olive tree designed for olive oil”, explains the designer. This example shows how much vitality contemporary design can gain through connections to tradition and local inheritance.

PLATU_packg_11


Galo Louco, Part 2: The Whistler (getting to know Portuguese designers)

Being interested in the issues of cultural identity, art&design and sustainability in Portugal, I have learned a lot recently, thanks to the research initiated at “Galo Louco”.

The Portuguese are probably well acquainted with these designers’ work, but for me they are wonderful new discoveries!

Every morning I have my cereals from the well thought-out and cleverly designed part of “The Whistler” collection, conceived by Raquel Castro. I chose it for its aesthetic qualities, not knowing anything about the background. But I researched a bit and here is the story behind it:

As we know, Portugal is the world’s major producer of cork, an environmentally friendly, reusable and recyclable material. This country produces about 50% of total world amount. An innovative practice of recycling cork has also been developed in Portugal. In 2008, the “Green cork” project was initiated, with the idea to recycle and reuse cork stoppers. The project started as a partnership between Corticeira Amorim and Quercus, the main Portuguese environmental association, and then spread to Spain, France, Italy and UK in Europe, as well as to USA, Canada, South Africa and Australia.

The applications of cork seem to be endless: besides the use in architecture and building, clothing and footwear can be made of cork, as well as furniture and decoration. It is also used in the areas of health and beauty products, pollution control and even energy production. The possibilities for its new applications have been constantly discovered, too.

alg024-azul-2

An outstanding, creative example I found in “Galo Louco” is the “Alma Gémea” (“Soulmate”) line of products that combines cork and ceramics – a result of cooperation between the most prominent cork and ceramics producers of the country. One of the collections within the line is named “The Whistler”, as an hommage to the biggest cork oak tree in the world, located in the region of Alentejo. The designer was also inspired by the traditional pottery of Alentejo. The cork part of the product was made of recycled cork stoppers. In this example, the sustainability issues and cultural identity considerations were brought together and interpreted in a creative process.

The Whistler tree is 230 years old, it is harvested every 9 years (next time in 2018), and the last harvest was enough for about 100 000 cork stoppers! Here’s the amazing tree:

Wtree-360

Torre da Sé in Porto.

Hereby I present another discovery from the yesterday’s historical city tour – the Torre da Sé, designed by Fernando Távora in late 1990s-early 2000s (to be precise, between 1995 and 2002). The tower is situated in the very heart of the historical city – just next to the cathedral. And it doesn’t lie about its epoch: it is unmistakeably contemporary addition to the continuity of the Porto’s history of architecture. The main materials are granite (so, the traditional stone building was reinterpreted and continuity established) and glass (to provide a sense of our own epoch and also reinforce interaction, since the tower is meant to be a public space).

Torre_Fernando Távora_

450px-Antiga_Casa_Camara_(Porto)

This kind of intervention is probably among the most demanding and sensitive tasks for an architect. And I think he did it with a success, maintaining his own identity as an author, yet being highly sensible to the historical values of the environment.

3022_arq095-01-23

The tower was actually built on the ruins of an ancient building, the so called Casa dos 24, upon a call from the then mayor of Porto, Fernando Gomes. Casa dos 24 – because it is where the 24 local officials used to gather. The proportion system of the tower emerged from the interpretation of an old text containing the description of the previous building. The main unit is “o palmo”, which amounts to 22 centimeters. So, the tower is 100 palmos tall (22 meters, that is), the walls are exactly 5 palmos thick (110 cm), and its length and width amount to 50×50 palmos, that is 11×11 m. Of course, the interior system of measures also conforms to this palmo module.

005_tavora_casa_dos_24_theredlist

One more curiosity: the Távora’s building does not have any particular function, but to enable visual experience and enjoyment of the city!

Btw, FT lived between 1923 and 2005, he was a very important figure in Portuguese architecture and rethinking relations towards the past, so I’m sure there will be more posts about him here.

Azulejarias and calcadas of Eduardo Nery

It seems that Lisbon metro is much more than just an infrastructure that gets you efficiently from A to B. Among a number of artists who were commissioned to give their touch to the metro stations there ever since 1950s, the biggest scope of work  belongs to the lady named Maria Keil. Her work was particularly important for reintroduction of interest in azulejo in the contemporary context, since it was not so much used in the 19th and first decades of 20th century.

Another artist who also had commissions from the Lisbon metro company turns out to be particularly interesting for me: Eduardo Nery (1938-2013). Nery was working with decomposition of historical azulejos and these panels can be seen at the Campo Grande metro station. Those works are from the 1990s.

5489646143_f25795596f_z

The same line of thought was developed at his panel for the EPAL building in Lisbon, from the same period.

vibracoes

Here I also enclose a photo of Praça da Município in Lisbon (he was very active with his interventions in public spaces). In this work from 1997-1998 period, he merged his Op-Art background and the possibilities of traditional calçada portuguesa (the cobblestone paving).

eduardo nery municipio lisboa 001

Something to be researched in detail in the future, I think.