Wednesday, August 29, 2007
Thursday, August 23, 2007
(Perhaps not entirely successful but at least well intentioned self-portrait with reflected Medellín land- and skyscape in green opaque glass through punched openings in faux stone wall whilst using the internet. Photograph by the author.)
The city of Medellín has entered an important transitional phase. In the last few years it has rebounded from its narco-traffic legacy (this was the home of Pablo Escobar, after all) and it is now reaching out to educate and incorporate the broad, sloping margins of impoverished neighborhoods. Architecture is at the heart of the city’s recuperative campaign…not in an environmentally deterministic mindset, mind you, but in one that is playfully mindful of figure and ground's interplay. The city is employing
So far Medellín boasts five local-scale interventions. The two I show here are designed by Mazzanti Arquitectos, the office I visited in Bogotá. Their full names are, respectively: “Parque Biblioteca España en Santo Domingo Savio” and “Parque Biblioteca León de Greiff en La Ladera.”
Informal developments are relentless in their cellularization of space into semi-private and private claims. As such, they can approach modular homogeneity with a density in plan that renders it difficult to discern the circulatory network allowing them to function. In such an environment, a carved and carefully cared for public space coaxes out the public with capillary action. Projects such as Mazzanti’s, positioned in the thick of the informal mash, are fed directly by the pressure of the surrounding urban density. The interventions do not structure the surrounding built fabric so much as redirect its flows and concentrations, rending discreet reconstructive scars that heal into continuities over time.
Parque Biblioteca España en Santo Domingo Savio insets three immense geometricized stones high on a hillside overlook. The top image places the buildings in their social context. Note their modest, tip-of-the-iceberg massing versus the glowering monumental masks visible from below (see image at left). Several security guards--a common sight in Colombian cities--and a few waist-high safety rails are all that protect the parque biblioteca’s property. Its wood-floored main entry rests adjacent to the existing road. Across the street is the church of
The image to the left looks upslope to the chamfered boxes. On a hazy day, the mottled black stones fade into the mountain’s silhouette. As one approaches by the newly installed “metrocable” (also highlighted in red), corners crisp and details clarify. If the library seems more comfortable than usual with my graphics it is because the initial scheme was presented in model form as three glowing red resin blocks.
The metrocable ride is surreal. The cars’ forms mimic those of the library and confuse scale, distance, and function. The system is minimal in some senses and massive in others. Each car is intimate, seating only eight people, and there is no continuous track or trail that needs to be cleared on the ground for the line to pass through. Terrestrial impact is limited to enormous cylindrical footprints and a progression of mammoth station stops. Floating between these implants one drifts quietly, dangling past the (clearly visible) private daily lives of all the conglomerate below.
The center image’s downhill stance elucidates the project’s immediate contextual relationships, conveys the breadth of the landscape beyond, and relates the stones’ idiosyncratic creasing to their interior tectonics. The buildings climbing the slope to the right (a church and ball court), while no architectural gems, mark the neighborhood’s communal center. A clear departure from the local architectural vocabulary, the library blocks’ stolid opacity squeezes the panoramic spectacle to their interstices, where a strong prospect-and-refuge effect begs photographic exploitation (see link to New York Times article below).
The stones’ roof lines reveal them as folded, suspended sheaths. Inside, canted walls whitewash interior towers with reflected daylight. Windows are minimal and placed as much for graphic effect as to account for sight lines. The buildings’ surprising lack of transparency intensifies their figural quality and illusive solidity. Even as the walls’ thinness and luminous interiors belie their ostensible material sincerity, the resultant spaces’ emphatic interiority enhances their union to the landscape.
Finally, the image to the right depicts a stone gabion retaining wall upslope, the main platform above, and an entrance to the partially sunken socle ahead. A layered forest of steel tubes lets air and light into the sub-platform plenum that conjoins the boxes beyond without undermining its solidity.
In Parque Biblioteca León de Greiff en La Ladera, Mazzanti Arquitectos address a similar brief to
The top image—courtesy of Mazzanti Architects—catches the building at its most charismatic. Below that, the image to the left peers over the library’s right shoulder as it hunkers into the terrain’s broad slope, tracing a contour line while its constituents slide forward out of their holsters. The slope here is much more gradual than at
The composition’s concavity catalyzes voyeuristic interrelationships. The image at center looks from one box to its neighbors’ similarly split-level condition. As is also visible in the image to the left, the uppermost deck gently slopes down to enjoy the modules’ formal frontal gestalt’s framing and shading potential.
Finally, the image to the right faces the entrance from within the communal arm. To the left is the ground, to the right are two boxes are highlighted in red, and from above the sunlight filters through young palms rising toward the new ground.http://travel.nytimes.com/2007/08/12/travel/12nextstop.html?8dpc
Posted by Andrew_Ballard at 3:14 PM
Saturday, August 11, 2007
I came to
Posted by Andrew_Ballard at 2:55 PM
Thursday, August 9, 2007
The school is less formally-minded than other Giancarlo Mazzanti projects and, as such, it provides perhaps the most concise example of his modular design strategies. The small campus is elegant in its simplicity and organizational clarity. Conceived as a chain of modules to be snaked and shifted into various contexts, the string is tethered by a library/auditorium at one end and a kindergarten at the other. From one of these two singular structures to the other, the chain of one and two-story classroom modules enfolds a central common space (center image) like a necklace. Upper lab rooms, wrapped in stone and ribboned with colorful glass, float above the cloister’s plastic continuity (left and center images). Distances among the modules remain constant but the architects reserve a modest degree of freedom in determining the connective ground story’s final configuration. This reservation allows them to fine-tune the space within and its relationship to the neighborhood without.
It is essential to see this neighborhood (visible in the center and right images) in order to understand the project. While not the poorest of Bogotá’s barrios, poverty is omnipresent in its ramshackle assortment of mortared clay and unpaved roads. Workers were installing utility systems and erecting housing projects to the east and north when I visited. Construction of Collegio Gavilanes is almost complete (note the paint-spattered gentleman putting finishing touches on the ball court at center) and it will be interesting to see how town and gown interact as the project matures.
*aerial photograph courtesy of Mazzanti Architects
Posted by Andrew_Ballard at 8:02 PM
Saturday, August 4, 2007
Wednesday, August 1, 2007
The image above, taken from high in the eastern hills, shows three streets that help explain the city's peculiar urban character.
The first street is
The second is Carrera 7, the most important organizational element in Bogotá’s urban development. Called “La Septima,” it runs from Plaza Bolivar (highlighted in red), the center of the Spanish colonial grid, to the old salt mines far to the north.
Instead of climbing the
The third street I've highlighted is Calle 26, a high-traffic artery that extends as far as the international airport. Assuming a highway format, it is the most expressively symptomatic of the need for east-west connection. As Calle 26 nears La Septima it sinks below grade to allow the original grid to bridge over and then uses exit-ramps to disperse traffic as it passes the financial center and the
First, note the yellow sign at center that claims the street for the “Cyclovia” (pedestrian and bicycle use only) on Sundays and festivals, from 7:00 AM until 2:00 PM. I took the photograph on a Sunday that was also a festival day, although unfortunately I had to scoot out before the big parade fired up. Bicyclists are few but you can see plenty of pedestrians taking advantage of the traffic cease-fire.
Second, note the balcony, tarp, and bright light just below the sign. There was a camera crew up there with folks on couches warming up to color-commentate the occasion.
Third, note the tall rectangular sign rising behind the smoker’s head and the tip of the roof poking out from the behind the building on the far left. This is the Transmilenio stop on
Fourth, note the mix of buildings present. The textured wall to the right marks a Spanish colonial church. Far in the distance, partially obscured by the trees, rises a belltower of the cathedral in Plaza Bolivar. The rest of the buildings were established in the 1960’s and 70’s. The avenue here is fairly narrow because of the original Spanish grid in which it sits but as the road extends to the north it widens to take on several lanes of (choked) traffic.
Finally, note the Colombian flag in the upper left and the fellow smoking in the foreground. Bogotá is in Colombia and a fair number of people smoke here.
Posted by Andrew_Ballard at 9:08 PM