Eastern Light. The list of Spanish regions with consolidated architectural personalities of their own seemed to lack the Valencian group of provinces, which nevertheless in the past years has accomplished enough in quality, quantity and variety to merit attention. Endowed with a solid Mediterranean and modern heritage reinforced by close links to the plastic arts, Spain’s Levant is building a new image for itself, aided by projects of the kind carried out by Calatrava, Foster and Grassi in Valencia or by Siza in Alicante.
Buildings: Projects and Realizations
Valencia Studios. Carlos Meri concentrates his efforts on serialization and detail precision in a work that verges upon engineering; Íñigo Magro and Miguel del Rey give a contemporary air to the old ceramic industry of Castellón; and Emilio Giménez continues his long-time relationship with the arts through a project for the sculptor Andreu Alfaro.
Palmaret Station, Valencia
Magro & Del Rey
Venus Offices, Nules
Design Museum, Rocafort
Alicante Firms. Javier García-Solera and Alfredo Payá belong to the latest generation of young professionals, and also share an elegantly frugal language that is patent in their respective buildings for Alicante’s campus. Vicente Vidal, in expanding one of his own works, goes back to the constructional concerns that have shaped his already long career.
Business School, Alicante
University Museum, Alicante
Industrial Plant, Cocentaina
Books, Exhibitions, Personalities
Individual and Collective Shows. An anthology of Paul Klee arrives in Madrid’s Thyssen Museum from Valencia’s IVAM, while the Reina Sofía organizes a controversial traveling exhibition about Spanish industrial design.
Art / Culture|
Klee, from IVAM to Thyssen
Spanish Industrial Design
|Brazilian Heritage. The author of Brasilia’s masterplan, Lucio Costa, dies at the age of 96, while his compatriot and disciple Oscar Niemeyer becomes the first Latin American architect to win the RIBA Gold Medal.||
Lucio Costa, 1902-1998
Niemeyer, Tropical Genius
|Revisionist Times. Historical themes are enjoying a fecund moment in publishing, illustrated by the updating of a reference manual and the recuperation of an emblematic text belonging to the ecological literature of the sixties.||Focho’s Cartoon|
Interiors, Design, Construction
Degrees of Transparency. Jacques Herzog and Pierre de Meuron complete their first American work, a winery in California that blends into the landscape through geometry and a stony translucent skin; and Alberto Campo Baeza draws inspiration from Moorish gardens to build a Mallorcan complex of opaque contours around a diaphanous core.
Technique / Style|
Herzog & De Meuron
Stone against Light
Dominus Winery, Yountville
Alberto Campo Baeza
A Secret Garden
BIT Center, Inca
|To close, for the section on constructional themes and products Ignacio Paricio has on this occasion collaborated with Juan Luis Fumadó in addressing the problem of where to place service ducts and wires; and the director of the Valencian Institute of Modern Art, Juan Manual Bonet, sums up the diverse and stimulating cultural panorama of his region.||
I. Paricio & J.L. Fumadó|
Where to Place Services
Juan Manuel Bonet
The sun of architecture had not risen for some time in the east of Spain. In the past twenty years the Valencian region has witnessed an imbalance between its demographic dimension and the density of cultural construction, and between its economic dynamism and the vitality of the architectural debate. Public administrations proved unable to create a sufficient atmosphere of emulation, just as the School of Architecture and the professional associations failed to produce a landscape of vigorous stimuli. Despite the commendable efforts of some institutions and persons, the Valencian scene fell short of acquiring the critical mass needed to initiate a chain reaction, and outstanding projects that may have served as a fuse burned out with wet gunpowder. The grand opportunity presented by the development of the Turia River area ended in disappointment, the IVAM failed to build a headquarters at a par with its artistic program, and the hapless theater of Sagunto got bogged down in political controversy.
But the wind is changing course. A new generation of architects is creating a fertile panorama of works and projects able to engage in dialogue, free of complexes, with the imported architectures abounding in the region. The disciplined laconism of Valencia and Alicante architects contrasts with the diversity of languages used by the invited voices. Nevertheless, perhaps only with a deliberate stripping and a rigorous silence can they strike a conversation with the babel of artistic tongues being heard on the shores of the Mediterranean. If the communication works, these lands will have enough fuel to kindle the bonfires of architecture, turning fervor into brilliance, and complementing the flames of artifice with the slow fireworks of everyday heat.
The generous welcoming of outsiders is the most distinctive feature of a community that does not need to assert its identity through isolation. Hence the works of Catalans like Miralles and Ferrater will soon be accompanied by projects of Seville’s Vázquez Consuegra and Madrid’s Santander-born Navarro Baldeweg, and this peninsular polyphony is destined to tune in with a young but mature local talent that can likewise benefit from a critical dialogue with international architecture: the embers of the illuminist rationalism of the Tendenza, an unfinished project that Grassi illustrates well with his library; the wise and fractured poetry of Siza, dramatic even in cases where the master imitates himself; the humanistic technology of Foster, competent even when he tries to redeem routine through gesture; and, inevitably, the sculptural engineering of Calatrava, whose provocative mix of inspiration and triviality will continue to arouse clashing sentiments, but whose presence in his native land helps to raise the temperature of the fires that herald the light and warmth of the eastern dawn.