The exhibition "Letters to the Mayor" at COAM, the Madrid iteration of the project promoted by Eva Franch of New York's Storefront for Art and Architecture, ended on October the 28th. It was a great experience to curate this project alongside Enorme Studio. The 75 letters written by local architects and addressed to the mayor of Madrid have interested many visitors. You can now read them online using this link. (Photo by Javier de Paz García.)
As a civic figure, the architect has the privilege and responsibility to articulate and translate the collective aspirations of society, and specifically of those not able to sit at the decision-making tables. Throughout history, architects have engaged with this responsibility and the structures of economic, political and cultural power in different ways and with varying degrees of success. With the rise of globalization and the homogenization of the contemporary city, the role of the architect in the political arena has often been relegated to answering questions that others have asked. While designing the next economically driven cultural-iconic-touristic object, an increasing amount of both architects and with them, politicians, have forgotten the ethics that should be associated with architectural practice and the potential of design in the construction of public life.
Chief Curator and Executive Director
Storefront for Art and Architecture
Curator_ Eva Franch
Associated curator_ Carlos Mínguez
Local Curators_ Moneo Brock / Enorme Studio
Institution_ COAM Colegio Oficial de Arquitectos de Madrid
Dean COAM_Jose Maria Ezquiaga
Coordination and Communication_Ariadna Cantis
Production_Jose Álamo, Carmen Garcia Jalón
Floorpaper design_ Gonzalo del Val
Table Design_ Ana Arana / Enrique Ventosa
Connected to the foyer of an elegant luxury hotel, the Café de la Reina or “BUR-BU-JA-JA” adds a colorful and casual note to the complex. A cafeteria during the day, the space transforms into a sophisticated cocktail bar at night, the patrons immersed in iridescent aquatic colors.
A long curved green bar runs through the space, while “seaweed” camouflages the curtain wall and the mundane view of the city beyond, dissolving it into small fragments of an organic, aquatic world. Smoothly curved walls with reflecting belts, circular benches and round tables create a sensual atmosphere where space and movement interact.
Belén Moneo, Jeffrey Brock
Andrea Caputo, María Pierres, Sandra Formigo, Andrés Barrón, Spencer Leaf and Silvia Fernández
The church “El Señor de la Misericordia” is located in the center of a new town-like urban development in Monterrey, Mexico, surrounded by an impressive mountain landscape. The most important factor in the siting and orientation of the church is its relationship to the largest open space of the development, a verdant plaza. Its main entry opens right onto the plaza, and with an unobstructed width of 11.5 meters (38 feet), this opening allows for the visual connection between the church’s interior space and the plaza. This entry is at once delineated and protected by a large trapezoidal canopy cantilevered off the main façade.
Above the entry canopy, the façade is a large flat wall without fenestration or ornament, an emphatic and nearly square plane, declarative of the otherness of the space behind and within: the sacred space of the church interior. Its blatant frontality toward the square is entirely intentional.
It is thought that the plaza can function as an annex to the church, with religious celebrations and rites spilling out of doors when attending crowds exceed the church’s capacity of 350 worshippers. On the other hand, when the bustle of the square comes into conflict with the solemnity of the church’s activities, large sliding screens attenuate the connection to the square and restore the peaceful atmosphere to the temple interior.
The project aims to go beyond the accommodation of religious rituals and liturgical events as currently practiced in Monterrey, to where the spaces of the temple represent the development of an architectural language with a very long history, where the architecture speaks of both continuity and renewal, finding references to a great heritage of ecclesiastical architecture while simultaneously remaining unquestioningly contemporary. The temple is seen not just as a place of meditation but as a social and educational center as well.
While the character of the church is undoubtedly contemporary, its volumetric concept was derived from traditional church plans; the design presents recognizable architectural features taken from early Christian temple prototypes such as the bell tower, the stained-glass windows, the frontal altar, the baptistery, the choir, the three chapels and the lateral courtyard. The architectural proposal is therefore thought to be both recognizable and new.
Being free-standing and in the center of the new town development, the configuration of the exterior volume presents a design that, while modern, communicates solidity and aplomb. The rotund forms are thought to be reminiscent of the first missions built by Friar Junipero throughout the American Southwest, constructed of wood and adobe.
The 43 meter- (141 foot-) -tall bell tower can be seen from a great distance, and serves as a landmark and reference for drivers on the highway to Santiago, on which Pueblo Serena is located.
The plan is that of a basilica, with a rectangular central nave some 15 meters wide, 18 meters long and 15 meters high (W:49 feet, L:59 feet, H:49 feet), its long axis running north-south and oriented towards the altar. There are multiple sources of natural light in the interior. Behind the baptistery a long glass wall runs the length of the nave giving views of an enclosed patio. The glass is protected from direct sun by a lightweight horizontal sunscreen projecting into the patio space, and the visual connection to the surrounding urban areas blocked by a massive stone screen at the patio perimeter. Within the patio, a water fountain spills a cascade of streams into a lower patio at the basement level.
Above the baptistery is a version of a rose window, a nine-square grid opening to the west with colored glass. To the southeast, three small chapels each enjoy daylight from high skylights, each one oriented towards a different cardinal direction so that the color and level of light in each chapel changes throughout the day. Finally, above the altar is a fourth high skylight, whose light washes down behind an inclined panel cut into four sections to reveal a large Latin cross, the cross glowing with the light from above.
As with all churches, the acoustics of the central nave were of paramount importance. The renowned acoustic engineers of Arau Asociados made a thorough study of the conditions inside the church and helped us develop a detailed approach to the configuration of its interior surfaces, including the application of diffusing wood battens on selected walls, notable behind the altar, at the back of the three chapels and the choir, and over the entry door.
Sustainable solutions were sought at every opportunity. After ensuring the project’s incorporation of thermal insulation of far and away greater performance characteristics than is typically used in local construction, we devised a system of natural ventilation that takes advantage of the bell tower’s great height to create a strong chimney effect drawing air through large-scale grills incorporated in the entry façade. Daylighting was also carefully studied to be sufficient without the need for electrical lighting in all spaces for use and work, while at the same time we took great pains to avoid insolation during the hotter months, to keep the thermal gains as low as possible. Finally, much of the building program is located underground, where temperatures are constantly comfortable, with daylight being provided by generous sunken patios.
The interior design is fully integrated with the architecture, and the furnishings are by Moneo Brock, from the wood benches to the altar, the choir and the multiple screens, the sliding doors at the entry, the doors to the main sanctuary and the screen that separates the baptistery from the central nave. We also designed elements of a more artistic nature, such as the stained glass windows of the “rose window” (a reinterpretation of the gothic feature, here oriented to the west for maximum effect during the evening Mass), the stained glass at the entry to the ossuaries, and the two sanctuaries, sunbursts made of gold or silver triangles canted to catch light from all angles.
Various artworks were commissioned for the church under Moneo Brock’s curatorial guidance: a large sculpture of Christ on the cross carved in wood by the Galician artist Francisco Leiro, a mural in encaustic of John Paul II in the third chapel painted by Pedro Cuní of New York, and a tall painting of the Christ the Merciful by Carmen Pinart of Madrid, now hanging in the second chapel. These pieces by contemporary artists, respectful of the traditional content called for by church’s benefactors and clergy, complete the space.
Thanks to the opening up of two large sunken patios, the various spaces on the basement level are flooded with natural light. Around the north patio are the parish’s administrative offices. The patio to the west with the cascading waterfall has to one side classrooms and multifunctional spaces for the community and to the other the ossuaries and a small chapel for funeral rites, spaces that are made more private in their location behind the waterfall. One of the challenges facing us in the design of the basement was the need to connect to the commercial atrium at the lower level; to create a space of transition between atrium and church, we designed a vestibule lit by an open-air, prismatic skylight and, immediately below it, a reflecting pool.
The landscape design of Harari LA successfully integrates the architectural concept with that of the larger urban project, using Holm oaks and a spectacular control and selection of the planted material to mediate between the different built structures that compose the larger development.
Plaza Serena (Real Estate in Huajuco Canon)
Carretera Federal 500, Monterrey México
Belén Moneo, Jeffrey Brock
Irene Alberdi, Andrés Barrón, Fabrice Leray
Fabrice leray, Andrés Barrón
RGT Engineering (Gerardo Hernández)
Arau Acustic (Higiniarau)
The project is located in the Plaza de la Vila in the Majorcan municipality of Sencelles, a highly representative space for the town as it concentrates the parish, the Town Hall, the post office and other important premises for day-to-day life in one place of the sencelleres and sencellers.
During the 20th century and the beginning of the 21st this space has been partially used as a parking area. The competition proposed by the City Hall contemplated the need to recover this space for the citizens and to be able to host events such as markets, dances, processions, etc. The important citizen participation has been essential to better understand the needs of the people and offer a more complete and consistent response.
The new public space, surrounded by narrow streets and in the historic center of Sencelles, is a large meeting area for the enjoyment of all citizens. In summer, the new vegetation and pergola areas offer shelter from the high temperatures with large cool shaded areas. In winter, the deciduous vegetation allows the direct entry of the sun, which illuminates and heats the large space.
One of the most important parts of the transformation of the square into a space for the 21st century is to achieve universal accessibility. A new pedestrian ramp connects the different levels of the square, and also allows everyone to access the parish of San Pere, whose origins date back to the year 1236.
The ramp is integrated into a stepped stone grandstand, which looks towards the pergolas and offers seating for the different events that are held in the square.
The design is based on several concepts that allow us to talk about a sustainable project: Reuse, use of local materials and techniques, and passive measures to control temperature and improve comfort.
The reuse and protection of those elements with sentimental value for sencellers. The existing vegetation has been maintained, and part of the old stone paving has been reused. In addition, traditional sculptures and reliefs feature prominently and are framed by the new landscape.
All the materials and plant species that have been introduced are of a local nature, and give their best in the Mediterranean climate. In addition, the island's richness in terms of crafts and construction techniques has been decisive in the construction process, and allows us to speak of a totally local production and a Majorcan character.
A good example of this are the new benches that have been designed for the Plaça and that add notes of color to the whole.
Ayuntamiento de Sencelles
Sencelles, Mallorca, Spain
5009,8 ft ²
Belén Moneo, Jeff Brock
Francisco Blázquez, Federico Pérez
This sustainable proposal seeks to preserve and revitalize the ecosystem of the River Tajo, recuperating this natural area for the enjoyment of all citizens of Talavera pointing out the possibility this Tajo Natural Park, beginning in Talavera, can grow, adding territories and cities in such a way that, in a few years, we could follow the river from the Guadarrama mountain to its mouth in Lisbon.
The project is understood as a series of interventions, all consisting with this promising idea. The River’s protagonism in the Talavera de la Reina cityscape will be reasserted. It will be made accessible for the enjoyment of all citizens through a series of interventions and activities that bring the natural landscape of the river closer to the city. Finally, this park could become a tourist attraction for Talavera at a national level, as a supra-municipal infrastructure, with economic and social opportunities for the whole city.
The proposed solutions and objectives include sustainable measures to improve water quality, recover the habitats and species of this section of the Tajo River, improve the landscape and enable an increase in the use of the river and its banks in forms commensurate with the conservation of its biodiversity and its landscape. Opening the project to citizen participation should furthermore serve to achieve greater knowledge of the river’s history and evolution.
It is intended that the river be for "all" in the broadest sense; allowing the growth of the vegetation and the complex of habitats specific to the place, sheltering numerous autochthonous species of flora and fauna, improving and recovering the enormously attractive scenic landscapes of the river and its fertile plain, and allowing access by the citizens of and visitors to Talavera to the shores and islands for their use and enjoyment. In short, it is about achieving a Natural and Human River Landscape Park.
Confederación hidrográfica del Tajo y Ayuntamiento de Talavera de la Reina
Talavera de la Reina
MONEO BROCK, BLASCO ESPARZA, EIN
Irene Alberdi, Mathilde Noirot