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 proposes the recovery of an essential public space for Sencelles, Plaza de la Villa , which is currently a place colonized by cars and where the protected architectural elements do not get the attention they deserve because they conflict with the priority vehicular use of the square. Consequently, it is an action on an area that offers a great opportunity to recover a space of universal accessibility. In short, it is a square for everyone that keeps alive what was the history of the town and allows the coexistence of all social groups.
The new design of the square unifies the pavement with the sidewalks, widening the square, erasing the existing boundaries and architectural barriers, which together with the proposed traffic detour will allow the creation of a more fluid public space with greater flexibility for its different uses: from rest and the weekly Saturday market to traditional festivities.
It will therefore become an enclosure in which, guided by the new pavement and a series of pergolas with benches protected by shade and vegetation, will act as outdoor living rooms, allowing the gathering of different groups and ages in each of the spaces generated by the pergolas.
A fundamental aspect of the proposal lies in the universal accessibility to the square. The slight slope, along with a series of strategically placed ramps and a parking lot for the disabled in an ideal place in the square, promote total accessibility for anyone seeking to enjoy this new public space returned to the municipality.
Although the final consolidation of the square as a continuous space is pursued through its pavements, the vegetation and the pergolas act as a filter, not only providing shade but also generating the possibility of carrying out different activities at the same time. The green spaces are reinforced to create, through the vegetation, color, textures and also freshness and microclimates.
The vegetation of the parterres next to the pergolas becomes one of the main elements in the proposal. Through a set of species, which include a small tree grove along with upholstery and climbing plants, a new visual and sensory space is generated in the center of the square. The main idea is that the vegetation can provide color as well as texture in the diversity of greenery, as well as in the flowering of the different species proposed. As it is a public space that aims to host events of different kinds, it has been considered at all times that the species are resistant and easy to maintain.
The existing trees will cover this new vegetation. The project proposes to maintain and protect the existing vegetation, which is considered part of the square's character. An item is allocated in the cost estimate provided for the protection of these large and important trees during the construction process.
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