Residence EC by AM30 Architecture Workshop + Stephane Arriola located in Atemajac de Brizuela, México | The Hardt
Residence EC by AM30 Architecture Workshop + Stephane Arriola located in Atemajac de Brizuela, México. The land lies on the outskirts of the town, in a densely wooded area and sloping with views of the surrounding mountains. The architecture of the region is deeply rooted in traditional construction methods and the materials of the region influenced the way the spaces were constructed. The EC residence takes advantage of these cultural traits and adapts them to the needs of the family. The main objective was that the house should meet the minimum necessary of the terrain, allowing at the same time to be in constant relation with the immediate landscape. We decided to adapt to the natural elements of the terrain, dividing the program into different volumes, locating them around the existing pines. The three volumes that surround the circulation nucleus constitute the main house. The volume destined to the visits is composed by two forms of delimit a central patio, functioning as circulation square, in addition to linking the front and back of the land.
The ground floor adapts to the terrain creating different levels and the interior patios illuminate the spaces creating atmospheres with unique characteristics. Through the main social areas of the ground floor, a visual axis was respected to facilitate communication between spaces. The solid wood floors create a continuous surface that extends the interior spaces to the decks, reinforcing the interaction with the exterior spaces. Metallic formwork pieces were designed to accelerate the process of building the stone walls that form the outer walls. Our goal was to create the union of the timeless with the modern, the place with the universal, the outskirts with the city, in a weekend house in the middle of the forest.
Located in Mogno, Switzerland, Church of San Giovanni Battista (1996) by Mario Botta | The Hardt
The Church of San Giovanni Battista (Italian: Chiesa di San Giovanni Battista; German: Kirche San Giovanni Battista) is located in the alpine village of Mogno in the Swiss canton of Ticino. Mario Botta describes his mountainous architecture as influenced by “two points of interaction: the exterior with the landscape; the interior with the domestic.” In this study I examine how his design of two churches in Ticino, Switzerland addresses the dissonance between the stoic exterior of the mountains and the touch of human scale inviting worshipers to solitude. I analyze Botta’s mountainous churches of the Chapel of St. Mary of the Angels, built in Monte Tamaro, 1990-1996 and the San Giovanni Battista Church, built in Mogno, 1992-1998
The two churches exemplify the challenges of designing a house of worship for small parishes within breathtaking nature. The first challenge addresses the design solutions in the context of remote areas in the Alps. These locations evoke in themselves a spiritual experience, and the issue is how architecture contributes to the desired spiritual solitude. Second, both buildings were built from local stones linking them to their specific sites, expressing monumental qualities, and adhering to the spiritual qualities of the space: “Although the landscape is immense, the insertion of even a small object changes the scenery.” This solution brings with it the idea of architecture transforming the landscape, which in turn stimulates the spirit of man. Third, in each of the churches light is treated to enhance spiritual transcendence and to illustrate divine presence. Furthermore, these churches may be perceived as part of the continuous attempt of humans to build pillars from stone as a sacred link between earth and heaven, and as an expression of possessing the mountain.
Mountains are perceived as God’s dwelling and as a spot where the sacred manifests itself: “Now Mount Sinai was altogether in smoke, because the LORD descended upon it in fire; and the smoke thereof ascended as the smoke of a furnace, and the whole mount quaked greatly” (Exodus 19:18). Moreover, the echoes of the surrounding mountains are perceived as the voices of spirits.4 These spiritual experiences inspire humans to erect their own ‘sacred mountains’. See for example the story of Jacob who set the stone up as a pillar and poured oil on its top to establish a sacred vertical axis (Genesis 28:18). These sacred structures often imitate in stone the form of mountains or are built on top of a mountain.
Botta’s two churches are good examples for both of these approaches. The chapel in Monte Tamaro stands on top of the mountain and “’detaches’ itself from the mountain to form a new horizon, the starting point of an ideal viaduct.”5 The external horizontal axis of this chapel creates a sacred path offering a new glimpse of the mountains as a continuation of the worshiper-pilgrim’s infinite path for meditation and thought. Botta claims that building the chapel was a sign of a man in the landscape encompassing “the tension between man and nature.” The Church in Mogno was constructed as a vertical “pillar” becoming the focal point of the valley’s skyline, where two points in the valley are bridged to transform the landscape. This vertical axis expresses the spiritual axis mundi of the village, standing “as a bulwark for the village, in defiance of the mountain.” Indeed the church in Mogno was built in a place of an avalanche that caused death and loss. The location was requested by the residents of the village who said, “We want to construct a new church because there used to be a church here.” Thus the driving force underlying the project was maintaining the collective memory of the community. Botta’s design “brings with it not only the geography but also the memory, the culture, the history of that very place.”
The use of locally quarried stones in the design of these churches expresses the specificity of the place as well as permanence and human longings for eternity. Stone is part of the layers and colors of the earth as shaped by winds and water and reveals the sacredness of the earth. In a poetic way stone is a gift of nature that illustrates the soul of the earth. Botta believes that putting a stone on earth is a sacred act of architecture and signifies the possession of the earth. This act “strives to evoke the deepest values suggested by the language of stones. Their symbolic and metaphoric meaning becomes an extraordinarily current message that involves the architect beyond the religious sphere.”
The chapel in Monte Tamaro is constructed from reinforced concrete faced with rusticated porphyry. This stone façade makes the chapel blend into the rocks of the mountain and transforms the mountain’s peak into a new height. Botta introduces us to a temporal visual experience with an outdoor procession on top of the chapel/the mountain. The stone of this chapel is facing the exterior only; the interior concrete is painted black and white to enhance the interplay of light and shadow and to create an intimate place to showcase contemporary liturgical art. Plastering the walls for displaying art resembles the fresco chapels in history.
In contrast, the church in Mogno is built of alternating courses of gray Riveo granite and white Peccia marble outside and inside, reminding us of some of the Tuscan Romanesque cathedrals. As such it continues a long history of church construction and creates a statement of permanence. The stone in this church demonstrates Botta’s mass architecture and enhances the transformation of the geometry of the building from a square plan to an ellipse and then to a circle.
While stone construction is a sacred act of architecture representing earth and permanence, the light becomes the soul of this act by introducing heaven. Eliade stated: “Even before any religious values have been set upon the sky it reveals its transcendence. The sky symbolizes transcendence, power, and changelessness simply by being there. It exists because it is high, infinite, immovable, powerful.”15 Light enhances the meaning of materials, forms, lines, and colors and beautifies the building. The visual experience in sacred settings contributes to the connection of the human with a higher order of things, with the essential and the immutable truth. The heavenly light in sacred settings illustrates the divine presence and is perceived as an attempt to enrich the inner spiritual experience of Lord as Light.17 This, in turn, fulfills human striving to be closer to the Divine. Moreover, light creates the temporal ambiance of the sacred since it is “the visual sign of the relationship that exists between the architectural work and the cosmic values of the surroundings.” Interestingly Botta treated this relation of light to the cosmos differently in the two churches. The chapel at Monte Tamaro, which is located below the outdoor crucifix, under the walkway on top of the mountain, is dimly lit like a grotto. Natural light penetrates through very small windows in the bottom of the circular sidewalls and through slits from a skylight. This light effect and the space’s strong linear path draw our attention to the artwork at the apes and diminish the invitation to meditation inside a protective ‘cave’ in the mountains.
In the Mogno church, Botta introduced the ever-changing patterns of light and the relation to the cosmos through a circular glass roof. The sky opens up beyond the glass roof and brings the worshiper closer to the Divine. Two granite buttresses pierce the envelope of the building, arch over the interior and create an axis that aligns with the nave’s axis of the destroyed historic church. The light coming from above highlights this connection to the past and eternity. It also demonstrates Botta’s transformational geometry in stone. This, in turn, creates an interplay of stone layout, natural light, and shadows. In this church, Botta used light to capture the passage of time and establish our relationship with the solar, seasonal cycles and the eternal.
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Tea Room (2000-2002) erected in castle ruin complex, Montemor-o-Velho, João Mendes Ribeiro, located in Paço das Infantas, Portugal | The Hardt
Tea Room erected in castle ruin complex, Montemor-o-Velho, João Mendes Ribeiro, Paço das Infantas, Portugal. It is believed that the paço (palace) of Montemor-o-Velho was first built in the 12th century. It is now well established that the paço was the object of a dispute, at the beginning of the 13th century, between Dom Afonso III and his sisters, Infantas Dona Teresa, Dona S, ncha and Dona Mafalda. The current name of the place – Paço das Infantas – originates from this quarrel. Its ruins rise well above the southeast walls of the castle, overlooking the river Mondego’s valley. The proposal for the construction of a Tea House in the surrounding areas of the Paço das Infantas is the result of the analysis of the monument, attempting to clarify its historical significance by means of a contemporary use. By creating a novel pathway along the walls, the former entrance of the castle is evoked. The inner space of the ruins is occupied by a virtually weightless building, made innocuous by its geometry and the way it stands free from the surrounding ruins, which are perceived as its actual walls. The construction consists of a glass box confined by two horizontal planes – a metal roof and a wooden floor – joined together by a volume comprising the service areas. The pavement extends southeast in a platform that doubles as a terrace elevated above ground, thereby detaching the construction from its surroundings. Ultimately, this approach creates an autonomous construction, which is valued by a strong geometric and material language, simultaneously ascribing a new and coherent meaning to the ruins.
Musical Studies Centre (2002) by ENSAMBLE STUDIO located in Santiago de Compostela, Galicia, Spain | The Hardt
Musical Studies Centre (2002) by ENSAMBLE STUDIO located in Santiago de Compostela, Galicia, Spain. The project of the Musical Studies Center in Santiago de Compostela is located in the Vista Alegre plot of land, one of the most relevant green areas in the surroundings of the old quarter of Santiago. Described as a university park, the Vista Alegre plot of land hosts a group of buildings link to activities related to academic and research practices. Here it’s possible to find the House of Europe, the Advanced Studies Center, the IDEGA (a university research center) and the Center for Musical Studies, dedicated to postgraduate studies for musical improvement, intended for the training of the Galician Orchestra musicians. The proposal has its origins in a competition asking for the insertion of a pavilion which program demanded the development of classrooms for the education of music, with defined volumetry, highness, occupation and materials, in a non-symmetric exercise, as it is set against the pavilion built by Portela, made of the same materials and similar dimensions.
The perception of the building at different scales defines levels of comprehension. From the distance, the building lets itself fall on the land. It sticks, without any continuity, to a carpet of green grass that makes up the surface of the plot of land, cutting out its silhouette in the space of the garden in a strong definitive way, like a rock with cubic will. If we look from a middle distance point, we gaze the border, the limit that before shaped an almost perfect form, leads to the lack of definition; the trace of a broken line appears, distorting edges, and a superficial vibration of light, material and shadow fixed to a rhythm of seven parts. We move closer and the shape is broken; the pieces jump, expressing its abrasive materiality and defining holes which provide the constructive scales of the building, incisions of light that tear the facade that saw from the distance transform the hole into a shadow which talks about subtraction of mass by light in a vertical element, while the two big perforations are a direct result of the big interior volume.
The masonry granite work of the façade it’s made of stones opened “on the contrary side”, searching for the spontaneous natural surface of “stereomity” which allows the granite to be ripped easier. It’s a constructive system that uses techniques of the drill to break the piece of stone, using as well the border sides, but in the context of a reconsideration labor of the constructive process of opening and cut off the stone. There’s a search of the constructive expression of the stone, as we’ve learned from the history, going back to Egypt and Rome. From the functional point of view, the acoustic requirements of the different rooms where determinant on the design. This is the reason why the spaces which require bigger acoustic needs, are linked to a big buried concrete basement, which confirms the settling of the building, the accesses and regulates the slopes of the topography. These are the bigger classrooms (auditorium, electro-acoustic, percussion rooms…), capable of hosting a large number of students and eventual audience.
The expression of the project comes from the contraposition and duality, that in the scale, the timbre and its materials, build the space reaching complexity. The distortion, superimposed to the harmony, evokes the purity of both spatial conditions bringing about interest both in material and spatial terms. Beyond canons, the building wants to develop architectonic concepts within a simple composition and geometry, taking in the spatial resonance from the echoes of its limits, that in the outside are represented by the carballeira, the garden, the water and the Galician light, and in the interior the stone surfaces cut from the outside (or maybe they exploit from the confrontation with it), and configure the space. The aims on the project are a deeply rooted to Galicia architecture, considering its cultural and atmosphere particularities, emphasizing the memory of the place. It seems that the building was always there.
Photos by Roland Halbe
Aesthetically and Geographically Related Projects:
E/C House by SAMI-Arquitectos located on the volcanic island of Pico in the Azores, Portugal | The Hardt
E/C House by SAMI-Arquitectos located on the volcanic island of Pico in the Azores, Portugal. Overlooking the Atlantic, the house spans two levels and occupies the ruin of a former house. But what is particularly interesting with this specific project, is the way the architects have treated the remains of the older house: rather than ‘renovating’ the site, or incorporating the old walls in a decorative way, instead they decided to create a spatial choreography between the old and the new, and place the new house inside the old one, reminiscent of how Matryoshka dolls are placed with one another. With the old stone walls left intact, the new concrete house seems to emerge mysteriously like a spectre of the old one, a gesture that can also be read as a metaphor of regeneration and regrowth, with the whole concept brings to mind how a young tree sprouts from the roots of an old tree that has fallen. As the E/C House’s openings are not always aligned with the old doors and windows, an interesting dialogue is created between the interior, the old stone walls and the view outside. Designed mainly as a dwelling with which to rest and contemplate, the house is minimally furnished, with each space treated as a ‘deck’ that opens generously to the outside and can accommodate multiple uses.