CARUSO, Adam and Peter ST JOHN

The Presence of Construction

Date: Wednesday 14 January 1998
Time: 00:00
Venue: AA Lecture Hall
Running time: 88 mins

After working for Florian Beigel and Arup Associates, Adam Caruso and Peter St John established their own practice in 1990. The practice combines building projects, competitions and teaching. One of their great achievements has been to create a rational modern architecture which is also warm and welcoming. In 1995 they won a two-stage competition to design the new Walsall Art Gallery, a major new site for temporary exhibitions in the West Midlands. In this lecture, accompanying the AA exhibition The Presence of Construction - a record of the construction of the Walsall Art Gallery as its structure approaches completion - Caruso and St John locate the focus of their work within the expanding territory of contemporary architectural practice.

MOHSEN MOSTAFAVI: I was just talking about the lecture last night given by Anthony Vidler, i think towards the end of the lecture the emphasis was for Frank Gehry’s project for Bilbao, and somehow an aspect of this project has to do with the notion of the architectural project as a totality, but a kind of totality that is also self-referential, in terms of the many things that he tries to do, sometimes independent of certain site or urban conditions. One of the things that is interesting about the exhibition is that is happening next door, the Walsall gallery project by Caruso St John, in a critical fashion, once again becomes engaged with certain aspects of the project of urbanism, with the city, but also this project as a kind of collaborative project, which is not only the work of a single architect. Through an understanding of materials, through an understanding of construction, they are really trying to create a kind of lyricism through a methodical reworking of those issues. Will you please join me in welcoming Peter St John and Adam Caruso.

ADAM CARUSO: Thank you for inviting us, when we don’t have to travel too far from the office, we both give the lectures, which is less exhausting. It’s increasingly rare, though to do it together. We’re not going to talk specifically about Walsall, although it is one of the projects that we are going to show—it would have been perverse not to show it, which is the reason I like the idea of not showing it. But, this is a lecture and an opportunity to articulate where we see our practice now. That’s not a static thing, it changes every six months; it changes every two months, really the thing that keeps Peter and I going, and I think is an advantage of working with someone else, that’s collaboration, it’s the two of us, we never kind of quiver over about whose ideas, that seems irrelevant and uninteresting, and there is a collaboration with our office. But the good think of working with someone else is that the other person says: no, that’s boring, you’ve already done that before, what are we going to do next? I think that is the thing that connects Peter and I together the most. But you will see from the lecture: we are not interested in novelty either, this is about using architecture and using our practice, in a way, of learning things. So, we’re both going to speak, I’m going to do the first, more general part, and maybe in a more explicit way that I’ve done before. This was written specially for this place, because our kind of practice, is different from others here… Sergison Bates teaches here, and other kinds of people exist here as well. I’m going to start describing another kind of practice which is also very prevalent today, and which, even to us, is a theoretical compelling position. [Slide] This is a photograph of Atlanta, from the airport—Peter and I finally escaped after a week teaching there—this is my best view of Atlanta. Before we went there, our only kind of architectural intellectual guide to the city was Rem Koolhaas’s musings on Atlanta, before he revised his opinion and admitted it might not be such a great place. We were shocked when we got there and found out what it was actually like. I think Peter was even more shocked, because he’d been to less kind of normal American cities than I had. Being Canadian, i visited almost every state when I was growing up. One form of architectural practice, which has been increasing currency as a conceptual position, could be called neo-functionalist or opportunistic. This position assumes that our period represents a fundamental shift away from 400 years of intellectual development. Architecture, as a liberal art has an outmoded definition of the discipline, and practice must take closer knowledge of the workings of the global market economy, if it is to continue to be relevant. The processes that enable the expansion of economic, infrastructure and communication networks must be paralleled by contemporary architectural practice. In becoming descriptive of this dynamic, large processes, architecture gains a renewed legitimacy. The architectural forms that are generated by new kinds of organizational and topographical programs, forms that are only now becoming imaginable, through the use of vastly more powerful computers, will be substantially new, and because of their unprecedented programmatic origins, will be independent of our known architectural syntax. I think in this room a lot of people must know what kind of architecture I’m talking about, the kind of architectural description that OMA are the most interesting, and for us still, more troublesome practitioners, probably because we still find ourselves kind of sneaking a look at a new project. Two years ago we were obsessed with OMA, so it’s not like we were that far away from it, but there are also people that teach here, who, in a very impressive way, articulate their position theoretically and through their projects. We’re very dubious that such a thing as a new, unknown, architectural syntax even exists, but we’re much more troubled by the motivation to develop that syntax. This motivation of architecture as a descriptive, neofunctionalist tool. This position could be called guilt-free, or descriptive, the architect no longer in a position to exercise ethical choices, only to describe, the current, economic and political situation. New programmes are seized as an opportunity to develop new forms, at exponentially expanding scales of operation. Inevitably, this seems to result in an architecture of attenuation, and of complexity, where bifurcating plates are somehow expressive of optimised programmatic systems and the potential for non-cartesian space made possible by the new descriptive tools of computers. Although this formal developments positively exploits its autonomy from a constructional basis, alongside a mysterious preference for non-cartesian spatiality, is an enthusiasm for as yet undeveloped synthetic materials. This goes beyond people in practice, is very very unpopular in rather quite a few London schools of architecture, ours included, North London included. In the same way that the global market is environmentally unsustainable in its insatiable need for expansion in new markets, the architecture of late capitalism is equally unsustainable, as the market economy requires that we replace consumables at an ever increasing rate, its architecture exaggerates the obsolescence of existing structures, as the economy invents previously unknown and unnecessary new markets, architecture follows with strategies of demolition, and of expansion. In exploiting cheap land outside urban areas, this architecture can become ever larger and more cost-effective, development of territories that were previously deemed under used, by current economic models, generate the need for new infrastructure, which consumes yet more land. In the context of Europe, certainly Northern Europe and Western Europe, there seems to be clear alternatives to this kind of expansive progress, in the densification of existing settlements. Applied to the territories of developing economies, these arguments are more compelling, but it seems to us, they shouldn’t be blindly followed, or the environmental catastrophe of soviet industrialization would just be repeated for yet another kind of abstracted economic model. A model which is taken as true, but which I suspect if you ever tested in an impartial way if that’s possible—I don’t think it actually is—would be as true as any other economic model. Soviet, centralized economy on the one hand, or kind of free market, global market economy. That’s the first kind of practice, neo-functionalist opportunistic. There is another kind of practice; the kind of practice we are trying to align with, that could be called critical or reflexive. Rather than aligning itself with the neoliberal, economic hegemony, and by working within a traditional liberal arts context, this form of practice is able to pass comment on the status quo, as our practice has done for the last fifteen years in a very explicit way, and before that in less explicit ways. In small ways this practice can put forward a milliard of strategies and paradigms that might suggest what could come after the global market, and might remind us of the things that are excluded in our social model. And there are an awful lot of things, and an awful lot of people who are excluded. [Slide shown: Robert Smithson’s Spiral Jetty] This form of practice, which is more fully developed in art than in architecture, is not so obsessed with the new as was the previous model. A work like Robert Smithson’s Spiral Jetty is powerful because of the way it brings together a powerful, almost archetypal, form and contemporary means of production. It exposes something new, in this case the operation of dumper trucks moving earth, that suggest that many equally banal actions could have the unexpected latent potential. Like much of Smithson’s work, Spiral Jetty suggests that quite subtle shifts in our perception can open up disproportionate areas of potential, within existing means or conditions of production. So we are not that interested in new materials, although new materials do emerge, and they have their place; we are not that interested in that “new” geometric spatialities, we are interested in understanding more about one’s experience of spatial conditions. We’re not that eager to express or to serve the global market. Complexity and Contradiction in Architecture, by Venturi began to make the connection between a sensibility like Smithsons and the new inclusive kind of architecture. The subsequent marginalization of Venturi’s position within the profession, even within his own practice, I think it’s not so surprising. Firstly, the book’s assertion that architecture inevitably signifies many things rather than just a few, was taken up by the profession as a call to re-evaluate the history of architectural forms. And quite disappointingly, in his foreword to the second edition, Venturi says he should have called the book Complexity and Contradiction in Architectural Form. Even he, I think, is retreating from some of that political significance that his book holds, if you read it in a certain way, at least. I think that’s exactly what the book was taken as, and things as postmodern classicism or any other “ism” could be codified and they were quickly assimilated by conventional architectural practice. Once that happens, of course, they’re out of style, as far as the avant garde is concerned, and you have a vicious cycle of a new commodity, and consuming that commodity is no longer interesting. For academics, Venturi’s inclusivity, threw wide open what could widely be discussed in the schools. This has resulted in the lasting legacy of ever more arcane subjects of study being taken up and preference to what had previously constituted the core of the discipline of architecture. I think, Europe is not as far along that path as North America is, but I think it’s a very disturbing… as architecture tends to become marginalized within the context of reality, the academies no longer seem interesting or relevant to supply kind of the real world, and I can understand that, and so, more and more arcane subjects were taken up within the schools and the schools become increasingly separated from practice and from reality. And architecture starts to become something else. The second reason, that I think more seriously undermined the longevity of Venturi’s theoretical position is that at a neoliberal economy prefers neo functionalist architecture, which is satisfied with cultivating its own small patch within the system, rather than work which is a critique of the system itself. Apart from a small number of mostly European architects, the ambition of architectural practices has been more and more fully defined by forces outside of the discipline. This is in sharp contrast with our practice, which, despite similarities in market and institutional pressures, but perhaps because of its much smaller scale of operation, has been able to remain a viable critical practice.

So, if architecture is to be an effective critique of the extremes of contemporary development, it needs to engage more fully, which is our position. It needs to engage more fully within the enormous emotional range held within our existing places of inhabitation. Venturi’s call for an architecture of inclusion must be worth revisiting. But with a stronger emphasis on construction, and on the emotional presence of places, to protect this discourse from being reduced to one purely of appearance or style, to one purely of semiotics. The postmodern condition cannot be avoided, it can be viewed as a wave that once mounted as completely in control of the surfer’s ride. Or our situation can be recognized and engaged with unconventional, artistic terms, or a heightened sensitivity, a heightened suspicion of what is going on around us, allows us to cut ever more closely to the status quo. The artist is not a helpless surfer. Ever more than science, art imagines and conceptualizes the concrete fact of the contemporary condition. I think some architects can be artists, or can at least aspire to be artists.

Ok, a little less abstract now. When Joseph Beuys was reconstructing the practice of art in postwar Germany, his work was intentionally inexplicable. Rejecting a-priori theories as a valid basis for art, instead, he drew on emotional and intuitive forces deep within himself in order to articulate this condition of starting anew, and to connect as directly as possible with the viewer. This seeming irrationalism of his work could be seen as a direct critique of the productivist ethic of the postwar era, which itself could be seen as an extension of the wartime economy, of the logics that were set up by the wartime economy. Far from being naïve, this work was a powerful critique of the quasi religious status that science and progress had achieved, the work had an open environmental quality that articulated a new relationship between the viewer and the artwork, one which predicted a wider and a deeper audience for new art. Beuys’s ambition—indeed he said, “it was already the case that everyone was an artist.” I think what he meant by that was that really being an artist having taken some notice of what’s going on around you, of trying to tune your sensitivity to your condition, your social condition, i think that’s what Beuys was most concerned about.

There is a group of contemporary artists whose work develops Beuys’ attempted to prioritize intuitive forms of knowledge, or intuitive forms of intelligence, over a kind of a positivist, conventional scientific form of knowledge.

The work of artists like Robert Gober, Juan Muñoz, and Katharina Fritsch, [showing "Mann und Maus", 1991/92] use the human figure and objects from everyday life, but rather than using these objects with any explicit or iconographic intent, as would have been the case in the historical figure of art, this work attempts to operate first and foremost at an emotional level. The image in this work, with its strong associations to childhood and to the home and to national myth, appeals to such commonly held experiences that one forms a strong feeling about the work almost as soon as one sees it, as soon as one is in the physical presence of the work. In common with most conceptual sculpture, this work attempts to operate primarily by way of the object, seeking to short circuit any didactic or literary readings. Unlike the work of Donald Judd, who quite unconvincingly claimed to eliminate associative readings in his work, the work of this younger artists intentionally contains a surfeit of emotional content, which emerges simultaneously from the image and from the fabric of the artifact. Quote from an interview with Katharina Fritsch: “why does everything have to come back to concepts? Being disturbed visually, experiencing ambivalence, why one has to go straight into the language cage? It’s just an escape into didacticism. A very important element in my work is that you come in, experience an image, allow yourself to be drawn in. Perceived directly.” What she means is that as soon as you describe it with language, as soon as you try to explain it away in a text, somehow you put it in a drawer, and she thinks that the compulsion, not just among critics, but amongst art-consuming society generally is that there is a discomfort if you can’t locate art. And the way you locate art is by writing about it. She is interested in what happens before it’s written about.

Vernacular buildings operate in a similar way. Vernacular constructions are not architecture. Unlike architecture, they’re not a self-conscious act. They do not exist through formal instructions independent of construction. The vernacular is not about appearance but about presence, it is a physical artifact which contains in itself the continuously evolving social and technological situation in which it was built. Vernacular constructions are increasingly difficult to define. Globalization of technology and information has made the local a more complex condition. However the ad hoc manners in which forms are built up in the vernacular, through agglomeration and adding, the slow and steady way in which technologies are taken up into a tradition, this is still worthy of study. What is not an interest in the new vernacular, but in giving a higher priority to the emotion of experience of buildings and developing an understanding of how fabrication can hold emotional content.

Now Peter is going to explain a few of our projects.

PETER ST. JOHN: This is one of the buildings we did back in Atlanta. I’m going to try to relate to the ideas Adam was talking about in relation to our built work, and I’m going to show you two built projects, with an emphasis that reflects our particular interests, not particularly talking about them in terms of the complexities of accommodating functions, because those requirements are usually given and outside our control, and increasingly the plans of our buildings are as simple and direct as we can make them. We’re interested in judging buildings by their character and by the way in which they communicate to you through their language and their physical presence. Because of this emphasis on emotional content, increasingly, we are interested in the world of buildings that you see out there, out of the window, and judging architecture in relation to the environment that we live everyday. Those interests aren’t unique, we have many friends and other architects in London who have shaped them for us, even if it’s too politically complicated to name them all. We’ve particularly enjoyed vernacular buildings because of the way in which their dignity comes not from specific architectural endeavours, usually there aren’t architects involved in making them, but from received and repeated, understood-on-the-grid language, and from the specific conditions of production. Of course, as architects we could never do that, but we’re interested in making work with that same direct physical character, that comes from association with known things and personal experience. We enjoy buildings such as this Victorian factory in Clerkenwell, [slide shown] whose overall form and appearance has made very simple and direct requirements made visible in this case by a sequential adding of parts, making an overall form which is agglomerative, not planned, but bound together by material. We enjoy the feeling of buildings that use materials in very, simple, direct, no nonsense ways, whose character comes from decisions made without hesitation, and the application of material is which gives it its appearance, such as this shed in a cement factory, where the cladding is one of the products of the process held inside the building.

The first project is a two storey house in Islington, which is Adam’s house. Ou interest in looking on the world around us for ideas means that we start from the found things. We considered the existing building as our site. We’ve never given more value to making buildings afresh over working with existing buildings and keeping things, we think that both are equally able to hold meaning. And we think that environmentally we should always start from the assumption of favouring reuse. In the case of this building, we enjoyed it for its marks, and its scars, and texture of the walls, which reflected many previous uses. We tried to had the new work strategically, only when necessary. The ground floor of the building, which is between other buildings didn’t require insulation, but the upper floor did, because it is exposed, so its lined with insulation and plasterboard. The tectonic of this building is extremely basic, so we made this additions with very ordinary materials, which replied in their found form, with a minimum of shaping, with their thicknesses apparent. Thickness became the consistent way of detailing. We used concrete, plasterboard, MDF, plastic, insulation, glass… no products, only materials. Through this very direct application of material, we were trying to make an equivalence between the existing fabric and the new, so that the character of the house could come from this quality of addition, and its variety came from the given. On the upper story of the house, fea lined with feather edge board, plasterboard sheets so that the skin joints of the plasterboard became another texture of the walls and ceilings. Outside, we wanted the building to feel quite big. For a while it was our office, so also an advertisement for Caruso St. John Architects, and we made the window by placing the glass onto the face of the brick building, over the top of and more generous than the two openings in the brick wall, we wanted the window to feel like it was an assembly of parts, so the window is made out of sheets, which are just sitting on the horizontal trays of the window. And the door and the pieces of wall opened for ventilation are made in fibercement, which is of similar tone to that of the glass in order to make this kind of equivalence between materials. The glass is made of an insulating double-glazed unit. We’ve always enjoyed the broken fabric, and additive character of London, and that idea of the city which accepts new appearances amongst the old without too much fuss. That idea of a city, that tolerance is very liberating, and it’s an inspiration for us. So the rear of the building, the evidence of the houses… the extent of the building is ambiguous, it doesn’t need to be clearly defined.

The second project is for a house for a doctor and craft artist in the Fenlands, near Boston. The site of the house was on the edge of a village, overlooking this amazing flat fields. We were amazed by the way in which the flat surface of the fenland had this effect of transforming one’s perception of the house, making its shape and its compactness much more abstract and singular, like a single object on the table, the house is in the centre of the image [shown], in front of the trees and the client’s derelict barns off to the right, and the house is between the church and the barn. In choosing a direction for what this house will look like, what kind of image we wanted to make for this house, because it was our first new building, we rejected the idea that we work within the conventions of modernist form, which is perhaps—maybe I’m being unfair—but perhaps it was kind of the most obvious kind of decision we could have taken and, in a way, the client and even the planner were supportive of us doing something adventurous. Hopefully we still did that, but we decided to make a house that was much more recognisably house-like, with a concrete tile pitched roof and a free standing garage in the porch, which was using many of the conventions of the bungalows that are common in the area. But at the same time, we distorted the shape of the roof of the building in order to give different elevations, and completely different scales, so it has a certain scale to the road, a more generous scale to the open field to the right, and a really tight scale to the south-facing garden on the left. We made slightly peculiar shapes to the walls, and we tried to give the detailing of the building, a completely different character to that which one might expect. So the initial impression of the building being house-like was undercut by these things and recognised in a very powerful and abstracting character of this landscape. The sharp, abrupt character of the building was much more poignant, because of judging them in relation to one’s own understanding of a house. The elevations of the house were loose and strangely scaled, in a way trying to make an ambiguous scale of the building. To us, they have the character of child’s drawings of houses: having the elements but at slightly exaggerated scales, in this case the windows are placed, not according to any hierarchy, but in relation to spaces inside the building. We were interested in making this detailed character of the building by working positively with very banal technology of construction. We actually tried to build it in timber frame brick clad, but defeated. We worked with the brick cavity block construction, which our builder rose to, and trying to make the brik take on that character of being the rainscreen layer that cavity wall construction actually is. So the windows flush the surface of the brick, we never allow the edge of the brick to be revealed, so the brick becomes that stretched skin over the surface of the building. We also had faces of the building that were clad in black stain plywood, to the right of this image. The inside of the house is very grand, in relation to the quite small scale of the house. The living room is a hall, which is directly the resultant form of the shape of the roof, and all the other rooms open directly to the hall. There is a generosity of the living space, and also a kind of formality, but not in such a way that it tells you how to use it.

Talking about the Walsall art gallery… [slide] this is also a town hall, built in 1901. The gallery project which is in the exhibition next door was the subject of an open international competition which we won two years ago. Obviously the gallery will become a major new public building in the centre of the town, and it’s meant to be a home for the permanent collection, Garman Ryan collection, donated to the town, and also a major regional temporary exhibition gallery. Like many towns in the Midlands, Walsall has a number of public buildings of reasonable quality, many of them Victorian, and many buildings around of dubious quality, commercial buildings; the public institutions, like the town hall, have a permanence, and the commercial buildings change and are replaced. The centre of Walsall is a very mixed kind of city centre. We thought that the permanence of the institution was an appropriate image to the new gallery, and also very useful to the definition of the town. This is a little site model, [slide shown] which is at the edge of the town centre. The building is located at the end of a canal arm, it’s kind of axially located on the canal, in such a way that the canal and its towpath become part of the space affected by the building and it has a character like a railway station, terminating, at the end of the town. The site of the gallery is surrounded by some kind of early 90s pseudo-victorian buildings, a fifteen storey high 1970s office slab and a Victorian leather working factory. We liked the way, although initially we rose our hands by the horror of its immediate neighbours, we actually now rather enjoy the way in which all these architecture are so close and adjacent, all of them with their own very particular implications of urbanism, radically compromised, giving us something of a freedom to work with them, but not being bound by anything. Our proposal was to stack the program of the gallery into a tower, so that the building would be prominent and visible from most places within the town, to give that tower a profile—so again that kind of role of orientation—would be an idea even more apparent. Also, by making the building high we’ll gain a sight over an open public space that will be the kind of setting of the building.

I have to give you some information about how the building works, I think, because I don’t want you to think that it’s totally ridiculous the tower-like idea of the building. The idea of stacking the building onto different floors was that each of the different programs of the building could have their own floor, an acceptably seized territory; each of the floors could have their own floor-to-ceiling height, which is appropriate to the use on that floor. In a way, that will allow—because floors are primarily accessed by lift—that would allow each of the floors to operate independently. At the same time, as this early model shows, it’s also a building which is very compact, so all of those different kinds of programs are actually very close together, and there are public staircases, which individually connect one floor to the other, allowing those adjacencies to be quite closely felt, and allowing another way of experiencing the building, which is wandering through it. We thought of the building was being like a big house, which has a kind of powerful overall form and no obligation to express a very wide variety of scales of space within it. The ground floor plan is centered on the foyer surrounded by a series of other rooms: children’s gallery, reception, toilets and the ubiquitous gallery shop. On this floor you can feel the full width of the building and the sense of tower above you. The structure of the building is a concrete shell, it is consistent throughout the whole of the building and apparent in the larger public spaces of the building, and in the smaller spaces is lined by timber and plasterboard. There is a combination of timber wood panelling and exposed concrete walls, which have a cast and a finish, which is identical… it’s a kind of cast of the panelling. The plan of the first floor is a series of perimeter rooms. The hall is lined in timber. There are 13 rooms of the kind of scale of the permanent collection, which is organized by themes. Each of the rooms has a window: that combination of directional, natural light coming in from one wall of the room, and a general light in the centre and the ability to spot light from that fitting, allows the uneven direction of the light, naturally, to give different areas of light in the room, allowing to display in the same room works of different kinds of light sensitivity. It’s also, obviously, most powerfully the idea of exhibiting this collection in rooms of a domestic scale, because that was where they were originally placed. The third floor is a suite of much larger rooms, the biggest one being 25 meters long, 10 meters wide, which are all connected and can be used together or in smaller combinations. In this rooms, which have concrete floors and lined walls, the light is still coming from the side, but consistently from high level (4,5 m.), so the light is thrown deeply into the space.

The building is clad in terracotta tiles: we were interested in the weight and detail of those various victorian buildings in the town, so the building is clad in tiles, which give the surface of the building a consistent texture of shadow, even in the dullest of light, which is most of the time. The windows to all of those spaces described are placed in the facade according to where they wanted by the plan, without any particular hierarchy, so we enjoyed the two scales of the building: from a long distance, it has a powerful profile to it and the other way in which you see the building is when you are almost standing under it. The intermediate scale is deliberately not expressed. We detailed the window so that the glass is flushed with the frame and proud of the terracotta tiling, so when you are standing close to the building, the windows become like tiles reflecting the sky. The public space around the building is for other people to talk about: it’s designed by Richard Wentworth with Catherine Yass, with Lynn Kinnear, the landscape architect. And the pub on the corner is designed by Jonathan Sergison and Steven Bates. Our contribution was perhaps to encourage the involvement of those people and kind of shaped the space in such a way that it’s both loose and generous, and allows those different kinds of contributions and collaborations to happen.

Lastly, I’m going to talk about a competition design we made last year for a concert hall and gallery in Jyväskylä, in Finland, which is located in the centre of the town at the edge of the main town square, between 2 buildings by Alvar Aalto, one is the early 1920s Aalto, with a very strong civic and classical character, and the other one, Aalto from the 50s, much more fluid, organic. It’s a difficult place in which to do a building. [Shows a photograph of a door] This is a 200 year old church from a small town near Jyväskylä. We enjoyed the language of this building, we looked at a number of other timber buildings, the language of this early civic buildings, which use the tectonic of timber construction in a much more formal way than it is usual, and we had this idea of making a very strong civic facade, between those buildings with the material that is identified with Jyväskylä, because it is famous for its timber production, but the material is not usually regarded today as having the sufficient seriousness for an urban project. The project was for the restoration of the Aalto building, partially for its use by a new gallery, and the new building to the right, which is both concert hall and gallery space. The facade of our building was made by stacked timber logs, solid section, 300 by 300, which we detailed to allow to move, crack and turn to black in a period of time. We tried to use that material so that the solidity and weight of it gave it an appropriately specific character. The interior of the auditorium for 1000 people was made out of a smooth concrete shell, there were some concerns expressed by the judges about the reverberative acoustic nature and shape of this room. The gallery spaces were made out of this concrete shell. We tried to make a space in the centre of the building from which you could see when you are inside it, the concert hall and the gallery. Across the space, which is an inaccessible courtyard, and the whole interior of the building was clad in white vitreous pan tiles. That’s it, thank you.

Questions follow.

Transcription by María José Orihuela, Architect, MA HCT at the Architectural Association.

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