miércoles, 2 de mayo de 2018

Richards Medical Research Laboratories

Richards Medical Research Laboratories

Alfred Newton Richards Medical Research Laboratories and David Goddard Laboratories Buildings
Richards Medical Research Laboratories in 2010
Richards Medical Research Laboratories is located in Pennsylvania Richards Medical Research Laboratories
Location 3700-3710 Hamilton Walk, University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

Built 1965[2] Architect Louis Kahn

Architectural style Modern

Part of University of Pennsylvania Campus Historic District (#78002457)

The Richards Medical Research Laboratories, located on the campus of the University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia, were designed by architect Louis Kahn and are considered to have been a breakthrough in his career. The building is configured as a group of laboratory towers with a central service tower. Brick shafts on the periphery hold stairwells and air ducts, producing an effect reminiscent of the ancient Italian towers that Kahn had painted several years earlier.

Rather than being supported by a hidden steel frame, the building has a structure of reinforced concrete that is clearly visible and openly depicted as bearing weight. Built with precisely-formed prefabricated concrete elements, the techniques used in its construction advanced the state of the art for reinforced concrete.

Despite observable shortcomings, this building helped set new directions for modern architecture with its clear expression of served and servant spaces and its evocation of the architecture of the past. The Richards Laboratories, along with the associated Goddard Laboratories, which were also designed by Kahn and are treated by architectural historians as the second phase of the Richards project, have been designated a National Historic Landmark.

When the University of Pennsylvania decided it needed a new medical research building, the dean of fine arts recommended Louis Kahn, a highly regarded professor of architecture on the faculty there who had been exploring new approaches for modern architecture. Kahn received the commission for the building in 1957, and it was completed in 1960. It was named the Alfred Newton Richards Medical Research Laboratories Building in honor of a noted researcher and former chairman of the Department of Pharmacology. It quickly received widespread acclaim from the architectural community but also criticism from the scientists who occupied it.[4]:324–327

The Goddard Laboratories, which are connected to the Richard Laboratories, have a similar but heavier appearance.

Completed when Kahn was almost 60, this was his first work to achieve international acclaim. In 1961 the Museum of Modern Art sponsored an exhibition devoted exclusively to it, describing it in a brochure as "probably the single most consequential building constructed in the United States since the war."[5]:102 In 1962, Vincent Scully, an influential professor of architecture, called it "one of the greatest buildings of modern times."[6]

The David Goddard Laboratories were also designed by Louis Kahn and were completed in 1965. Although considered to be separate buildings by the university, the Richards and Goddard Laboratories are physically connected and, with similar designs, have the appearance of being a single unit. The Goddard building is generally treated by architectural historians simply as the second phase of the Richards project.[7]:491 It was named in honor of David Rockwell Goddard, a professor of Botany who also served as university provost and who was the main force in planning and raising funds for it.[8]:4

The Richards Medical Research Laboratories and the David Goddard Laboratories were together declared a National Historic Landmark on January 16, 2009.[3][9] They are also contributing properties to the University of Pennsylvania Campus Historic District.


In the Richards building, laboratories are housed in three towers attached in pinwheel formation to a central fourth tower that houses mechanical systems, research animals, stairs and elevators. Each laboratory tower has eight floors, each of which is a 45-foot (14 m) square that is entirely free of stairs, elevators and internal support columns. Each tower is supported by eight external columns that are attached to the four edges of each floor at "third-point" locations, the two points on each side that divide it into three equal parts. That placement resulted in four column-free cantilevered corners on each floor, which Kahn filled with windows. The support structure of these towers consists of pre-stressed concrete elements that were fabricated off-site and assembled on-site with a crane.[10]:99–101

Outline of aerial view of the Richards Medical Research Laboratories (left) and the associated Goddard Laboratories (right), both designed by Louis Kahn.

Attached to the sides of the laboratory towers are large vertical shafts, some of which hold exhaust ducts and some of which hold stairwells. These shafts, the most striking aspect of the building's exterior, are made from cast-in-place concrete and clad with brick.[4]:325
In contrast to the three laboratory towers, which have prominent windows and intricate structures that were assembled from prefabricated elements, the central tower of the Richards building, the one devoted to service functions, has few windows and a structure that is a single unit of cast-in-place concrete.[11]:397 Attached to its wall farthest from the three laboratory towers are four large air intake shafts, each bringing air to one of four conditioning units on the tower's roof from a "nostril" near the ground, far away from the emissions at the tops of the exhaust shafts. Three of those conditioning units provide fresh air for the three laboratory towers and the fourth serves the central service tower itself.[10]:104

The Goddard building has the same basic design as Richards. Its two laboratory towers and service tower (for stairs, elevators, etc.) are connected in a straight line to the westernmost tower of the Richards building. A research library is located in Goddard's upper floors with reading carrels that cantilever from the building's face.[7]:120

Service tower for Goddard Laboratories

Emily Cooperman, a specialist in historic preservation on the faculty of the University of Pennsylvania, authored the document that nominated the Richards and Goddard buildings together as a National Historic Landmark. In it she says that "observers immediately understood them to be a profound statement of American architectural style that provided a potent design alternative to International Modernism, chiefly as it was embodied in the work of Mies van der Rohe (and in particular as it was epitomized by his Seagram Building)".[8]:15 This design alternative was provided, she notes, through their clear expression of served and servant spaces, their evocation of the architecture of the past, and their structure of reinforced concrete that is clearly visible and openly depicted as bearing weight, approaches that "countered the philosophy of International Modernism of undifferentiated, universal space and volume and of the minimization of the appearance of weight and load through such constructional devices as the glass curtain wall and the predominance of structural steel."[8]:17

According to Thomas Leslie, author of Louis I. Kahn: Building Art, Building Science, "[T]he debates that it inspired and the legions of designers who sought to learn from its example made Richards—for all its well-documented flaws—among the most influential of Kahn's works."[10]:124

Served and servant spaces

Robert McCarter, author of Louis I. Kahn, says, "A breakthrough building for Kahn, this design saw his first clear articulation of the concept of 'servant' and 'served' spaces".[7]:124 The served spaces are the laboratories themselves. The servant spaces are the independently structured shafts for ventilation and stairways that are attached to the outside of the laboratory towers and also the two service towers, which house elevators, animal quarters, mechanical systems, and other auxiliary areas. Kahn spoke critically of laboratories that were designed so that numbers on doors along a corridor are the only distinction between the scientists' main work areas and the areas for stairs, animal quarters and other services.[12]:71

By placing service areas in separate structures, Kahn not only honored the services by giving them their own architectural presence but also enhanced the interior of the laboratory towers by removing obstructions from within. This concept has been an acknowledged influence on several younger architects, especially Richard Rogers, who took this idea even farther and designed or co-designed major buildings with service areas fully exposed on the exterior, such as the Lloyd's of London building and the Centre Georges Pompidou in Paris.[10]:123

Evoking the pastExhaust shafts at left and middle; stair shaft at right

Carter Wiseman, author of Louis I. Kahn: Beyond Time and Style, says the perfection of form achieved by Modern architecture at that time had seemingly led the profession to a creative dead end, a situation he summarized by noting that, "There was really nowhere to go from the elegantly reductive principles of Mies van der Rohe's Seagram Building."[5]:104 Kahn, who up to this point had been an influential professor of architecture but not yet a major architect, had been teaching that part of the problem was that too many architects were turning their backs on the past.[12]:21 With the Richards Medical Research Laboratories Kahn showed a way forward with a design that was clearly in the Modern style and yet evoked images from the past. The building's towers in particular reminded many observers of the centuries-old towers of San Gimignano, Italy, which Kahn had painted several years earlier. Wiseman says, "the Richards towers offered the tantalizing possibility that the 'heart' could be restored to the 'mind' of Modern architecture, largely through the acknowledgement that history—at least in abstracted form—still had something to offer."[5]:104
While studying the classic architecture of Italy, Greece and Egypt during a visit in the early 1950s, a few years prior to his work on the Richards Laboratories, Kahn was so moved by the results that had been obtained in the past by thick and massive building materials that he decided to forego the thin and light-weight materials that were most typical of Modern architecture and instead base his work on concrete and masonry.[13] The Richards building, with its structure of concrete, is accordingly reminiscent of the past not only in appearance but also in substance. Moreover, much of it is faced with red brick, a standard building material of earlier times, especially on college campuses, but one that was almost never used in important Modern buildings at that time.[14]


In contrast to buildings in the style of International Modernism, which typically had structures of relatively light-weight steel frames that were often hidden behind glass walls, the laboratory towers have concrete structures that are clearly visible and openly depicted as bearing weight.[8]:17 The structure was engineered by August Komendant, a pioneer in the use of pre-stressed concrete.[2] This was the first of several outstanding buildings that Kahn and Komendant worked on together, two of which won the prestigious Twenty-five Year Award given by the American Institute of Architects.
Entry porch ceiling showing the building's support structure, which is composed of prefabricated concrete elements that were assembled like children's blocks

The structure of the Richards building is composed of 1019 pre-stressed concrete columns, beams, trusses and related items that were trucked in from a factory, assembled with a crane like children's blocks, and locked into place with post-tensioning cables running in all three dimensions, something like an old-style toy that is floppy until its parts are pulled together tightly with a string. In line with his belief that structure should be made visible, Kahn exposed these structural parts on the building's exterior and in the laboratory ceilings. For the post-tensioning to be effective, the prefabricated concrete parts had to be precisely dimensioned and perfectly formed. Komendant worked closely with the manufacturer to ensure that outcome, with the result that the largest offset between any two elements in the finished structure was only 1/16 inch (1.6 mm).[10]:101–118 The Architectural Record noted that the precision achieved seemed more typical of cabinet making than concrete construction.[5]:98

The entryway for the Richards building is in the middle laboratory tower. Kahn left the entire ground floor of that tower open as an entry porch and exposed the structural elements in its ceiling so the public could see how the building was constructed. Particularly interesting are the Vierendeel trusses that support each floor and whose large rectangular openings allow ducts and pipes to be easily routed through the laboratory ceilings.[7]:116


Although widely recognized by the architectural community as embodying important new ideas, the Richards Laboratories had significant shortcomings from the viewpoint of the scientists who worked there. Part of the problem was Kahn's lack of experience with the design of research laboratories. Kahn hoped the scientists who were to occupy the new labs would provide him some direction during exploratory meetings, but he noted that they seemed more interested in asking him questions than in giving definite answers to the questions he asked them. Komendant recalled that Kahn's first question to him during this project was, "Doctor, what is a medical laboratory? Have you had any experience in this field?"[15]:6

Because the building was intended to serve several departments, Kahn found himself having to satisfy several department heads who did not always agree among themselves, and he had to do so without the benefit of a strong overall project leader.[5]:95 Moreover, the university administrators realized very late in the design process that they had not set aside enough money to furnish the new building with the necessary scientific equipment, so they made up for it by making last-minute cuts in the budget for the building itself.[16]:117 Significantly in light of later criticisms about excessive heat and sunlight in the labs, these last-minute cost-cutting changes included a reduction in insulation, the elimination of window blinds and the replacement of insulated glass with regular glass.[4]:325

Excessive sunlight is handled here with shades of various colors, paper taped to windows, and, at the far right, what appears to be the backs of bookshelves placed against windows.

The best-known shortcoming is the glare of sunlight in many of the labs. Kahn fervently believed in the importance of natural light and strongly preferred to work by a window himself, "refusing to switch on an electric light even on the darkest of days."[17] Although he designed the labs to have an abundance of natural light, he was aware of the potential of having too much sunlight and worked to prevent it. The screening material that he planned to use, however, was cut from the budget, and glare has been a persistent issue.[8]:9 The occupants have handled the problem in uncoordinated fashion by taping sheets of paper to the windows, hanging curtains and placing shelves and equipment in front of the windows. A major preoccupation of Kahn's subsequent career was finding ways of avoiding glare by providing natural light indirectly.[10]:117

Another shortcoming stemmed from Kahn's belief that scientists would work better in an open studio setting if given the chance. He designed each floor of the laboratory towers potentially as one large room and trusted that the scientists would see the desirability of keeping it that way to encourage the interchange of ideas. Most scientists disliked that approach, however, preferring privacy and even secrecy, so partitions were put in place on almost all floors.[16]:112 Kahn was so sure that his approach was the right one that he continued to speak of it afterwards as an important aspect of the design.[16]:122

Kahn left the carefully organized pipes and ducts in the ceilings of each floor fully exposed to view, partly as an architectural statement and partly to make it easier to reconfigure laboratory equipment when necessary. Several departments installed dropped ceilings anyway; the microbiology labs, which require strict dust control, were especially in need of them.[11]:420 The partitions and dropped ceilings together interfered with the planned air circulation patterns in the towers, a problem that was not resolved until a renovation in the 1980s.[16]:114

Because of a reduced budget for the Goddard building, Kahn was forced to make some changes to its design that have reduced its interest to architectural historians, who have written much less about it than about the Richards building. Differences between the two buildings are especially noticeable in the cantilevered corners of the laboratory towers, which have a plainer aspect in the Goddard building. In addition, the administration required Kahn to work on the Goddard building in association with an engineering and construction firm, leaving him unable to assert his usual painstaking control over the construction process and resulting in a lower standard of finish detail.[8]:33 Plywood was used to create the forms for poured concrete in the Goddard building, for example, whereas Kahn had used carefully selected planks for that purpose at Richards to create a more interesting concrete finish.[8]:13 As a result, the Goddard building "employs a simplified and visually heavier precast structural system" than the Richards building and "does not possess the same elegant character".[7]:120

martes, 1 de mayo de 2018

Larkin Administration Building: Frank Lloyd Wright

Larkin Administration Building

The Larkin Administration Building in 1906

The Larkin Building was an early 20th-century building. It was designed in 1903 by Frank Lloyd Wright and built in 1904-1906 for the Larkin Soap Company of Buffalo, New York. The five-story dark red brick building used a pink tinted mortar and utilized steel frame construction. It was noted for many innovations, including air conditioning, built-in desk furniture, and suspended toilet partitions and bowls. Though this was an office building, it still caught the essence of Frank Lloyd Wright's type of architecture. Sculptor Richard Bock provided ornamentation for the building.[1]
Located at 680 Seneca Street, the Larkin Building was demolished in 1950.
The Larkin Soap Company was founded in Buffalo in 1875 by John D. Larkin. Among the principals were Larkin, Elbert Hubbard, and Darwin D. Martin. By the early years of the twentieth century, the company expanded beyond soap manufacturing into groceries, dry goods, China, and furniture. Larkin became a pioneering, national mail-order house with branch stores in Buffalo, New York City, and Chicago.[2] Due to their growth, the company decided to expand its complex in Buffalo, New York in 1902. At the time it commissioned its headquarters, Larkin was prosperous and the high price[a] for a well-designed, innovative building was not a barrier. The company, known for its generous corporate culture, also commissioned Wright to design row houses for its workers, which were never built.[4]
The first-floor plan was of lobby and mail grouping, the second floor consisted of the typewriter operators' department, the third floor was the mail department, the fourth floor was the mail room, and the fifth floor consisted of a restaurant and kitchen, balconies, and a conservatory.
A 100-rank Möller pipe organ was housed in the central court with the pipe chambers located on the upper level and the console located in a shallow pit on the main floor. [5]
Exterior details of the 200-foot-long (61 m) by 134-foot-wide (41 m) building was executed in red sandstone; the entrance doors, windows, and skylights were of glass. Floors, stairs, doors, window sills, partitions, desktops and plumbing slabs were used with magnesite for sound absorption. For floors, cement was mixed with excelsior and poured, over a layer of felt to impart its resiliency. Magnesite was also used for sculptural decoration on the piers surrounding the light court and for panels and beams around the executive offices at the south end of the main floor. Wright designed much of the furniture, the chairs were made out of steel and hung from the tables to make cleaning the floors easy. The interior walls were made of semi-vitreous, hard, cream-colored brick. A 76-foot-tall (23 m) light court was located in the center of the building which provided natural sunlight to all of the floors. Between its support piers ran fourteen sets of three inspiration words each, such as: GENEROSITY ALTRUISM SACRIFICE, INTEGRITY LOYALTY FIDELITY, IMAGINATION JUDGEMENT INITIATIVE, INTELLIGENCE ENTHUSIASM CONTROL, CO-OPERATION ECONOMY INDUSTRY.
Architectural historian Vincent Scully, Jr. wrote of the structure:
"Vertical brick piers and wall planes... made possible the splendid integration of space, structure, and massing which Wright achieved in the Larkin Company Office Building at Buffalo, of 1904. In space the building was conceived of as facing inward, with a glass-roofed central hall rising the entire height and with horizontal office floors woven around it. The pattern of piers and walls which makes these spaces is clearly unified in both plan and section. The vertical piers rise uninterruptedly inside, and the horizontal planes of the office floors are kept back from their edges, so that they seem, once more, to be woven through them. ... At the same time, the stiff verticals of the interior of the Larkin Building continued to recall the challenge of the exterior, so that the occupant could not feel himself to be simply inside a shell. The sequence was an emotional one and a progress: challenge, bafflement, compression, search, and finally, surprise, release, transformation, and recall. It was almost a Baroque progression, but its methods were stiffer and harder, befitting the industrial program which they praised. Significantly enough, the building also recalled the Romantic-Classic projects of the first revolutionary architects of the later eighteenth century, particularly in the harshness of its forms but even in the rather underscaled world globes which were flaunted upon its exterior."[6]
Wright said of the building:
"It is interesting that I, an architect supposed to be concerned with the aesthetic sense of the building, should have invented the hung wall for the w.c. (easier to clean under), and adopted many other innovations like the glass door, steel furniture, air-conditioning and radiant or 'gravity heat'. Nearly every technological innovation used today was suggested in the Larkin Building in 1904." — Frank Lloyd Wright as quoted by Kaufmann, Edgar, ed. An American Architecture, pp. 137–138.
The site of The Larkin Administration Building in 2011
Larkin admin remains2.jpg
Decline and demolition
In 1939 the Larkin Company made interior modifications and moved retail operations into the building. In 1943, the firm's fortunes were in decline and it was forced to try to sell the building.[b]
The Larkin Administration Building was foreclosed upon for back taxes in 1945 by the city of Buffalo. The city tried to sell the building over the next five years and considered other reuses.[7] In 1949 the building was sold to the Western Trading Corporation, which announced plans to demolish it for a truck stop.[7] It did so in 1950 despite countrywide editorial protests;[3] however, no truck stop was ever constructed.
On November 16, 1949, architect J. Stanley Sharp stated in the New York Herald-Tribune:
"As an architect, I share the concern of many others over the destruction of Frank Lloyd Wright's world-famous office building in Buffalo. It is not merely a matter of sentiment; from a practical standpoint, this structure can function efficiently for centuries. Modern engineering has improved upon the lighting and ventilation systems Mr. Wright used, but that hardly excuses enough to efface the work of the man who successfully pioneered in the solving of such problems. The Larkin Building set a precedent for many an office building we admire today and should be regarded not as an outmoded utilitarian structure but as a monument, if not to Mr. Wright's creative imagination, to the inventiveness of American design."
"The destruction of all but one pillar of the Larkin Administration Building is tragic in the architecture community. Hopefully, in the future, we will consider the value of a significant building such as this, and work to preserve it."

The fate of the site
A single brick pier along a railroad embankment was one of the few features of Wright's original building that remained after its demolition; the site became a parking lot with a marker and an illustrated educational panel.[8] In 2002, the Larkin Development Group began to acquire properties in the neighborhood,[9] and revitalized the area over the next decade.[10]
In 2015, the new owners of the Administration Building site, The Larkin Center of Commerce, erected a "ghost" pier at the Seneca Street side of the wall that connected two of the fence piers. The ghost pier was built of etched glass the same size and location as the brick fence pier that once stood in its place. The ghost pier is supported on the concrete and stone base of the original construction. Inside the glass pier, a small section of off-white brick is visible. These are reclaimed bricks from the interior of the building. The sidewalks on Seneca Street reflect the locations of the major features of the building including the width of the atrium, fence piers, and main entry. Granite markers inlaid in the sidewalk mark these locations. Two additional interpretive markers flank the ghost pier.
Extensive Larkin Company records and photographs survive in the library collection of the Buffalo History Museum.[11]
 By drastically reducing its operations, the company continued to do business for some years; however, it never recovered its former success and eventually closed its last concern in 1967.[2]

 Wright, Frank Lloyd (1911). The Early Work of Frank Lloyd Wright: The "Ausgefuhrte Bauten" of 1911. Dover Publications. p. 7. ISBN 978-0-486-24381-8.
 Stanger, Howard (2010). "Failing at retailing: the decline of the Larkin Company, 1918–1942". Journal of Historical Research in Marketing. 2 (1): 9–40. ISSN 1755-750X.
 Mark Goldman. City on the Edge: Buffalo, New York, 1900 – Present. Prometheus Books. p. 170. ISBN 978-1-61592-067-9.
 Van Ness, Cynthia. "Re-Writing Buffalo: Build the Larkin Rowhouses". BuffaloResearch.com. Retrieved 2014-11-19. Originally published in Buffalo Spree, July–August 2006, p. 150.
 Pipe Organ Database. Organ Historical Society
http://database.organsociety.org/OrganDetails.php?OrganID=45259. Retrieved 26 May 2017. Missing or empty |title= (help)
 Scully, Vincent, Jr. (1960). "Frank Lloyd Wright". In Alex, William. The Masters of World Architecture Series. New York: George Braziller, Inc.
 "Larkin Administration Building – A 'Wright' of Passage in Buffalo". The Buffalo History Gazette. October 4, 2011. Retrieved 2014-11-19.
 Langmead, Donald; Garnaut, Christine (1 January 2001). Encyclopedia of Architectural and Engineering Feats. ABC-CLIO. p. 181. ISBN 978-1-57607-112-0.
 "History of Larkin". Larkin Square. Retrieved 2014-11-19.
 Revitalizing the Legacy Cities of Upstate New York. The American Assembly. 5 December 2013. ISBN 978-1-4823-9488-7.
 "Research Library". The Buffalo History Museum. Retrieved 2014-11-19.



Si el viajero llega a Amsterdam por tren, saldrá de la estación central y abarcará una amplia calle que le conduce hasta el corazón de la ciudad. En su paseo, tal vez no preste atención a un edificio que se alza, enorme e imponente, a su izquierda. Se trata de la famosa "Bolsa", proyectada en 1903 por el arquitecto holandés Hendrik Petrus Berlage (1856-1934) y que allí conocen directamente con el nombre de "Beurs van Berlage", asociando para siempre el edificio con quien lo proyectó. Pero si el viajero es atento, quizás llamen su atención la austera fachada de ladrillo desnudo, la escasez de decoración, los amplios ventanales o la torre que remata uno de los lados de la construcción.

Berlage, que había estudiado arquitectura en Suiza, se formó dentro de las corrientes historicistas que imperaban en el panorama europeo en la segunda mitad del siglo XIX y en sus primeros años como profesional acusa también influencias del Modernismo. Sin embargo, a fines de la centuria lo encontramos trabajando en su estudio de Amsterdam, mostrando cada vez más interés por los nuevos materiales y por introducir en sus obras elementos de corte racional. 

Es en este contexto en el que decidió participar en el concurso para construir el nuevo edificio de la bolsa de Amsterdam. Y aunque no fue el ganador, resultó finalmente ser el arquitecto encargado de la construcción.

La "Bolsa de Berlage" es una significativa síntesis de las diversas tendencias que bullían en la mente del arquitecto. Una acertada mezcla de elementos formales de carácter tradicional con planteamientos de base racionalista, que anuncian ya el inmediato triunfo del Movimiento Moderno. Ello explica que algo tan tradicional como el ladrillo se convierta en el elemento básico de la edificación y que, al mismo tiempo, se huya de los excesos decorativos, dando al conjunto la sensación de desnudez y austeridad que tan bien lo caracteriza. Del mismo modo, la ordenación de la línea de ventanales y los hastiales lasterales en ángulo, que remiten a contextos industriales, contrastan con la presencia de arcos de medio punto (en algún caso con arquivoltas simuladas) o con la propia torre de esquina, una concesión a las arquitecturas medievales italianas.

Si el viajero decide pasar al interior de la Bolsa, se verá de nuevo sorprendido. Tras atravesar diversos espacios accederá a un amplísmo salón diáfano, de más de 20 metros de alto, con una cubierta de cristal a dos aguas sostenida por tirantes de hierro dorado que evocan arcos diafragmas. En los laterales hallará dos plantas, que se asoman al vacío central mediante balaustradas.

De esta forma el interior nos muestra con claridad la idea del arquitecto de dar prioridad al espacio y al volumen vacío, quedando la forma restringida a las paredes perimetrales del salón. Por todo ello, la Bolsa de Amsterdam es un ejemplo de primer orden acerca de cómo, a comienzos del siglo XX, estaban empezando a cambiar las concepciones arquitectónicas y se iniciaba el paso de la tradición a la modernidad, mediante la búsqueda de la funcionalidad de las formas. Hoy esta bolsa no cumple ya su antigua función y se ha convertido en un importante centro cultural. Seguro que a Berlage, que tenía ideas socialistas, no le hubiese desagradado.

Aquí teneís en inglés una biografía de Berlage y fotos de algunos de sus edificios más destacados. En la misma línea, podéis visitar también esta página. Por otra parte, si alguno sabe neerlandés (difícil empeño), la Wikipedia holandesa dedica al edificio una extensa información que no puedo valorar. Además, el centro cultural que se aloja actualmente en la antigua bolsa dispone también de su propia web, con muchas imágenes y un plano actualizado.

The Primitive Hut

La importancia del pensamiento ilustrado para la arquitectura:

La reflexión en torno a la Naturaleza y sus mecanismos de funcionamiento y, sobre todo, la firme creencia de que el progreso humano depende de que el hombre sea capaz de regular su comportamiento individual y social de acuerdo con tales leyes naturales constituye uno de los ejes en torno a los que se articula el pensamiento de la Ilustración. Son múltiples los estudios globales o sectoriales sobre este «naturalismo» de los ilustrados, desde la historia natural de Buffon hasta la antropología de los philosophes, desde la revalorización de las pasiones y los instintos hasta la teoría de los climas (1), y en las páginas que siguen simplemente trataremos de sintetizar la concreción de esta idea en uno de los puntos nodales que afectan al desarrollo de la teoría arquitectónica en el siglo XVIII: la cuestión de si existen o no, para la Arquitectura, reglas que puedan deducirse la propia Naturaleza y que, en consecuencia, serían de obligado cumplimiento para los nuevos arquitectos de la Razón.

La aceptación de semejante hipótesis implica, al mismo tiempo, por parte de los teóricos ilustrados de la arquitectura, una revisión de la historia de la misma en función de la mayor o menor aproximación a tales supuestas reglas naturales. Y en este esquema cobrará fuerza renovada en el siglo de las Luces un mito mucho más antiguo que la ilustración: el de la cabaña primigenia, el primer edificio, en la que se encontrarían ya sintetizadas las reglas naturales de la arquitectura.

La insistencia con que la cultura arquitectónica de las Luces emprende la búsqueda de los orígenes de la Arquitectura, en la creencia de que tales orígenes suponen una garantía de «naturaleza» incontaminada por el devenir histórico, explica que el mito de la cabaña primitiva esté en el centro de las grandes polémicas que recorrerán el siglo.

Gazeta de antropología: Universidad de Granada


The Primitive Hut

Frontispiece of Marc-Antoine Laugier: Essai sur l'architecture 2nd ed. 1755 by Charles Eisen (1720-1778). Allegorical engraving of the Vitruvian primitive hut.

The Primitive Hut is a concept that explores the origins of architecture and its practice. The concept explores the anthropological relationship between man and the natural environment as the fundamental basis for the creation of architecture. The idea of The Primitive Hut contends that the ideal architectural form embodies what is natural and intrinsic.

The Primitive hut as an architectural theory was brought to life over the mid-1700s till the mid-1800s, theorized in particular by (Abbé) Marc-Antoine Laugier. Laugier provided an allegory of a man in nature and his need for shelter in An Essay on Architecture that formed an underlying structure and approach to architecture and its practice. This approach has been explored in architectural theory to speculate on a possible destination for architecture as a discipline. The essay was arguably one of the first significant attempts to theorize architectural knowledge both scientifically and philosophically.

Origins of The Primitive Hut: Essai sur L'Architecture (Essay on Architecture), 1755

The Essay on Architecture was first published by Marc-Antoine Laugier in 1753. It was written in the age of enlightenment, during a time characterized by rationalist thinking through science and reason. Architecture in France during this period was defined predominantly by the Baroque style with its excessive ornamentation and religious iconography. Rather than being concerned with the search for meaning and the over analysis of the representational elements of architecture, Laugier's essay proposed that the idea of noble and formal architecture was found in what was necessary for architecture, not in its ornamentation but in its true underlying fundamentals. Laugier argued for the simplicity of architecture, that architecture must return to its origins, the simple rustic hut.

It was through The Primitive Hut that Laugier sought to explain his philosophy of architecture. The Essay on Architecture provides what Laugier explains as the general rules of architecture: the 'true principles', the 'invariable rules'; for 'directing the judgment and forming the taste of the gentleman and the architect'.[1] To Laugier, The Primitive Hut was the highest virtue that architecture should achieve.

The frontispiece illustration

An illustration of the primitive hut by Charles Dominique Eisen was the frontispiece for the second edition of Laugier's Essay on Architecture (1755). The frontispiece was arguably one of the most famous images in the history of architecture, it helped to make the essay more accessible and consequently, it was more widely received by the public. The message the illustration was suggesting was clear; that the essay would suggest a new direction or a new order for architecture. In the image, a young woman who personifies architecture draws the attention of an angelic child towards the primitive hut. Architecture is pointing to a new structural clarity found in nature, rather than the ironic ruins of the past.


The Essay on Architecture provides a story of a man in his 'primitive' state to explain how the creation of the "primitive man's" house is created instinctively based on men need to shelter himself from nature. Laugier believed that the model of the primitive man's hut provided the ideal principles for architecture or any structure. It was from this perspective that Laugier formed his general principles of architecture where he outlined the standard form of architecture and what he believed was fundamental to all architecture. To Laugier, the general principles of architecture were found in what was natural, intrinsic and part of natural processes.


Laugier's Essay on Architecture is divided into six chapters that focus on the different constituencies and considerations of architecture. It methodically identifies the key components of a building, describes their fundamental importance and how they should be approached.

In Chapter 1: "The General Principles of Architecture", Laugier divides and analyses buildings into five main "articles": the column, entablature, pediment, the different stories of architecture, the windows and doors. In Article 1, for example, Laugier makes four general rules for the construction of columns, one of them being that the column "must be strictly perpendicular, because being intended to support the whole load, perfect verticality gives it its greatest strength."[1] To Laugier, these articles emphasized the fundamental components of a building and what he identifies as their core necessities - that is, The Primitive Hut model. Laugier emphasized the point that nature provides the rules for architecture.

Laugier used the frontispiece to illustrate that typically architecture needs only three main elements, the free-standing columns, horizontal beams (entablature), and a simple pediment (the triangular end of a pitched roof).
Laugier also noted that the deviation or misuse of the principles leads to inherent faults in typical buildings and in architectural practice. In particular, he recognized logical faults, issues such as proportion and unintelligent design. Instead, advocating that "by approaching the simplicity of the model, fundamental mistakes are avoided and true perfection achieved".[1]

The idea also claims that Ancient Greek temples owed their form to the earliest habitations erected by man. In the primitive hut, the horizontal beam was supported by tree trunks planted upright in the ground and the roof was sloped to shed rainwater. This was an extension of the primitive hut concept and the inspiration behind the basic Doric order.

The essay advocates that architecture approach perfection through the search for absolute beauty, specifically by returning to the hypothetical original hut as a model for the building.

Contribution to the architectural theory

The Primitive Hut made an important contribution to the theory of architecture. It marked the beginning of a significant analysis and debate within the architectural theory, particularly between rationalist and utilitarian schools of thought. While previously the field of architecture concerned the search for the ideal building form through truth in the building, the primitive hut questioned the universal in architecture. It was through the reading of the Laugier Essay questioned the fundamental and the universal requirements of architecture, the text marked a new field of inquiry into the field of architecture that changed the understandings and the approach to architecture. In particular, there were the beginnings of an attempt to understand the various individual components of the architecture.

The Primitive Hut is an a-historical point of reference that is not necessarily a historical object that is investigated through speculation or an archaeological investigation. The Primitive Hut was instead a self-evident realization that created a new perspective of architectural inquiry. The architectural inquiry would be engaged to justify the validity of the primitive hut model.[2]

The origins of The Primitive Hut have conceptually been linked to the Old Testament and the story of Adam and Eve, and of other primitive cultures. The classical orders in the stories about primitive dwellings are often the subject of analysis to trace the history of the primitive hut, these have arguably been traced back to the works of Vitruvius and The Ten Books on Architecture.[3] 

These tracings work to validate The Primitive Hut model.

Scientific and philosophical approaches have led to various branches of inquiry that question both the origins and the possible destinations of architecture. 

These have been recognized across a range of different cultures. These different approaches have led to various conceptualizations that question cultural differences and attempt to define the ideal principles of architecture and of the primitive hut specifically.

The Primitive hut is a conceptual hut, that is not necessarily a material and physical hut. It is an abstract concept of a place that is created through man's response to the natural environment, where architecture acts as the mediator between man and nature. The Primitive hut concept explores how architecture came to be and is a way of explaining the fundamental origins of architecture. 

The Primitive hut provides a point of reference for all speculation on the essentials of building and represents arguably the first architectural 'idea'.

The Primitive Hut concept also suggests that the natural environment provides the solutions for this ideal architectural form. Understandings of vernacular architecture have often had a major influence on the understandings of the Primitive Hut, as they often provide a different point of origin for a potential direction for architecture. Rather than focusing on the meanings that are associated with the building and its components, the Primitive Hut questions the fundamental components that are universal in architecture.


Theory surrounding The Primitive Hut covers a number of key themes:
To present rites where a "primitive hut" has either been built ritually and at seasonal intervals, or deliberately in a "primitive" state for analogous ritual purposes.

To show how the idea of the primitive hut became a vehicle for architectural theories from the fifteenth century on.
To suggest that the "primitive hut will retain its validity as a reminder of the original and therefore essential meaning of all building for people: that is, of architecture"[4]

Types of primitive huts

The primitive hut has been theorized to have different forms:
The purely historical object that has been abandoned to construct better huts.
The hut reconstructed in peoples imagination.
The anthropological hut, an existing hut that is analyzed to rediscover the universal elements of architecture.
The primitive hut as a place that continuously reoccurs whenever a building is created both consciously and unconsciously.[5]

Notable architects and theorists

The Primitive Hut concept has been explored over various periods of time to varying extents in architectural history, including by notable architects such as:
Karl Botticher, Felix Duban, Walter Gropius, Henry Labrouste, Marc-Antoine Laugier, Le Corbusier, Carlo Lodoli, Adolf Loos, Francesco Milizia, Giovanni Battista Piranesi, Augustus Pugin, Quatremere de Quincy, Alois Riegl, John Ruskin, Joseph Rykwert, Gottfried Semper, Leon Vaudoyer, Viollet-le-Duc, Vitruvius, Frank Lloyd Wright

lunes, 30 de abril de 2018




A common term for an artisan/craftsman, in particular a carpenter or wood-worker or builder. The term is frequently contrasted with an iron-worker, or smith (χαλκεύς) and the stone-worker or mason (λιθολόγος, λαξευτής),[1]


The characteristic Ancient Greek distinction between the general worker or wood-worker and the stonemason and the metal-worker occurs frequently in the Septuagint:
Isaiah 41:7 "So the carpenter (tektōn) encouraged the goldsmith, and he that smootheth with the hammer him that smote the anvil, saying, ...[2]

The distinction occurs in lists of workmen working on building or repairs to the temple in Jerusalem, for example in the repairs carried out under the priest Jehoiada and "the carpenters and builders, that wrought upon the house of the LORD,... And to masons, and hewers of stone, and to buy timber and hewed stone to repair the breaches of the house of the LORD," in 2 Kings 12:11–12. This same incident is recounted in similar language, using tekton again, in the account of Josephus.[3]

New Testament
Gospel references

Jesus in the workshop of Joseph the Carpenter, by Georges de La Tour, 1640s.

The term is chiefly notable for New Testament commentators' discussion of the employment of Jesus and his adoptive father Joseph, both described as "tekton" in the New Testament. This is translated as "carpenter" in English-language Bibles.
The term occurs in combination with the definite article in the Gospel of Mark,[6:3] to describe the occupation of Jesus.[4]

Is not this the carpenter (ho tektōn) the son of Mary and brother of James and Joses and Judas and Simon, and are not his sisters here with us?[4]

The term is also used in the Gospel of Matthew in relation to Jesus' adoptive father Joseph.
Is not this the carpenter's son (ho tou tektōnos huios)?[4]

In modern scholarship, the word has sometimes been re-interpreted from the traditional meaning of carpenter and has sometimes been translated as craftsman, as the meaning of builder is implied, but can be applied to both wood-work and stone masonry.[4]
Hebrew naggar interpretation

In the Septuagint the Greek noun tektōn either stands for the generic Hebrew noun kharash (חרש), "craftsman," (as Isaiah 41:7) or tekton xylon (τέκτων ξύλον) as a word-for-word rendering of kharash-'etsim (חָרַשׁ עֵצִים) "craftsman of woods." (as Isaiah 44:13).[5] The term kharash occurs 33 times in the Masoretic Text of the Hebrew Bible.

As an alternative to kharash, some authors have speculated that the Greek term corresponds to the Aramaic term naggara (Hebrew |נגר naggar "craftsman") and in 1983 Geza Vermes (1983) suggested that given that the use of the term in the Talmud "carpenter" can signify a very learned man, the New Testament description of Joseph as a carpenter could indicate that he was considered wise and literate in the Torah.[6] This theory was later popularized by A. N. Wilson to suggest that Jesus had some sort of elevated status.[7][8]

The original text with "There is no carpenter or son of carpenter that can take it apart" is found in Avodah Zarah 50b in discussion of whether to prune a tree on the Sabbath, with "carpenter" used in Isidore Epstein (Soncino) and Michael Rodkinson's translations and Ezra Zion Melamed's Lexicon.[9] In the modern English version of the Talmud Jacob Neusner the passage reads as follows:

1.5 A. Said R. Joseph bar Abba ... "people may remove worms from a tree or patch the bark with dung during the Sabbatical Year, but people may not remove worms or patch the bark during the intermediate days of a festival. ... But there is no craftsman let alone a disciple of a craftsman who can unravel this teaching."

B. Said Rabina, "I am not a craftsman let alone a disciple of a craftsman, but I can unravel this teaching. What is the problem anyhow? ..."[10]

However the Greek term tekton does not carry this meaning, the nearest equivalent in the New Testament is Paul's comparison to Timothy of a "workman" (ἐργάτης ergatēs) rightly "dividing" the word of truth. This has been taken as a carpentry-image by some Christian commentators.[11] The suggested term naggar "craftsman" is not found in biblical Aramaic or Hebrew, or in Aramaic documents of the New Testament period,[12] but is found in later Talmudic texts where the term "craftsman" is used a metaphor for a skilled handler of the word of God.[13][14]

 "A. worker in wood, carpenter, joiner, “τέκτονες ἄνδρες, οἵ οἱ ἐποίησαν θάλαμον καὶ δῶμα καὶ αὐλήν” Il.6.315, cf. Sapph.91; “τέκτονος υἱόν, Ἁρμονίδεω . . ὂς καὶ Ἀλεξάνδρῳ τεκτήνατο νῆας ἐΐσας” Il.5.59; νηῶν, δούρων τ., Od.9.126, 17.384, cf. 19.56, 21.43; [“πίτυν] οὔρεσι τέκτονες ἄνδρες ἐξέταμον πελέκεσσι” Il.13.390; “τ., ὅς ῥά τε πάσης εὖ εἰδῇ σοφίης” 15.411; “τ. γὰρ ὢν ἔπρασσες οὐ ξυλουργικά” E.Fr.988, cf. A.Fr.357, S.Fr.474, X.Mem.1.2.37: it is freq. opp. to a smith (χαλκεύς), Pl.Prt.319d, R.370d, X.HG3.4.17; to a mason (λιθολόγος), Th.6.44, cf. Ar.Av.1154: freq. in Inscrr., IG12.373.245, etc., and Papyri, PCair.Zen.27.3 (3rd century BC), etc.:—but also,.."

 Septuagint Isaiah 41:7 ἴσχυσεν ἀνὴρ τέκτων καὶ χαλκεὺς τύπτων σφύρῃ ἅμα ἐλαύνων ποτὲ μὲν ἐρεῖ σύμβλημα καλόν ἐστιν ἰσχύρωσαν αὐτὰ ἐν ἥλοις θήσουσιν αὐτὰ καὶ οὐ κινηθήσονται

 Josephus: The Essential Writings Flavius Josephus, Paul L. Maier, 1990, page 166 "When a large amount had been collected, the king and Jehoiada the high priest put carpenters and masons to work and thus restored the temple."

 Markus Bockmuehl (8 November 2001). The Cambridge Companion to Jesus. Cambridge University Press. pp. 14–. ISBN 978-0-521-79678-1. Retrieved 17 November 2012.

 44:13 τέκτων ξύλον ἔστησεν αὐτὸ ἐν μέτρῳ καὶ ἐν κόλλῃ ἐρρύθμισεν αὐτό ἐποίησεν αὐτὸ ὡς μορφὴν ἀνδρὸς καὶ ὡς ὡραιότητα ἀνθρώπου στῆσαι αὐτὸ ἐν οἴκῳ
 Jesus the Jew: a historian's reading of the Gospels by Jeza Vermes 1983 ISBN 0961614846 page 

21 Jesus the Jew: a historian's reading of the Gospel, pages 21–22
 A.N. Wilson (27 May 2003). Jesus. Random House UK. pp. 82–. ISBN 978-0-7126-0697-4. 

Retrieved 17 November 2012., Page 29: "The term translated into English as 'carpenter' represents the much wider sense of the ancient Greek, ho tekton, which is a rendition of the Semitic word naggar.5 As pointed out by the Semitic scholar Dr. Geza Vermes, this descriptive word [naggar] could perhaps be applied to a trade craftsman, but could equally well define a scholar."

 Larry W. Hurtado (15 September 2005). Lord Jesus Christ: Devotion to Jesus in Earliest Christianity. Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing. pp. 319–. ISBN 978-0-8028-3167-5. Retrieved 17 November 2012.

 Ezra Zion Melamed Aramaic-Hebrew-English Dictionary of the Babylonian Talmud 200, page 353 "NGR – There is no carpenter or son of carpenter (that can take it apart, i.e., solve it) " אסורות ולית נגר ולא בר נגר דיפרקינה אמר רב ששת אנא לא נגר אנא ולא בר נגר

 The Talmud of Babylonia. Tractate Abodah Zarah: chapters 3–5 – Page 57 Jacob Neusner, 1991
 e.g., Witness Lee The Life-Pulse of the Lord's Present Movepage 61, 1986 "In 2 Timothy 2:15 Paul said, “Be diligent to present yourself approved to God, an unashamed workman, cutting straight the word of the truth.” To cut ... You as an unashamed workman have to cut the word straight as in carpentry."

 Martin McNamara Targum and New Testament: Collected Essays, page 207, 2011 "The corresponding Aramaic (or Hebrew) term would be NGR or NGRA (naggar, naggara'). This word, however, is not found in biblical Aramaic or Hebrew, or in Aramaic documents of the New Testament period."

 Finding Our Way Together Page 308 Krisztina Stangle, John Stangle, 2006, "Geza Vermes highlights the Aramaic use of the term carpenter or craftsman (“naggar”) to metaphorically describe a “scholar” or “learned man” in Talmudic sayings (Cf. Geza Vermes, Jesus the Jew, (London: Collins, 1973) p.21.) However, the ..."

 Douglas Welker Kennard Messiah Jesus: Christology in His Day and Ours, page 71, 2007 "However, if this term is dependent upon the Aramaic nagger (craftsman), the Talmud later takes this metaphor to refer to 'scholar' or 'learned man,' that is, a rabbi.11 Such a later Talmudic meaning would place Jesus within a rabbinically schooled family but there seems to be some surprise among Jewish priests,  .."

domingo, 29 de abril de 2018

En defensa de la tectónica: FRAMPTON

Comparto este articulo del Arq. Kenneth Framton no sólo por por su actualidad sino porque la mercantilización de la arquitectura ha llegado incluso a la enseñanza de ella.

Debido al facilismo imperante y a la ausencia de norte en las escuelas de arquitectura se ha perdido los valores de la arquitectura y vengo observando una profusión de actitudes empíricas que desconocen la esencia de los fundamentos de la arquitectura.

En arquitectura en el país vivimos un momento de degeneración cultural identificada por la  arbitrariedad prepotente en base al poder, en la medida en que no se basa ni en la estructura ni en la construcción, aunada, peor aún, con un desconocimiento solapado de teoría y de principios fundamentales que la guien, aupada a una creciente petulancia por la ignorancia.

Llamado al orden, en defensa de la tectónica

Por Kenneth Frampton | 1990

Elegí dedicar este número a la tectónica por una serie de razones, entre ellas la tendencia contemporánea a reducir la Arquitectura a escenografía. Esta reacción surge en respuesta al triunfo universal del tinglado decorado de Robert Venturi, al síndrome predominante que hace que el cobijo sea envuelto y presentado como una mercancía gigante. Entre sus ventajas está la posibilidad de hacer que sus productos sean amortizables, con todo lo que eso implica para el futuro del hábitat. No estamos frente a la placentera decadencia del romanticismo, sino la destitución que implica la mercantilización de la cultura y el riesgo de perder toda referencia estable del mundo contemporáneo

Debemos tomar una actitud defensiva frente a esta perspectiva de degeneración cultural, sentando bases desde donde resistir. Nos encontramos en una posición similar a la del crítico Clement Greenberg cuando en su ensayo sobre “Pintura modernista” de 1965 intentaba reformular los fundamentos de las artes

–          “Liberadas por la Ilustración de toda función que pudiera considerarse como relevante, pareció que las artes serían asimiladas al puro entretenimiento, y éste a una suerte de terapia, como la religión. Las artes pueden ser salvadas de esta depreciación sólo si demuestran en la experiencia que son capaces de generar tiene un valor en sí que no puede ser aportado por ningún otro tipo de actividad”

SI uno se interroga sobre cuál podría ser las bases de la experiencia arquitectónica, deberíamos remitirnos a la forma estructural y constructiva. Mi énfasis en estos valores tiene que ver con mi interés de evaluar la arquitectura del siglo XX en términos de continuidad e inflexión, más que de originalidad como un fin en sí mismo.

En su ensayo de 1980 sobre “Vanguardia y continuidad”, Giorgio Grassi hacía la siguiente observación:

–           “Las vanguardias del Movimiento Moderno siguieron invariablemente despertares en las artes figurativas: cubismo, suprematismo, neoplasticismo, etc.; se trata de formas de investigación surgidas y desarrolladas en ése ámbito y sólo secundariamente trasladadas a la arquitectura. Resulta patético ver cómo los mejores arquitectos de ese período heroico luchaban con dificultad para adaptarse a esos “ismos”, experimentando con perplejidad y fascinación esas nuevas doctrinas para, después, darse cuenta de su inutilidad.”

Puede resultar desconcertante reconocer la cisura fundamental entre los orígenes figurativos del arte abstracto y la base constructiva de la forma tectónica, pero al mismo tiempo resulta liberador en tanto ofrece un buen sustento para cuestionar las búsquedas de invenciones espaciales como un fin en sí mismo, una presión a la que la arquitectura moderna se vio excesivamente sometida. En lugar de sumarnos a la recapitulación de los tropos modernistas del minimal, la pastiche historicista del posmodernismo o a la proliferación superflua de gestos escultóricos del deconstructivismo -todos los cuales comparten el mismo nivel de arbitrariedad en la medida en que no se basan ni en la estructura ni en la construcción- elegimos recuperar la unidad estructural como la esencia irreductible de la forma arquitectónica.

No hace falta aclarar que no estamos aludiendo a la revelación de los mecanismos constructivos, sino a la potencialidad poética asociada a la revelación de la estructura en el sentido original de la noción de poesis. Si bien soy consciente de las connotaciones conservadoras de la polémica de Grassi, su percepción crítica nos permite interrogarnos sobre la idea de lo nuevo en un momento en que se oscila entre el cultivo de una cultura de resistencia o un esteticismo carente de cualquier connotación de valor.

La definición de diccionario del término tectónica -“perteneciente a la construcción en general, constructivo usado especialmente en referencia a la arquitectura”- es algo reductivo. Desde su emergencia consciente a mediados del siglo XIX con los escritos de Karl Bötticher y Gottfried Semper, el término no sólo indicó una cualidad estructural y material sino una poética de la construcción.

El comienzo del Moderno, hace por lo menos 200 años, y el reciente advenimiento del Posmoderno está inextricablemente vinculado a las ambigüedades introducidas en la arquitectura occidental por la primacía de lo escenográfico en el mundo burgués. Sin embargo, los edificios siguieron teniendo carácter tectónico antes que escenográfico y se puede decir que son un acto de construcción antes que un discurso predicado sobre la superficie, el volumen o el plano. Podríamos decir que un edificio es ontológico antes que representativo; en palabras de Heidegger, una “cosa” más que un “signo”.

Me involucré en este tema porque creo que es necesario que los arquitectos se reposicionen frente a la tendencia actual de reducir toda expresión arquitectónica a una mercancía cultural. Se que esta posición tiene pocas chances de ser aceptada,  se trata de una posición de “retaguardia” como alternativa al dudoso supuesto de que es posible continuar con la perpetuación del vanguardismo. A pesar de su preocupación por la estructura, enfatizar la condición tectónica no implica optar por el constructivismo o el deconstructivismo. Es a-estilístico. Tampoco busca legitimidad en la ciencia, la literatura o el arte.

De origen griego, el término tectónica deriva de Tekton, que significa carpintero o constructor. Remite al termino sánscrito taksan que refiere al oficio de carpintero y al uso del hacha. Remanentes de un término similar pueden rastrearse en los Vedas refiriendo a la carpintería. Aparece en Homero con referencia a la carpintería y al arte de la construcción en general.

Su connotación poética aparece por primera vez en Safo en la que el carpintero asume el rol de poeta. Este significado evoluciona en la medida en que deja de ser usado para algo específico o físico como la carpintería, para ser empleado como una noción más genérica de construcción y luego como un aspecto de la poesía. En Aristofanes incluso la encontramos asociada a maquinación y a la creación de cosas falsas. Esta evolución etimológica sugeriría un lento pasaje de lo ontológico a lo representativo. Finalmente el término latino Architectus deriva del griego archis (persona de autoridad) y tekton (artesano o constructor).

En 1850 el estudioso alemán K. O. Muller lo definió en términos algo toscos como “serie de artes que dan forma y perfeccionan navíos, implementos, viviendas y lugares de reunión”. El término fue elaborado por Karl Bötticher en 

La tectónica de los helenos de 1843 y por Semper en su ensayo Los cuatro elementos de la Arquitectura del mismo año. Luego lo desarrolló en su estudio Estilo en las artes técnicas y tectónicas o Estética práctica, publicado entre 1863 y 1867.

El término tectónica no puede divorciarse de lo tecnológico y esto le otorga cierta ambivalencia. En este sentido es posible identificar tres condiciones diferentes: lo tecnológico que surge de enfrentar un fin instrumental, lo escenográfico usado para aludir a un elemento ausente u oculto, y lo tectónico que aparece de manera ontológica y representativa. La primera tiene que ver con los elementos constructivos que son formalizados de manera de enfatizar el rol estático: la interpretación de Bötticher de la columna dórica. La segunda es la representación de un elemento constructivo que está presente, pero oculto. 

Esas modalidades son paralelas a la distinción que hace Semper de lo estructural-técnico y lo estructural-simbólico.

Además Semper divide la forma construida en dos procedimientos materiales: la tectónica correspondiente a estructuras concebidas como un armazón en la cual elementos de diferente largo se articulan para dar lugar a un espacio, y la estereotómica correspondiente a construcciones a la compresión a través del apilamiento de elementos de similares características El término estereotómica deriva de las palabras griegas para sólido –stereotos- y corte –tomia. En el primer caso los materiales más comunes a lo largo de la historia han sido la madera y sus equivalentes: bambú, zarzas y otros entretejidos. En el segundo caso el elemento más común ha sido el ladrillo y sus equivalentes: piedra, rocas, adobe y, más tarde, el hormigón armado. Hay algunas excepciones a esta clasificación: por ejemplo cuando la piedra ha sido cortada y encastrada de modo de asumir la forma y la función de una estructura reticulada.

Se trata de hechos tan familiares que las consecuencias ontológicas de estas diferencias pasan desapercibidas: el modo en que la estructura como armazón tiende a la desmaterialización al tiempo que la materialidad y el peso de la masa tiende a enraizarse en la tierra. Estos opuestos -la inmaterialidad del armazón y la materialidad y gravidez de la masa- simbolizan dos opuestos cosmológicos: el cielo y la tierra.  Y a pesar de la extrema secularización de nuestra era tecno-científica, estas polaridades todavía son constituyentes de nuestra experiencia. 

Se puede sostener que la práctica arquitectónica se empobrece al desconocer estos valores y los modos en que están intrínsecamente latentes en la estructura. Nos recuerdan, siguiendo a Heidegger, que los objetos inanimados también evocan al “ser” a través de su analogía con nuestro cuerpo y la anatomía de un edificio puede ser percibido como si fuera parte de nuestra psique. Esto nos remite al modo en que Semper privilegia a la articulación, a los encuentros, como el elemento tectónico primordial.

Articulaciones y encuentros son la transición sintáctica fundamental en la medida en que a través de ellos se pasa de la masa estereotómica a la estructura como esqueleto. Son un punto de condensación ontológica, más que una mera conexión. Basta pensar en la obra de Carlo Scarpa para tomar conciencia de una manifestación contemporánea de este atributo.

Bötticher elaboró el concepto de tectónica de varias maneras. Entendió la importancia conceptual de los encuentros como espacio para la interrelación de elementos constructivos diversos. Articulados e integrados, son constitutivos del cuerpo de la edificación garantizando la terminación material y también elementos simbólicos. También hizo una distinción entre la noción de Kernform, (forma esencial) y la Kunstform dada por aplicaciones decorativas con el propósito de representar el valor institucional de la obra. Según su criterio, esta envolvente debía revelar el núcleo tectónico. También sostuvo la necesidad de diferenciar la forma estructural esencial de todo enriquecimiento, se trate de la formalización de algún elemento constructivo (como en la columna dórica) o de un revestimiento que lo viste.

Bötticher tuvo gran influencia en la idea de  J. von Schelling de que arquitectura son aquellos edificios que trascienden todo fin pragmático, asumiendo valores de significación simbólica. Para ambos lo inorgánico no tiene significado por lo que la estructura sólo puede adquirir este valor a través de su capacidad de engendrar analogías entre lo tectónico y la forma orgánica. Sin embargo, cualquier imitación directa de una forma natural debía ser evitada en la medida en que consideraban que la arquitectura solo era un arte imitativo de sí mismo. 

Esta perspectiva tiende a corroborar la afirmación de Grassi de que la arquitectura siempre estuvo distanciada de las artes figurativas, aun cuando su forma pueda ser considerada en paralelo con la naturaleza, sirviendo simultáneamente como metáfora y de envoltura de lo orgánico. Este pensamiento puede rastrearse hasta la Teoría de la belleza formal de Semper de 1856 en la que en, lugar de agrupar la arquitectura con la pintura y la escultura como un arte plástico, la ubica junto a la música y la danza con artes cósmicos, como una forma ontológica de hacer el mundo y no como una forma representativa.

Los cuatro elementos de la arquitectura de Semper de 1852 redondea este pensamiento en la medida que otorga una dimensión antropológica a la idea de tectónica. Su esquema teórico constituye un quiebre fundamental respecto a los cuatro siglos de vigencia de la formula utilitas, firmitas y venustas subyacente en toda la teoría post vitruviana. Esta reformulación surge de una reproducción de la cabaña caribeña que ve en la Gran Exposición de 1851 cuya empírica realidad lo hace rechazar la cabaña primitiva propuesta por Laugier en 1753 como forma primordial y sustento del paradigma neoclásico. En oposición, Semper recurre a una construcción antropológica de cuatro fases: el sitio, el trabajo con la tierra, el armazón con cubierta y la membrana envolvente.
De esa manera no sólo repudia la autoridad neoclásica, sino que da prioridad al esqueleto estructural sobre la masa portante. También reconoce la importancia del trabajo en tierra que sirve para anclar el armazón o el muro en el sitio.

Esta referencia al sitio y el trabajo en la tierra tuvo ramificaciones teóricas: aisló la membrana envolvente como un acto diferenciado, identificándola con la producción textil que considera como base de la civilización. También otorgó importancia simbólica a un elemento no espacial: el sitio, inseparable de los trabajos con el suelo, al que remiten los usos simbólicos de la palabra fundación o cimiento.

La vinculación de esta teoría con elementos fenomenológicos tuvo fuertes connotaciones sociales y espirituales. El origen en el suelo remite al altar y, como tal, es el nexo espiritual de la forma arquitectónica. El verbo latín aedisficare significa literalmente hacer con tierra, connotación que se traduce en las acepciones de educar, fortalecer e instruir de edificar

Influenciado por las reflexiones lingüísticas y antropológicas de su tiempo, Semper se interesó por la etimología de construir diferenciando la masividad de una fortificación en piedra de la palabra Mauer, respecto al entramado liviano de las construcciones medievales para las que se usaba el término Wand, asociada a términos del vestido como Winden que significa bordado. En consonancia con la importancia que daba a lo textil, Semper sostiene que el primer artefacto estructural fue el nudo que predomina en las construcciones de los nómades, especialmente en las tiendas de los beduinos. 

Esto tiene connotaciones etimológicas que vinculan el nudo con la articulación o junta y sirve para sustentar su primacía en el arte de construir.

Esta primacía del nudo también aparece en el ensayo de Gunter Nitschke sobre la cultura Shito y sus rituales agrarios de renovación, asociados al atar las gavillas que convergen en la asociación entre construir, habitar, cultivar y ser sugerida por Heidegger.

La distinción entre tectónico y estereotómico de Semper reaparece en una conferencia de Vittorio Gregotti de 1893 donde defiende la primacía del replanteo como acto tectónico primordial.

El peor enemigo de la arquitectura moderna es la idea de espacio en términos de exigencias económicas y técnicas, e indiferente a la idea de sitio

El entorno construido es la representación física de su historia y del modo en que se han acumulado diferentes niveles de significado para dar forma a una cualidad del sitio.

La geografía es la descripción de cómo los signos de la historia se han transformado. El proyecto arquitectónico está a cargo de revelar la esencia del contexto ambiental a través de su transformación. Por lo tanto, en entorno no es un sistema donde disolver la arquitectura sino el material más importante desde donde desarrollar el proyecto.

A través del concepto de sitio y el principio del asentamiento, el entorno es la esencia de la producción arquitectónica. Desde este punto de vista se pueden derivar nuevos principios y métodos de diseño que dan precedencia al asentamiento en un área específica. El origen de la arquitectura no es la cabaña primitiva o la caverna. Antes de transformar un soporte en columna o, un techo en tímpano, el hombre colocó una piedra sobre el suelo para reconocer un sitio en medio de un universo desconocido, para tenerlo en cuenta y modificarlo. A pesar de su simplicidad, se trata de un acto de extrema relevancia. Desde esta perspectiva hay dos actitudes fundamentales frente al contexto: la imitación orgánica o su valoración a través de relaciones físicas, la definición formal y la interiorización de su complejidad.

Con la tectónica en mente es posible revisar la historia de la arquitectura moderna. El impulso tectónico puede ser trazado a lo largo del siglo poniendo en evidencia conexiones más importantes que las diferencias o semejanzas estilísticas superficiales. Niveles similares de articulación tectónica vinculan la Bolsa de Amsterdam de Berlage con el Larkin Building de Wright y el complejo Beheer de Hertzberger. Es posible identificar una concatenación similar de soportes y vigas que remiten a una sintaxis tectónica donde la transferencia de fuerzas pasa a través de una serie de transiciones articuladas que generan subdivisiones espaciales y viceversa. Encontramos una preocupación similar por la junta en Perret y en Kahn aunque el primero remita al racionalismo estructural del ideal clásico y Kahn evoque un arcaísmo tecnológicamente avanzado. La inspiración puede remitir a Viollet-le-Duc o a Semper, como la concepción de la forma como petrificación de un entramado en Wright evidente en los bloques textiles de sus casas de 1920. Es posible reconocer las mismas preocupaciones textiles, la división del volumen en espacios sirvientes y servidos y la consideración expresiva de los servicios mecánicos tanto en el Larkin con en los Laboratorios Richard de Kahn.

También podemos rastrear una aproximación tectónica similar en figuras europeas como Carlo Scarpa, Franco Albini, Jorn Utzon, Saenz de Oiza o Rafael Moneo.

La importancia de los encuentros y articulaciones en la obra de Scarpa para poner en evidencia la naturaleza sintácticamente tectónica de su arquitectura ha sido brillantemente caracterizada por Marco Frascari haciendo referencia a la importancia de los detalles.

–          “La arquitectura es un arte porque no sólo se interesa en la necesidad primaria de abrigo sino por su capacidad de unir de manera significativa materiales y espacios. Esto ocurre a través de articulaciones formales y concretas. La articulación, ese detalle fértil, es el lugar donde la construcción y la capacidad constructiva de la arquitectura tienen lugar. Es útil recordar que en significado original de la raíz indo-europea de la palabra arte es junta.”

Si la obra de Scarpa asume importancia por acentuar el valor de estos encuentros, la contribución de Utzon ha sido su reinterpretación de los cuatro elementos de Semper en la dialéctica entre los movimientos de tierra de la plataforma, y la cubierta y las envolventes textiles que remiten a la pagoda, se trate de una cubiertas de cáscaras o de una placa plegada. Una similar articulación entre el trabajo con el suelo y la cubierta es evidente en el Museo en Merida de Moneo.

Como hemos afirmado, la tectónica yace entre una serie de opuestos: entre lo ontológico y lo representativo, la cultura de lo pesado –estereotómica- y de lo liviano, la tectónica. En un extremo tenemos las construcciones en tierra de los tiempos primitivos que comenzaban con la toma de posesión del sitio; en el otro las aspiraciones a la desmaterialización del Crystal Palace de Paxton. De todas formas muy pocas obras pueden caracterizarse exclusivamente por algunos de estos extremos.

Algo debe ser dicho sobre la dis-yunción como opuesto a la idea de encuentro. Me refiero a cuando las cosas parecen colisionar unas con otras en lugar de conectarse; ese fulcrum significativo en el que un sistema, superficie o material termina en forma abrupta para dar lugar a otro. En este caso la ruptura tiene tanta significación como la conexión.

Como afirma Sigfried Giedion en El presente eterno (1962), entre los impulsos más profundos de la cultura de la primera mitad del siglo ha estado el deseo transvanguardista de retornar a la atemporalidad del pasado prehistórico, para recuperar esta dimensión de un presente eterno por fuera de las pesadillas de la historia y las compulsiones del progreso instrumental. Este deseo se insinúa como base desde donde resistir la mercantilización de la cultura. Dentro de la arquitectura, la tectónica aparece como una categoría mítica a través de la cual ingresar a un mundo donde la “presencia” de las cosas facilite la aparición y experiencia de los hombres.

Más allá de las aporías de la historia y el progreso, y por fueran de enmarques reaccionarios del Historicismo y las neo-vanguardias, yace la potencialidad para una contra-historia marginal. Tiene que ver con los intentos de Vico de referir a las lógicas poéticas de las instituciones insistiendo que el conocimiento no es una simple provincia de los hechos objetivos sino la consecuencia de la elaboración subjetiva y colectiva de los mitos arquetípicos, es decir la reunión de las verdades simbólicas subyacentes en la experiencia humana. El mito crítico de las articulaciones tectónicas apunta a ese momento ejercitado desde la continuidad del tiempo
•             Publicado originalmente en Architectural Design 60, nº 3-4, 1990