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De los Alpes al Atlántico (5) La Grande-Motte, Neufert y el retro futurismo

La Grande Motte

Cuando estudiaba en la Escuela de Arquitectura había un libro básico para los novatos: Arte de Proyectar en Arquitectura, de Ernst Neufert. No se trataba de su metodología de proyecto, sino de su sistemática descripción de la medida de las cosas o las proporciones (dos tabicas+ una huella en un escalón=63 o 64, 44 cm como anchura de asiento…). Ernst Neufert vivió entre 1900 y 1968 y publicó la primera edición de su libro en 1936; pero en la edición de 1986 aún había menciones a fuentes como el instituto Kaiser Guillermo.

Si bien es cierto que la dimensión del ser humano medio no ha variado tanto (y esa era la base de esas dimensiones), también lo es que algunas de las soluciones constructivas o de diseño recogidas en el libro parecen hoy en día anacrónicas. Cuartos de baño mínimos en los que el suelo cuenta con un desagüe para servir en conjunto como duchas, o escaleras con peldañeados imposibles para ahorrar espacio muestran que en la Alemania de la primera mitad del siglo XX aún había un problema importante de vivienda, y que eso también existía, aunque no guste reconocerlo, en otros muchos países (lo cual hace pensar si el Neufert no podría ser un éxito de venta en los “países emergentes”, que siguen teniendo muchos de esos problemas).

La Grande Motte tiene algo de eso. Es un modelo de asentamiento turístico diametralmente opuesto al de otros emplazamientos mediterráneos, como Benidorm, basados en una amplia laxitud del planeamiento. Aquí, en el marco de un programa de saneamiento y promoción turística del entorno de las lagunas del Languedoc bajo De Gaulle, se planteó una ciudad de vacaciones con arquitecturas que destacaran por sus formas entonces futuristas. Los edificios siguen siendo llamativos (aunque no necesariamente hermosos), pero cuando uno se acerca algunas cosas se muestran extrañamente pequeñas, o superadas por las expectativas de confort. Parece casi un ejemplo de retro futurismo; no es en ese sentido tan diferente a Benidorm, donde los rascacielos de hace décadas siguen ahí, con una obsolescencia clara en muchos aspectos, pero representando pese a todo un ideal de futuro pasado, mucho más anárquico en la imagen, aunque con una estética quizás más potente aún. No se alcanzan las cotas del bajo Manhattan (el único casco histórico que conozco con amplios conjuntos de edificios de más de 100 metros), pero hay algo de eso.

Y sin embargo, La Grande Motte no es igual. La profusión de espacios libres públicos y privados, con densidades menores que en el caso de Benidorm, y la idea de comunidad cerrada por las propias condiciones físicas del emplazamiento (podría rodarse una versión de el Show de Truman a la francesa) hace que la relación con el agua y la presencia en el paisaje sean diferentes… desde un punto de vista europeo, porque hay ciertas cosas que casi podrían ser del sur de Florida….

plu Grande Motte

From Alps to Atlantic (4) Nice

nice-table orientation
An august morning in Nice (some years ago) has many things to see; as in many other cities, but here, from the castle, you feel you can see more:
Niza1
– Planes. Lots of them (one of the busiest airport in France), which you can see take off and land, as the runways seem an aircraft carrier; you feel you can almos touch them, as here the approach is curved (I never saw something like that, at least in Spain), and this makes traffic all the most spectacular. The aeronautical servitudes map seems an Enric Miralles’s architecture.
Servitudes aeronautiques NICE
– The beach is quite active; cobblestones, so less hospitable that sand beaches.
playa niza
– The Promenade des Anglais is quite used. Compared to other more modern sea walks, its beach sidewalk is utterly simple (its prestige comes more from the buildings on the land sidewalk), but seems to work well; it is wide, the most important thing, and at least it is not cluttered with nonsense stuff.
– Seen from a distance the hills could be almost anywhere in the northern Mediterranean coast. The percentage of eyesores on the landscape is lesser than in Spain or Italy, but they also happen to exist.
– On the harbour there are many yachts the size of a navy corvette (although not as many as in Monte Carlo). In fact, that area seems among the least active of this landscape, but it attracts the eye in a quite ordered wharf, which still shows the Italian origin of the city.

niza-puerto

From Alps to Atlantic (3) Mestre

Mestre

Can you just talk about Elephant and Castle and not about London? Or Jersey and not Manhattan? I’ll try to write about Mestre (where I took not a single picture) without mentioning the one reference across the lagoon (339 snaps in 4 days).

I can talk about Mestre in many ways (not to my pride somehow): a place where you get from an airport to jump into a train each morning and come back to sleep each night. Or a harbour where I never saw a ship. Or a place where each night I thougt “here, at least you have not to pull a luggage through low light and somehow derelict, narrow streets”. But the simplest would be to say that Mestre is just a sample of the 95% of the European territory in which we live despite the fact it is not that thrilling, even if it is much more practical than the really emotional 5% that makes us go through Mestre in the first place.

And the “best” is that once you’re out, you read and conclude that, had you known that city under different conditions, it could even have been intresting. But you can’t be the gate to Venice and remain unharmed…

From the Alps to Atlantic (1) Salzburg

Kapuzinsberg as seen from the Modern Art Museum, in Mönschberg

Kapuzinsberg as seen from the Modern Art Museum, in Mönschberg

To many people (above a certain age…) the image of Salzburg can be that of “The sound of music”. Incidentally, Germans and Austrians seem not to have liked the film due to the many inconsistencies it displays, both in geography and in terms of relation with the real story of the Trap family; it seems their canonical story was the one of a previous German movie. It is also a place marked (just ask tourists) by Mozart and the music festival.

Elevations in the central area, according to ASTER data

Elevations in the central area, according to ASTER data

In physical terms, Salzburg is a city in the valley of the Salzach, marked by the presence of two large hills: Kapuzinberg to the east, rising some 230 m over the river, and Mönschberg to the west, with lesser heights but a clear plateau. The German border is just across the airport, and according to the elevation map, here it seems the Austrians got the mountains and the Germans the plains. Quite fast you get over 1.000 m, mainly to the south, with impressive views of the summits.

UNESCO core area limits

UNESCO core area limits

The historical core of Salzburg is inscribed in the UNESCO World Heritage List since 1996. The core area encompasses 236 hectares, in which the two hills are almost half the surface, and the buffer zone measures 467 hectares. The site declaration recognizes the role of the city as a meeting point for northern and southern Europe; the city is considered a relevant example of an European ecclesiastical city-state, preserving well its townscape and architecture, and a relevant arts city, especially when it comes to music, with Mozart as an example.

Medieval walls in Mönschberg

Medieval walls in Mönschberg

The west as seen from Mönschberg

The west as seen from Mönschberg

The 1997 Flächenwidmungsplan (Municipal Plan) clearly protects the two main hills, surrounded by urban land (red). The city, which was initiated between both hills, has today filled most of the level areas. The geometric proportion of hills, river and urban tissue, despite the built density, deliver a balanced result in the urban core.

The urban development plan

The urban development plan

Salzburg could have chosen to maintain its landscape only in the space between hills (most of the tourists never get out of that area), but overall there seems not to exist any major nuisance in the rest of the city. And the Alps are always there on the background, a much more important feature than the debate on whether the film is really authentic…

The Alps as seen looking south from Mönschberg

The Alps as seen looking south from Mönschberg

Visibility

lcg-zap2

Two images from two quite different cities: Salzburg in Austria, and La Coruña, in Spain (up to you to sort which image corresponds to each city…) . Two strong landscapes and the difference is in the ability of each city to do an interesting thing on these landscapes. More on this in next posts.

szbrg1

The Aspern Airport (2)

Diagrams from the presentation report

Diagrams from the presentation report

Chances are some have taken as negative my comments on the Aspern project ; as a matter of fact, comparing it to other suburban model scan seem far from positive, but as I have already said the project seems quite reasonable. All my comments are conditioned by the fact that the area will take to time to be built (first residents should move in around the end of 2014).

The project prioritizes these issues:

  • Whatis presented as a sustainable density. The total scope of the project is 240 hectares, with a built area of 2,2 million sq m, so FAR would be 0,91, quite higher than an usual suburban scheme.
  • Functional diversity, with room for 20.000 residents and 20.000 jobs; the goal of a housing- employment balance, easy to aim at but not that easy to get in a metropolitan area. The project includes ideas about the use of the ground floor, and despite a clear concentration of jobs on the south-eastern part, some degrees of flexibility are included.
  • Spatial diversity, with a proposal marked by a circular avenue with organises a neighbourhood turned towards a lake. The typologies and heights are similar, but the organization of volumes at the architectural scale seems a bit more diverse.

The project could have been based in a regular grid layout, as everything around, to begin with the neighbouring suburbs, called for that. The urban planners (Tovatt, from Sweden) have rather chosen a geometry which, at first glance, seems to stem form an organic genesis, almost a pre-existing plan; this look comes from a transition between the rectangular edges of the site and the circular avenue using not to sharp angles and sometimes curved streets.

The anular avenue may seem at first sight the Vienna Ringstrasse; but in fact it seems quite a departure (more in next posts)

The anular avenue may seem at first sight the Vienna Ringstrasse; but in fact it seems quite a departure (more in next posts)

Biblio (96) The Aspern Airfield

Aspern-planta

In 1912 the Vienna Airport opens at Aspern; in 1975 car races start, and in 1982 a General Motors Factory opens. As of the end of the 1980s, there are already talks to take the airplanes out, and in 2008 an architectural competition is launched, and won by Tovatt and Associates.

The project is interesting in several senses: it seems quite good in technical terms, but it is, even in a caricature sense, a material translation of the analysis made by David Mangin in “La Ville Franchisée”: a project of a certain density, with limited connections to its surrounding, creating its own ringstrase… A somehow closed world, linked to the motorway and the subway.

A good website with abundant English documents.

Being up to it (4) Retiro

Retiro, at the edge of a plateau

Retiro, at the edge of a plateau. 100 m grid

The Retiro park appears as a peripheral hunting ground (not unlike other parks in many European royal capitals), east of the Prado creek, by then the urban limit of Madrid.

The Texeira map shows that garden as related to an essential part of its ensemble, the Palacio del Buen Retiro, now disappeared (not unlike what happens in Paris with the Tuileries garden and the palace that disappeared during the Commune). The Palace was on the natural ramp ensuring a clear link to the city; nowadays the Jeronimos neighbourhood and the Prado Museums compound have substituted it.

South of the park the urban limit is much less clear; the Observatory sits atop a cliff facing Atocha, while north of Reina Victoria street the urban fabric is confuse. The south section of Menéndez Pelayo shows clearly the differences in level, but along the northern section and Alcalá and Alfonso XII the park is at street level. The park is not a flat platform, as the Palacio de Cristal shows, but the elevation variations are reasonably integrated in the design.

Being up to it (3) Kings game

The area as seen from nort

The area as seen from north. The Palace is the mass under the dome of La Almudena, on the left.

The Royal Palace of Madrid stands on a platform 55 m higher than the Manzanares bank. I once heard that the initial plan submited by Filippo Juvara, the architect, was for a building with four main courts, but that it had to be reduced to just one as there was such a steep slope (contour lines were still in the distant future, so such projects were not necesarily easy when made from a distance.

The level difference between the Palace and the river is solved through garden platforms; a new project now being built, the Royal Collections Museum, just adapts to that gap. Just south of the platform on which the Palace and the Almudena Cathedral are is the Viaduct, an urban bridge which has been for years a choice spot for… suicide, taking advantage of the difference in level.

A 1 m interval contour map. The river area is not acurrate, as the source data was probably collected during a recent works period

A 1 m interval contour map with a 100 m grid. The river area is not acurrate, as the source data was probably collected during a recent works period

Preliminary works for the Royal Collections Museum, as portrayed on http://www.edicioneslalibreria.es/la-historia-de-madrid-bajo-el-museo-de-colecciones-reales/

Current state of the Museum

Current state of the Museum