Arquitectura Viva
Saturday, October 31, 2020

Arquitectura Viva 82


Foster, Fuksas, Norten, Perrault, Piano, Zwimpfer
I-II 2002

Glass Codes. With its extreme lightness, the iron and glass structures of the 19th century anticipated the importance that glass would take on in the 20th. Not only because of its technical possibilities, but also because of the symbolic connotations implicit in its transparency, this material was identified with the modern preference for geometrically pure prisms and explicit construction. In the 21st century, new technologies made possible the appearance of vitreous skins, more and more refined and sophisticated: the search for that dematerialized architecture that the historical avant-garde imagined continues.


Jorge Sainz
Mythical Transparencies
The Historical Image of Glass
Ignacio Paricio
The Limits of Glass
A Structural Material?
Ferrán Figuerola
Signature Glass
Curved or Silk Screened Skins

Cover Story  

Crystalline Constructions. To design the translucent enclosure of the Maison Hermès in a central commercial quarter of Tokyo, Piano calls on the spirit of the Chareau who designed the glass block wall of the Maison de Verre, while Fuksas has Mies in mind when building his twin and transparent towers on the periphery of Vienna. Aside from taking advantage of its thermal features, Perrault in the French media library of Venissieux and Foster in the new Greater London Authority headquarters use glass in association with the democratic openness of two institutional buildings. Lastly, Norten and Gómez-Pimienta in Mexico DF and Zwimpfer in Basel opt for the aesthetic qualities of glass: as an ambiguous veil in a housing block transformed into a luxury hotel, and as a ‘canvas’ of artistic interventions in an office building.


Renzo Piano
Maison Hermès, Japón
Massimiliano Fuksas
Torres de oficinas, Viena

Dominique Perrault
Mediateca central, Venissieux
Norman Foster
Sede de la GLA, Londres

Norten y Gómez-Pimienta
Hotel Habita, México DF
Hans Zwimpfer
Peter Merian Haus, Basilea

Views and Reviews  

Centenarian Masters. The year 2002 marks the 100th anniversary of five significant modern architects, while exhibitions and other feasts celebrate the 150th anniversary of the birth of the Catalan Antoni Gaudí. Because they contributed to create an architecture that still today keeps an ‘aura’ of novelty, both the visionary projects that the Russian Ivan Leonidov was never able to raise, and the furniture and buildings that the Dane Arne Jacobsen and the Hungarian Marcel Breuer managed to materialize deserve to be remembered.

  Art / Culture 

Luis Fernández-Galiano
Six Centennials and a Half
Ginés Garrido
Leonidov’s Fortune
Paloma Gil
Jacobsen, Quotidian Coherence
María Teresa Valcarce
Breuer, the Solid Avant-Garde

Historiography and Chronicle. A critical study of modern architecture’s histories and a visual chronicle of its buildings share protagonism on the shelves with monographs devoted to 20th century and contemporary figures.
  Focho’s Cartoon
Bernard Tschumi
Various Authors
Recent Projects 

Three Works by Kengo Kuma. With the objective of blending architecture with the environment, the Japanese Kuma recovers the traditions of his country, especially those of its delicate latticeworks and screens, and reinterprets them within the contemporary context of two small museums far from the city noise and a parking building next to a station, using stone, wood and concrete. The detailing, combination and superposing of these materials create unusual light effects and blur the limits between exterior and interior.

  Technique / Style 

Kenichi Ueki
Kuma, Poetic Screens
A Light Weight
Stone Museum, Nasu
Luminous Shavings
Hiroshige Ando Museum, Batou
Concrete Scores
Parking, Takasaki

To close, the journalist Marc Llorens, resident in Buenos Aires and author of several guides of the city, recounts the effects on the Argentinian capital and its buildings of the political and economic crisis sparked off on 20 December.   Products
Glass, Ceramic, Furniture
Marc Llorens
Buenos Aires after 20-D
Luis Fernández-Galiano

Glass Codes

Mute glass gave voice to the 20th century; in the current one, glass shouts out to make itself heard. The two souls of glass gave life to the avant-gardes: the carved facets of crystalline glass served as a symbol of a luminous regeneration, and the laminar accuracy of transparent glass was used as an emblem of mechanical perfection. If the quartz crystals of Alpine architectures promised to renovate the world with the mineral purity of nature, the vitreous facades of urban constructions proposed to transform the environment using the reason of the machine, and both reflections and transparencies combined to design a future of material and visual clarity. But neither the subjective sparkles of expressionism adjusted well to the geometric matrix of enlightened objectivity, nor the baroque illusions of mirrors accepted their exile from the territory of modernity, and the even panorama of transparent glass ended up breaking apart to form a landscape of shimmering crystalline splinters.


Modern transparency had found in glass the best metaphor of a society open to scrutiny, fascinated by industrial precision, and that pursued to build with constructive truth, functional logic and elementary forms. This interpretation, canonical since Pevsner and Giedion, which found the core of the century in mechanization, Gropius and Berlin, was questioned by Anglo-Saxon formalist criticism, which preferred to articulate the modern revolution through artistic mutations, Le Corbusier and Paris, and this is the story underlying Colin Rowe’s emphasis on the apparent transparency of cubist painting as compared with the literal transparency of glass architectures. However, modern glass would not be shattered by this historiographic revision, but rather by the dramatic political convulsions that undermined the optimistic trust in the enlightened project, bearing witness to the totalitarian dimension of technical reason, and showing the obscurely oppressive character of the transparent city of lights.

As Goethe on his deathbed, modern architecture demanded “light, more light”, and that luminous will ended up perverting itself in crystalline prisms that science fiction imagined inhabited by androids, while the jagged utopias of Taut in the Alps were replaced by the frozen geode of Superman in the Arctic, and the essential geometries of Malevich gave birth to Kubrick’s hermetic monolith, an inhuman crystal that summarizes the terminal crisis of modern reason. The cold fragility of glass makes it so unfriendly to touch as oblivious to shelter or marks, and it is not surprising that Barragán warned us about the mistake of having replaced “the protection of walls for the exposure of glass”, nor that Derrida staged his rupture with deconstructivist architects in the context of their defense of glass, whose unalterable nature “does not allow human existence to leave traces of its passage”. While we hear the crash of broken glass, the vitreous dream becomes a glazed awakening.

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