Mansilla + Tuñón: A Declaration of Intent
Reason and Form
MEMORY AND THE CITY
Provincial Museum, Zamora
Municipal Auditorium, León
Royal Collections Museum, Madrid
SYSTEM AND CONSTRAINTS
An Approximation to Mansilla + Tuñón: The Monte Carlo Method
Indoor swimming pool, San Fernando de Henares, Madrid
Extension to the Reina Sofía Museum, Madrid
Community of Madrid Documentation Center, Madrid
SAMENESS AND DIFFERENCE
Fine Arts Museum, Castellón
Housing, Sarriguren, Navarre
Civic Center, Sabadell, Barcelona
Luis Rojo de Castro
Monuments and Anti-monuments
Castile and León Museum of Contemporary Art (MUSAC), León
Municipal Library, Jerez de la Frontera, Cádiz
Museum of Cantabria, Santander
TRACE AND LANDSCAPE
From Landmark to Land-Marking: A Response to Urban Largesse
Multi-use building, Teruel
Sports complex for the Grand Slam Tennis Tournament, Madrid
Science Park, Granada
Cultural complex, Logroño
Kette Glas - Circus Rings
Mansilla + Tuñón - Travel Conversations
Mansilla + Tuñón: A Declaration of Intent
The work published in this monograph takes account of the activity of Luis M. Mansilla and Emilio Tuñón as architects since they set up their professional studio ten years ago in Madrid. Without wishing to enter into critical analysis of the latter, I am nevertheless interested in registering the fact that the work built up until now may be considered a declaration of intent of what their future undertakings will be. To reveal such intentions is the purpose that gives meaning to a text like this one. Ten fruitful years of professional activity have enabled Mansilla + Tuñón to construct such notable works as the Museums of Castellón and Zamora or the Auditorium in León and to offer us projects as attractive as the Museum in Santander and that of the Royal Collections, buildings and projects that enable us to view their work as an ongoing reflection on the issues preoccupying them as architects. Bearing in mind the risk that any reductive analysis always runs, I will try in these few lines to explain by means of ten brief notes suggested to me by their buildings, what are, as I see it, the main lines of the ambitious architectural program established by Mansilla + Tuñón in their built work as of now.
1. Architecture as invention of a constructional system.
Almost all of Mansilla + Tuñón's projects understand the work of architecture as the visual expression of a constructional system. The building emerges as the outcome of a constructional process that generally takes geometry as its basis. We see this, then, in the"stacked windows" of León, in the "superposed piers" of the Royal Collections, in the "industrial skylights" of Zamora, or in the "faceted lucarnes" of Santander. What is seen, the figure, is the outcome of showing the constructional system.
2. Architecture as materiality.
The choice of the material with which to construct the forms the three-dimensional models that helped define the system I alluded to in the last paragraph predicted, is a crucial moment in the project design. An awareness of the importance materials have in all architecture is always present in their works: the character of the built is entrusted to the materials, thus becoming an essential component of their architectures. Hence one might speak of architectures adhering phenomenologically to the material.
3. Architecture as nature of another kind. The materialization in architecture of a formal system gives rise to open figures not so distant from those we find in nature and in which the laws of growth do not succeed in becoming known, although we might always point to the value seriation and repetition have. As in the crystals that grow in the concavity of a rock, Mansilla + Tuñón's buildings spread forth in the landscape or are included in urban fabrics, insisting once again on the old idea which contrives to see that which is built by human beings as a second sort of nature. The architecture of Mansilla + Tuñón explores seriation and repetition, inventing formal systems in which grouping guarantees openness.
4. Architecture as an assembly of primary elements.
The stated theme of this note has to be understood as a corollary of the above three. The construction of architectonic systems implies the presence of primary elements, with the result that in Mansilla + Tuñón's architecture they are always present before us. The iconographic condition of their architecture seems to reside much more in these than in any other possible synthetic and unitary form. The Santander project, or the one for the Royal Collections, clearly demonstrates how much Mansilla + Tuñón rely on the value of primary elements: the definition of the latter is fundamental in most of their work; they have to have iconographic value, but must also respond to the norms of good building.
5. Architecture as geography.
Architecture is by definition inscribed in a place, consolidating or transforming it; endowing it with life, in short. Despite the fact that today so many thinkers speak of the non-place, Mansilla + Tuñón's architecture goes to prove that place cannot be overlooked, that the apparent generality of the built always enters into friction with what was. It might be proper to say that the initial moment in which the system is imagined, or if you like invented, is already a response to place. This is how it is in Santander, in Zamora, in the Royal Collections.
6. Architecture as a concern indifferent to usage.
Mansilla + Tuñón's architecture doesn't appear to be interested in identifying itself in any exclusive way with function. Architectures are to hand. A person might say that such an attitude coincides with the one which insists on claiming that buildings are containers capable of absorbing any usage. It may be that Mansilla + Tuñón subscribe to such a view. In it there would be a certain wish to distance themselves from the specific, something which doubtless vouchsafes indifference. But it may be that this was simply the outcome of having ascertained in some of their works that that's the way things are. Naturally I'm thinking of projects like the remodelling of the El Águila brewery in Madrid: in it Mansilla + Tuñón have given proof of both their intuition as architects and the value there is in thinking of architecture by understanding that it ought not to be seen as a reality strictly limited by the notion of function.
7. Architecture as experience of space.
That architecture provides society with spaces in which to live is something we all understand and take for granted. But understanding the experience of space as the substance of architecture isn't so much this, above all over the last few years. Mansilla + Tuñón remain faithful to this premise, which a number of architects so earnestly called for in the last century, and wouldn't hesitate to include it in the set of principles that, as I see it, define what their architectural program is about. It would suffice to think of the interior of the Zamora Museum. Or of León, or of Santander. Mansilla + Tuñón posit their architecture in terms of space, and I'd even venture to say that they count on the sensory impact space is going to have on the users. This explains the monumentality of some of the interstitial spaces that appear in their buildings, in Zamora for instance, or the value the dilated, infinite unfolding of these spaces has, as occurs in Castellón.
8. Architecture as lady and mistress of light and shadow.
Mansilla + Tuñón's architecture lets itself be seen: the shadows delineate it. Yet on many occasions it's also a filter that nuances the light, whence the importance in their architecture of the elements harnessing this. Mansilla + Tuñón's architecture is frequently defined from the roof down, and this not only because it responds to museistic programs, but because of an awareness that a work of architecture is a world unto itself which anxiously awaits the arrival of light. The corporeal and tactile quality of their architecture -something that would in a way be complementary to the point in which we were speaking of the importance materials have in Mansilla + Tuñón work- explains the attention they pay to who is responsible for this, the light, occurring. But more than the Corbusian "jeu savant", the role of light in this architecture has something of the breath of spirit that instills life and gives meaning to what would otherwise be, in fact, inanimate.
9. Architecture as premeditated device.
To demonstrate its logic, to make us feel that everything within it is inevitable, has been architecture's main aim throughout its history. To cite but one example, let's consider Gothic architecture for a moment. Everything is in its place. The structure is displayed in all its nakedness and presented to us with implacable logic. It couldn't be any other way. This desire to make architecture intelligible, immediate, is something that's very present in Mansilla + Tuñón's architecture, it seems to me; something that would, "mutatis mutandis" bring it close to all those past architectures which girded themselves with structure in order to make one forget just how much they were, in principle, formal inventions.
10. Architecture as response to a social enigma.
In Mansilla + Tuñón's architecture there is, or at least there seems to me to be, a certain tendency towards archaism, to rehabilitating originary situations that were undoubtedly present in the oeuvres of those who first confronted the act of building. There is, as I see it, a desire of sorts to offer society a forthright architecture in which a certain nostalgia for the sacred could maybe be discerned. Whence their seriousness. Their consistency. Which, moreover, ought to also make them think of the perhaps necessary other side of the coin.