Five Projects by Rafeal Moneo

The following quotes are pulled from the book reviewed this week, Rafael Moneo: Remarks on 21 Works by Moneo and published by The Monacelli Press. The photographs are courtesy Michael Moran, from the same book.

Completed in 1981, the City Hall in LogroƱo, Spain is considered by Moneo as "city as architecture or buildings configured by fragments of the city." Inspired by Aldo Rossi's The Architecture of the City, a triangular open space fronting the city hall sits at an angle to the city's grid. The two long elevations facing this plaza are treated differently, one colonnaded and the other with punched openings, what Moneo further describes as a "way of understanding the city hall through its composition in relation to urban space."

Another city hall project can be found in the City Hall Extension in Murcia, Spain. Completed in 1998, Moneo approached the project as "revering the existing architecture while conceiving the new one free from contextual and stylistic references." The building fronts Cardinal Belluga Piazza and looks across to the facade of the Cathedral of Murcia. Moneo started the project as Deconstructivism was sweeping academia, having displaced Postmodernism as the prevailing style and approach to context. His design is between these two extremes, most prominently "a structure of superimposed pilasters that immediately brings to mind the idea of the facade as a retable [a frame with objects behind an altar]," therefore linking it to the Cathedral.

For the Kursaal Concert Hall and Convention Center in San Sebastian, Spain, Moneo approached the project as one in which "singular geographic conditions demand an intuitive architectural response." This is one of the architect's best known projects, completed in 1999: two skewed and sloping cubes sit atop a plinth by the mouth of the Urumea River overlooking San Sebastian Bay. Moneo "deliberately strove to avoid a conventional architectural solution ... [and] avoid any reference to the existing urban fabric. Thus two cubes emerged, two abstract volumes capable of fulfilling the program [and] fitting into the landscape."

Moneo approached the Audrey Jones Building at the Museum of Fine Arts 1958 in Houston, Texas around "compactness as an architectural feature that accepts a building's urban condition without limiting the architect's freedom in the handling of its interior spaces." His design, completed in 2000, followed Mies van der Rohe's 1958 extension to the original museum and therefore raised the question of "whether to think of [the Jones Building] as yet another extension ... or to merely allude to it by building an autonomous volume." The latter prevailed, dictated mainly by its site on a separate block, linked to the old building by an underpass designed by James Turrell. A number of lantern skylights rise from a building with a predominantly solid wrapper. These skylights give freedom to the interior and make the museum "a machine for capturing light."

The last project, completed in 2003, is the General and Royal Archive of Navarra in Pamplona, Spain. "When requirements of appropriate use undermine the principle of 'indifference to function' in rehabilitating old buildings" is Moneo's description of his approach to the project. He skeptically approached the "trend of putting old buildings to new use" in erecting a new building on the ruins of the palace of Santo Domingo. A building that would house the records of the palace itself was developed, since "there was no contradiction between the terms 'palace' and 'archive.'" A "volumetric solution" for the intervention prevailed, with the existing helping to determine the new. To Moneo, "the building now appears above the old plateau where the city of Pamplona was founded as independent, enclosed ensemble in keeping with the original character of the palace."