|Obradoiro w/ protesters viewed from Cathedral, noon, 20 May|
In Santiago, the protest encampment had the famous cathedral as a backdrop. “Build it and they will come” seems to have been the premise behind bishop Diego Gelmírez’s expansion of the sepulcher of apostle James back in AD 1100, a century after it had been razed by Muslim conqueror Al-Mansur (“Almanzor”), in 997 and rebuilt c. 1000. The Latin version of the saint’s name, Sanctu Iacobus, was shortened to “Santiago” in popular Galician speech. Bishop Gelmírez started to fill the greatly enlarged sanctuary with relics – body parts of saints —supposedly imbued with divine powers. He thus succeeded in turning backwater Santiago into a tourist destination to rival Rome and Jerusalem.
|Geoff in the "City of Culture"|
|Archive roof, with one lonely daisy|
However, the topographical idea is directly inspired, according to Eisenman’s presentation video in the permanent exhibition, not by a landscape, but by the medieval city itself. The historic core’s literal dimensions – of blocks and streets – although with a different orientation, have been transposed into the site. The entire medieval city has been equated to six buildings, without regard for scale, purpose, functional variety, or human density. A city is meant to change, not remain frozen in perpetuity like monuments. And the cities we love are the ones that welcome, rather than reject our presence. A comparison with another spectacular design, Frank Gehry’s Guggenheim Bilbao, brings to mind this project’s positive contribution to the urban experience, the invitation to flâneurs and flâneuses to enjoy the free exterior spaces, where major sculptures are displayed, and the existence of a previous and well thought out mechanism to supply this provincial capital with international visitors. All of this is lacking in Galicia’s City of Culture. Another difference is that the exceptional and extravagant spaces in the Bilbao museum were conceived first in scaled model form, using computer programs to rationalize construction, whereas the interior spaces of the City of Culture could not have been designed without computer software. As anyone who has used CAD knows, there is no scale to the drawings thus produced, so the spaces can be imagined without human experience and size. It is perhaps befitting that the current rejection of architecture as an art beholden only to the architect’s vision or whim should come to be exemplified by the work of someone who made the rejection of society a distinctive hallmark of his thought. In this sense, the contrast to the spirit of the “indignant” protesters in the Praça do Obradoiro, committed to an open and participative social order, could not be greater. Finally…is the project beautiful? If one’s taste favors the overdeveloped esthetic of bodybuilding, then I suppose it is.
|Hórreo in Cambarro|