This Ruin is Fascinating
Abandoned in the middle of an uncommon plot, this ruin is fascinating.
It looks extremely fragile because of the time which damages it but also because of the surrounding architecture so suffocating. However, this glory of the past probably once dominated its environment. This long element, built some meters above the street level, on the top of a small hill, was austere, « out of scale » and very introverted.
But, despite this urban scale, the inner organization was made by some more domestic spaces such as galleries and an interior street, both in a human scale.
That is precisely that duality between urban scale and domesticity that the project try to reach both through its organization and its atmosphere.
The gallery, seems to be the obvious architectural element to deal with those two scales. They are made by a succession of arches. Those ones are built by assembling prefabricated concrete elements. They are on both sides of the main hall, a multifunctional open air space. Its atmosphere is clearly related to the idea of a cloister around which the program is organized.
Those galleries create an architecture punctuated with various lights and with constant changes in the interior/exterior relation. As a threshold, these spaces lead us towards an inner domestic architecture.
The south part of the project is directly related to the N14 convening the gas station atmosphere which are along the road from Porto to Braga. The whole program related to the gas station is there in order to limit the cars inside the project. The facade, totally flat, is the only element within the project which links the east and the west galleries.
On the contrary, the north part is more pedestrian and connects the two galleries with the railway platform and the eastern street.
The east gallery is also a way to make the link between the two plazas (on two different levels). In the meantime, the west one gives access to the olive grove, a spiritual and hedonist space, which makes us forgot the proximity of the railways.
Who influences you graphically?
Our graphic references are wide but they all share the idea of representing a fantasized, sometimes slightly dramatic, atmosphere. We believe that it is not by being direct (hyperrealism) that this imagery can be reached but rather through the use of elements that are not supposed to show a strict reality. In that sense it sets a frame within which a sensitive reading of the project is possible.
The collage is a particularly good process to reach this end. Of course, italian utopian from the 60s are always closeby when we speak about collage. Today, offices like Office KGDVS, Dogma, Monadnock or Caruso St John inspire us. Nevertheless, artists such as Andreas Gursky or Ferdinand Hodler are among people we refer to as well.
However, the biggest influence remains daily experiences and the way ordinary things are involved in the creation of an atmosphere.
You talk about developing a story around a project, how could the format of a book/short film help in merging narrative and proposal from a visual point of view?
A movie or a book is a glimpse of the reality in the end. The audience or the reader has to fill in the blind spots behind what they actually read or watch. It seems that the rendering in architecture fits this category with a small distinction since the picture remains still and not in movement.
By using words and sentences the author enables the reader to move in a mental space without leaving his sofa. In a movie, the succession of scenes creates a momentum and invites the audience to mentally construct the unseen environment.
Our collages and images work the same way, leading each reader to his own conclusion or expectations.
Your images are very textural, what is the effect and purpose for this?
Beyond its visual aspect, the pattern has a tactile dimension that plays a role in the establishment of the sensitive frame of representation. It gives depth to the graphism, it is a way of developing a dynamic that initiates a story within the picture.
You compose through fragments creating a collages image, to what extent can this approach be expanded to the larger discourse of architectural practice?
The collage is a way to represent an architecture but it is not obviously linked directly to our architectural practice. Space is apprehended as a coherent whole in all its dimensions. The process is opposite to the collage. The project specifications exploiting the light, the materiality, etc., result from the whole. It seems that these two processes are antagonist but in the end, they enable to verify the coherence of the project both in its globality and in details.
In a society where the individual is ever so more segregated to himself, how important is it from an architectural perspective to stimulate the dialogue between interior and exterior?
The question of the dialogue between interior and exterior is extremely important of course but it does not stop to this notion. In fact, the dialogue is itself a fundamental aspect of architecture and has multiple declinations: the city, the place, the ground, the interior, the exterior, the user, the materiality, the light etc.
We think that it is important to keep, with this concept of dialogue, the fact that it should allow the possibility to create an interaction. The architecture has to be a media which takes part within this interaction, enabling an exchange as well as satisfying the necessity of an intimacy as everything is a matter of balance.