“At the end the reality coincides with the absolute abstraction and so it closes the circle between the nothing and the infinite”
– John Wheeler –
Once again a project built by João Quintela and Tim Simon. Two young architects, a Portuguese and a German who, during this long time of crisis, have decided that instead of uselessly complaining, to “take the bull by the horns”. They design and build wonderful pieces of architecture that are able to be self-constructed and still not lose their great spatial qualities. Instead of just waiting for a commission, they create it. Admirable the process and admirable the result.
And if KAIROS Pavilion that they built in Lisbon last year is still moving, the VERTIGO Pavilion that they just raised also in Lisbon is following the same way.
The central idea is simple and accurate. Using an old abandoned industrial warehouse where now there’s a climbing space, the task was to create a pavilion that could be used for everything. For now is being used as a reception and a cafe but it can change in the future, it’s versatile.
The first right decision was to create it as a box within a box. A new box, accurate with the precision of a Swiss watch, inside an old large existing box.
They haven’t fall into temptation of following the current approach of new interventions in this kind of old structures. Nowadays many architects are engaged in resurrecting that old precept of “wrinkles are beautiful”. And retain stains and wrinkles and scars of the old buildings, putting them in value without distinguishing the ‘aged’ from the ‘old’, in a new and doubtful mannerism.
Our architects have decided to clean and properly fix the old structure, and after leaving it clean, neutral, they introduced a new box capable of creating a new spatial order which appears to be of high efficiency, as can be seen in the brilliant pictures of the project.
They clearly understand that their artefact is a piece that has a value in itself and that also adds value to the great encompassing space, playing a game of changing scales. Keeping the distances, it is the same operation that Bernini did with his Baldaquino in order to give scale to the enormous nave of St. Peter in Rome.
The details are elemental but always adequate. The decision to provide a strong red colour to the simple pine wood, that changes its tonality with the sunlight, more than put it in relation to industrial existing buildings just in front, along the river, it sublimes it and makes as if that simple wood appears as a luxurious material.
The architects have used a series of resourceful architectural tools that vibrate the small created space as if it was the best architecture, as it is indeed.
The distinction between the heavy stereotomic basement made out of gray concrete and the main body composed of red wooden bars that leave several holes in between in order to add some transparency to this tectonic part of the artefact, works perfectly. The classic operation of a tectonic box over the stereotomic box.
The wooden structure that is aligned on the inside so as to provide some calmness, appears misaligned on the outside to protect the interior space, like if it was a hedgehog.
The no alignment of the two doors, low and wide at the entrance while high and narrow on the opposite side, makes visible the zigzag entry learned from the architects of the Alhambra, in Granada. The exchange of the symmetry by the equilibrium.
I would recommend to everyone that wants to visit it, to do it in the late afternoon when the sun, by crossing the red-orange birdcage, seems to burn it and creates an almost oriental atmosphere of great beauty.
At the end of their project description, the architects declare that they are willing to allow to the climbers to climb their own structure. We do not have any doubts. Nothing could be more logical in order to ascend to the heaven of architecture.
Alberto Campo Baeza, Madrid, 2014.
Vertigo Pavilion, Lisbon, Portugal, 2014
Architecture: João Quintela and Tim Simon
Client: Vertigo Climbing Center, Tiago Martins, Nuno Batista
Structure: Daniel Maio, Urban 360
Coordinator: Pedro Alves
Construction: António Augusto, Jaime, José Figueiredo, Pedro Añves, Tiago Martins, Nuno Batista, Marta Jerónimo, João Quintela and Tim Simon.
Volunteers during construction: Pedro Quinteiro, Sarah Monte Alto, Hélio Morais, Leonor Oliveira, Jerônimo Sôro, Vera Marmelo, Hugo Castro Silva, Martim Vidigal, Duarte Medeiros
Photography: Diana Quintela
original text from the architects, João Quintela and Tim Simon:
Located in Lisbon, the VERTIGO Pavilion was born in particularly complex context due to the physical reality where it belongs, the different functional needs, but specially due to the Portuguese economical situation. This is an area that intends to host a small cafe but also a reception to a sports center as well as a small shop to sell equipment and an informal lounge area. Perhaps a possible answer to such different specific needs is to not consider them in a strict and literal sense. When form follows the structure, the action can simply appear and the real use becomes unpredictable.
We could understand Architecture as a key force of mediation. And it’s also under this definition that it can exist as material and immaterial reality at the same time. As a physical structure, static, as well as an happening, volatile.
The project is located within a large industrial warehouse just on the riverfront of Lisbon and will receive an indoor climbing center. Because of this, the pavilion that hosts the café must be assumed as a transitional filter between the outer reality of the city and the inner world of the sports, keeping a direct relation with both. VERTIGO answers to this but it appears also as as position towards the abandoned industrial structures located in this area of the city and that once admitted the replacement of the man by the machine.
The structure is built by a basement of precast handmade concrete pieces, and a wooden structure made out of handmade cut pieces, yet through a repetitive process, in series, industrial. Can the contradiction exist in Architecture without it becoming formally evident?
The construction process follows the same logic and is done manually, accepting the imperfections and the specific circumstances of an open work that enriches the gap between project and construction. The red color that is softly applied to the wooden structure corresponds to a symbolic nature which could be read in overlapping meanings, evident in a particular way in their relationship with the cranes and containers located by the river, as well as the oldest river bridge of Lisbon or even the other industrial structures that have a strong presence in this area. The ambiguity of the real color explores this and other different relations and its given by the variation of the sunlight during the day by changing definitely the perception of the space and his environment. The using of the black metal elements inside belongs also to this symbolic but fragmented memory of the industrial period in Lisbon during the nineteenth century.
The whole project is generated from the small scale by overlapping wooden pieces which allows a direct relationship of the whole to the parts, and the parts among themselves and to the whole. The use of national pinewood and its repetitive and elemental construction allows the active participation of several hands, which exponentially reduces the total cost of the building and at the same time explores a mutual identity and a deeper relationship between the built space and people.
VERTIGO Pavilion has a rectangular floor plan of 12 by 5 meters and is developed on two levels creating covered areas, upper spaces and open places where you can feel the height of the existing warehouse. It is intended that the physical experience of the building can emphasize the pre-existing architectural features using elemental architectonical tools: the entry is made by a large and low door trough a tensioned space, while the way out is made through a high and narrow opening which monumentalizes the climbing area and simultaneously becomes an privileged window from the upper spaces. The internal structure of the pavilion is confronted by the soft outside adaptations that reveals the unstable relationship of the original warehouse as well as the climbing walls themselves. We could say that there is a reciprocal relationship in the search for the equilibrium.
The scale of the project appears to be somehow uncertain due to the use of massive pieces of wood, overlapped perpendicularly in order to allow the visual relationships. Thus there is an austere character that contrasts with a transparent image creating a slight contradiction between the visible image and the physical experience. These wooden pieces are strictly aligned in the inner surfaces, in order to give a certain calmness inside, while they are misaligned in the whole of the outer surfaces which repeats in a not imposing neither evident manner some of the main patterns of the climbing areas. Therefore the space is just creating the possibility of an action assuming that all Architecture has an implicit performative character. The act becomes definitely unpredictable with the construction of this possibility and it lives independently if that happens or not.