Texto “Gabriela-Mistral”: Lateral Arquitectura & Diseño
We live in times where demolishing a building is easier than restoring and placing a value on it. There is a hidden history in the objects and buildings that is necessary to discover or rediscover. When we work with an existing structure we cannot avoid to make a continuous reading of the elements and the background of the original building work. For us this is the searching of a riddle and having the opportunity to figure it out. We like to think that this riddle can be solved, in the words of Pierre Bourdien, as a “sense of play” and it does not depend necessarily on the designers but on the passage of time and wear and on the social agents involved. We believe that this fact alone deserves to be unveiled, and in this case maybe it was our only premise upon design. We think restoring the Diego Portales building (or what is left of it) is a gift. We saw a challenge but also a golden opportunity of working with all this historical burden that in our opinion could not be wasted on short-term political desires specially on some atavistic declaration of “clean slate” of the architect on duty.
OPENNESS AND TRANSPARENCY We choose to reveal and display part of the varied life inside the building to the exterior and somehow show the activities and their protagonists and share them with the passer- by. The building plays an important role in the spreading of what is going on inside. Furthermore, from the urban perspective, is a gift to the city providing it with new public roof covered and equipped spaces. A building used for cultural and artistic activities should always have different degrees of transparency and being shared not only with their direct users but also with the community in general. In a context where showing everything is impossible (since inside the building many halls are used for entertainment) the challenge is to know what to show and how. This means the different degrees of transparency are displayed through a façade system that gradually goes from the wide open and transparent to the totally opaque and closed. The project displays these halls for performing arts as “boxes or containers” in which music, dance and theater are performed. From outside we will not able to see what is happening inside but we feel that it is something important. The most significant in a hall for performing arts is that it must be completely dissociated from the exterior to create its own reality. The lights dim bringing the darkness, there is silence. Only in that moment the fantasy is spread as a new reality. The play has begun.
THE PREMISES AND BUILDING LAYOUT Horizontally viewed, the building layout is based on three main volumes containing the three major areas of the project. These are, from west to east in the same order as the buildings are set out: The Documentation Center for the Performing Arts and Music (Library); Training Room for Performing Arts and Music (Rehearsal Rooms, Museums and Exhibition Halls) and the Great Concert Hall (Theater for 2,000 people) On the level of the public space, these three buildings are separated and can be totally encircled by pedestrians and make the most of the project, but in the lower levels they are all connected making up one single building. The spaces between them have been transformed into covered squares that are the main public spaces and invite the passer-by to occupy a building that merge into the city. The first two structures facing eastwards are part of the redesigning of the existing building which survived the fire whereas the remaining structure (The great Concert Hall) is a new work. Viewed vertically, the premises are connected through triple height halls in which we have an overview of the project and find our bearing in each building. These halls are connected directly to each one of the squares being an extension of them. This is reinforced by using the same type of concrete indoors and outdoors avoiding the vertical structural elements in this enclosure and achieving a high degree of transparency.
DESIGN AND MATERIALS All the main materials making up the building have been found in the original structure and it is worth to stand out five of them: Weathering steel (Corten steel), Exposed reinforced concrete, Glass, Steel and Timber. We don’t think in the use of these materials as they appear listed on catalogues but as construction materials that are taken to the limit of their expressiveness. Weathering steel is the perfect link between past, present and future. This fine material is far from being part of the “pre-painted” solutions and imitations. It is present in the original structure and now we try to take it to the extreme in the new building by using it as coating for facades, ceilings and concrete.
This coating, which is mostly used in our facades alternating with glass curtain walls and large windows follows two basic plays and several secondary ones. In the first basic play we find perforated weathering steel that is the skin of the building and tries to cover it all over, but when there are premises inside the building and they deserve being watched from the exterior, the view of these elements is interrupted and a glass volume appears revealing a fascinating interior.
STAGECRAFT AND ACOUSTICS The building has a sophisticated acoustic and staging system necessary for the main activities. From the acoustic point of view each room was treated independently seeking an acoustic comfort according to each activity. Generally the acoustic solution consists in a double inner layer separated from the structure which depending on its position and function in each room so that they comply with spreading, reflecting and absorbing functions. Each case went through a design proposed by architecture in coordination with the acoustic engineer. In this way the Music Hall presents a design of sloping planes and hinge lines able to point the sound towards the audience in a good way and at the same time bring a contemporary and warm expressiveness to the hall. In the case of the Dance-Theater Hall we opted for a soberer expressiveness with a design of dark folded sheets made of tongue and groove joint boards. Both halls have lighting, and audio control rooms placed at the back of each hall replacing the old translation booths.
Photo ©Nicolas Saieh