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Modernidade Permanente

Modernidade Permanente.
Studio Structural Contingencies in Coimbra, Portugal / Charleroi, België

Caroline Voet
Eireen Schreurs

Image: Aula Magna Università di Legge, Coimbra, Fernando Tavora

In these times of seclusion, we will wander off to Portugal in every possible manner.

Coimbra, as our mental space, will offer tools to rethink reconversion by engaging with history/memory in a creative way. The connection with landscape, perspective and time in the work of for example Fernando Tavora and Alvaro Siza, was a reaction to the regional context, and formulated a fundamental critique against post war functionalism and any international formalism. In search for architectural poetics, sensitive materiality and the human scale, the buildings of this generation grow from the design of an autonomous archaeology that engages with history. How did their tools and endeavours differ from the ones of Belgian architects that defined the post war landscape of our cities? Both labelled brutalism…

To experiment with this question, we will introduce the Portuguese ideas and sensibilities to Charleroi: the former C&A building of Léon Stynen (approx. 1965), including its urban surroundings. As hilly as Coimbra, Charleroi offered its own specific context for modernist architects. It is the brutalist case study through which we will explore the idea of the endless city as a landscape, an urbanity of nature, interiors and rooms. How can this abandoned concrete structure, situated at the centre, inspire Charleroi again?

Through Coimbra, we will crack its genetic code and transform its typology, formal logic and materiality into something human. How can we understand its past as a new layer for future developments? How do we rewrite its architectonic language in order to address the challenges society poses today? What are your co-ordinates as a designing architect?

Questions of reuse and starting over again.

A ruin, a city and a landscape of concrete and natural stone.

The studio outcome will be an architectural strategy and a worked-out proposal that re-interprets the building’s qualities, so that it can resume its role as a public space in the city.

We hope to go to Portugal, but in the case this will not an option, every possible mental connection will be made, for example through a workshop with the Faculty of Architecture, Coimbra University.

As part of the Structural Contingencies program, this studio is linked to the research on Pioneering Practices and Material Culture, analysing work of for example Dom Hans van der Laan and Juliaan Lampens. As a preparation for the design this studio will focus on a group of Pioneering Practices that operated around Coimbra in the 1970’s such as Fernando Tavora, Alvaro Siza, José Carlos Loureiro and Louis Cunha.

The required output is twofold:

  • analysis of one of the pioneering projects in Portugal. A3 book with archival material and photographs, own drawings and text. Delivered by March 2021. Group work.
  • Concrete reconversion project in Charleroi. A3 explaining a conceptual narrative + a concrete design proposal, plans/sections/3D, models from 1:1000 to 1:10 details. February – June 2021. Individual work.