Arquitectura Viva
Saturday, September 19, 2020

Arquitectura Viva 115


De la nueva Europa a Rusia y Kazajistán

Eastern Promises. The series of political and economic changes that have taken place in Eastern Europe after the Fall of the Berlin Wall are reflected well in the unique architectural culture of this region. Six works mark an itinerary from the Adriatic to the Baltic: in Croatia and Slovenia, two education buildings address their urban environments with Mediterranean familiarity and with functionalist rationalism; in the Czech Republic and in Poland, two cultural blocks are wrapped in wood slats; in Lithuania and Estonia, two volumes devoted to the body and the mind blend into the tree-dotted landscape.


Ákos Moravánszky
Open Field
A New Map of Eastern Europe
Randic & Turato, Croatia
Bevk & Perovic, Slovenia
Kuba & Pilar, Czech Republic
JEMS, Poland
Vilius, Lithuania
AET, Estonia


The New Old Russia. Moscow and Saint Petersburg have become the stages where the elites made rich by gas and petrol flaunt their power through the construction of emblematic structures. Foreign architects design com- plexes of vast dimensions: the capital is the future site for the largest building in the world, several skyscrapers and a congress and exhibition center; the imperial city is the location chosen for the polemical Gazprom Tower and new cultural, commercial and transportation infrastructures.

Capitals of Kazakhstan. In the ex-Soviet republic the old Almaty invests in education and prepares for the Asian Games, while the young Astana, designated as the new capital in 1997, grows at a dizzying speed.

Cover Story

Foster, Crystal Island
Foster, Russia Tower
RMJM, Torre City Palace
Hadid, Expocenter
RMJM, Gazprom Tower
Perrault, Mariinski Theater
Wilkinson Eyre, Master Plan
Grimshaw, Airport
OMA, Science Campus
Alonso Balaguer, Sports Center
Foster, Entertainment Center
Foster, Palace of Peace

Views and Reviews

German Lessons. The engineer Jörg Schlaich has received the Entrecanales Award for a career devoted to the pursuit of lightness; the architect O. M. Ungers, a champion of architectural theory, has passed away at the age of 81.

Art / Culture

Miguel Aguiló
Schlaich, Formal Tension
Kurt Forster
Ungers, in Praise of the Square

Foreign Bodies. The exhibition on Juan Muñoz at the Tate Modern in London and those of Jaume Plensa at the IVAM of Valencia and the MAMAC of Nice testify to the importance of sculpture in contemporary art. Adrian Searle
Muñoz, Shadows and Silence
Javier San Martín
Plensa, the Written Body
Neon Postmodern. Simón Marchán and Ramón Rodríguez Llera review the history of Las Vegas and reflect upon the evolution of this centennial city arisen from the void of the desert thanks to gambling and showbusiness. Focho’s Cartoon
Clotet & Paricio
Various Authors
Recent Projects

Parallel Chronicles. Manhattan enlarges its collection of landmarks with two recently completed works: an elegant skyscraper for The New York Times and the venue of the New Museum, a rugged and abstract set of stacked boxes. Luis Fernández-Galiano interviews Renzo Piano in the tower of the newspaper and visits the art center, on the day of its opening, with Kazuyo Sejima.

Technique / Style

Luis Fernández-Galiano
Heights of New York
Renzo Piano
Conversation in the NYT
Opening of the New Museum

To close, the architect Fernando Higueras, who died in Madrid at the age of 77, leaves behind an oeuvre that combines geometric rigor, empathy with nature and scenographic expressiveness; author of the Restoration Center (known as the ‘crown of thorns’) in the Spanish capital or of the Las Salinas Hotel of Teguise, he turned concrete into the main material of his building code. Products
Cevisama, Wood
English Summary
Eastern Promises
Luis Fernández-Galiano
Crown of Vine Leaves
Luis Fernández-Galiano

Eastern Promises

AViva-115-lfg.jpg (10184 bytes)The East is at once promise and threat. As the European Union extends towards the old glacis of the Soviet Union, the rediscovery of the East brings along formidable political experiences, important economic opportunities and fertile social exchanges: the Velvet Revolutions, the enlargement of markets and the migration flows are assets that enrich both the material and the immaterial heritage of Western Europeans. Simultaneously, this bittersweet process incorporates into the Union ruling elites of a more American than European fidelity, some productive structures burdened by bureaucracy and rushed privatizations, and a few criminal mafias with less scruples than those acclimatized in the prosperous areas of the continent.

If the gaze wanders farther, to the proud Russia of Putin or to ex-Soviet republics like the Kazakhstan of Nazarbayev, where the increase in the prices of petrol and gas has fuelled an economic boom that is cast in national-religious political moulds and in authoritarian systems of social control – masked by some Kremlinologists with the use of mottoes like ‘sovereign democracy’ to describe an autocracy where the budding consumerism and a rekindled patriotism are used to justify the lack of freedom –, it is legitimate to contemplate this oriental rise with the caution of one who perceives at once the lights and the shadows of a historical period shaken by an Eastern wind that can be either beneficial breeze or devastating gale.

In the field of architecture, the Eastern promises have been especially fruitful in the Balkans and the Baltic, two peripheral areas that have joined today’s cosmopolitan dialogue of the forms: in a Balkan peninsula wounded by the war that fragmented Yugoslavia, both the Slovenia of Pleznik and Adriatic Croatia once again serve as hinges between the Germanic Mitteleuropa and the Mediterranean; and in the Baltic republics hesitant between the Slavic world and Scandinavia, the new buildings provide a differential identity. Not so bright is the panorama in a Poland sadly colonized by corporate offices, in a Hungary where the romantic vigor of Makovec has faded away or in a Czech Republic engrossed in the beauty of its heritage.

Meanwhile, both Moscow and Saint Petersburg perpetuate the secular Russian tradition of importing architects from abroad for their most representative works, and just like a Bolognese built in the 15th century the Muscovite cathedral, a Scot designed in the 17th the Kremlin domes, Frenchmen drew up in the 18th the plans of the two cities and an Italian carried out in the same century the cathedral of Saint Petersburg, today it is also international firms – mainly British ones – that refurbish the old monuments and create the new, in a construction and real-estate orgy that is echoed in the steppes of Central Asia, where a handful of foreign offices are building a new capital for a philantropic ogre.

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