Public Library, Seville

Cruz y Ortiz Arquitectos 

What about the public library in Seville? What role does it play in your career?

—The library is a work we are much fond of, and which has had less fortune than it deserves. Situated within the premises of the 1929 World’s Fair, the building is surrounded by the pavilions of the United States, Uruguay and Perú and actually stands on ground that was part of the U.S. pavilion. An attractive but very noisy spot hemmed in by heavily traversed streets. The building is a wide bay that turns around and closes upon itself, creating a semi-open courtyard in the middle of a park. The library is organized around this patio. Access is through a very long route and the courtyard is at the very end of it, a perfect place for quiet reading which from outside one can hardly suspect the presence of. It’s a very domestic, very pleasant building that has had much success among users.

—Here you picked up anew on the use of brick and the zinc roof forming sloping flaps.

—The choice of brick had to do with the place. The 1929 exposition precinct was built entirely in brick and in that particular type of brick. The specific location was a difficult one where we had to proceed with care-in resolving the volume, the roof, the materials, even the inner courtyard. We were building something within María Luisa park, which in this particular area is romantic and disorderly. The landscaping and gardening of the courtyard is very geometric, in opposition to the larger park outside. Though a rather large building, it blends well into the zone and doesn’t look that large... And that’s because one always sees it by parts.

—The floor plan is very enigmatic, vibrating strangely... It’s an ambiguous building...

—A complex building, and perhaps because of the ambiguity, not easy to explain. When people do visit, they like it very much.

—Here again you insist on the single central space. In your work there is always a reflection on the more or less single central space, whether open or closed throughout.

—In projects of the central floor plan type the most important activity occurs at the center, in the interior. In almost all our projects, from the bus station of Huelva to the Santa Justa train station of Seville, there is also an inner space that could be a courtyard, a room, whatever, and which constitutes an additional element of surprise.

—Is there also an element of concealment? Of hiding something inside?

—The desire for transparency that is so common nowadays results in a thin line between being outside or inside. But to us it’s precisely the differences between interior and exterior that is one of the great legacies of architecture.

—So once again you’re defending the true, original nature of architecture.

—The current penchant for transparency, in both the metaphorical and literal sense, does away with all the mystery that architecture could have. It was Francisco de Asís Cabrero who taught us to appreciate mystery. Many years ago we went up to Madrid to lecture in a student residence-perhaps our first lecture ever. Cabrero attended, and that in itself was a huge deference toward a couple of beginners like ourselves. It’s quite probable that we delivered a very diligently prepared and militant speech, discussing typology, the city, and especially the sort of things one talks about when one doesn’t have too many works to show for. When we were done, Cabrero came over and we thanked him profusely for being there. At that point he turned serious and said, “Very good, it was very good. But what about the mystery? What is there left to do about mystery?” Of course we didn’t understand a word of what he was saying, but now, twenty years later, we still like to tell each other the anecdote, and it seems to us that this is one of the most important lessons of our lives. Cabrero must have found that lecture anything but mysterious. And still up to this date, when we see certain works of the kind so keen on proving a thesis, we can’t help asking ourselves, “And the mystery? What can we still do about mystery?”...

Conversation of the authors with Luis Moreno Mansilla and Emilio Tuñón.

Cliente Client
Ministerio de Cultura

Arquitectos Architects
Antonio Cruz & Antonio Ortiz 

Colaboradores Collaborators
Blanca Sánchez, Miguel Velasco (arquitectos architects); Miguel Delgado, J. Antonio Molina (aparejadores quantity surveyors)

Consultores Consultants
Bet Figueras (jardinería landscaping);  Enrique Cabrera (estructura structure

Contratista Contractor
Dragados y Construcciones, Polispray (aislamiento insulation), Jolara (cubierta roof

Fotos Photos
Duccio Malagamba