Having visit the inverted emperor's new clothes of the Bilbao Guggenheim, I finally made it to San Sebastian, and to the Kursaal Palace, by Rafael Moneo.
Whilst I have never doubted which is the better building, the Guggenheim had surprised - and impressed me - with it's sheer scale, its total bombast and swagger, but yet it remains a Frank Gehry signature building. It says little about the city of Bilbao, and the galleries themselves were quite staggering in their clumsiness. Having recently visited the Nottingham Contemporary - a masterclass in the lighting and display of art - one wonders quite how the Guggenheim managed to get it so wrong...the NC was just so clever and somehow so modest...anyway, I digress.
Except, not quite...
So there I was circling the Kursaal thinking what a clever, understated, overstated, subtle and brash piece of architecture it is, when I am put in mind of the Nottingham Contemporary, and I start to wonder - ' is this not the same building?'. No it is not, for obvious reasons. The Contemporary is a gallery; the Kursaal is an auditorium and concert hall. The Contemporary is resplendent in green concrete and gold-anodised aluminium; the Kursaal is built from rough stone, marble and glass. The Contemporary buries itself into the dense urban fabric of an industrial English city; the Kursaal stands sential on the shorefront of the Bay of Biscay.
And yet...they feel...similar. Why, I am not certain, and looking at the photos I wonder if I am right. But there is the concave cladding; green vertical bands in Nottingham; (almost) horizontal glass in San Sebastian, and the wide concrete entrance canopy, cantilevered and paited purple in Nottingham, but not in San Sebastian. And that odd upstand detail to the roof, used with perhaps more intent in San Sebastian. And the two blocks...that's it: both buildings have two blocks! Glass in San Sebastian and gold in Nottingham!
But maybe that's not it at all. Maybe the connection between the buildings is more subtle, more general. Maybe it's something to do with the extreme architectural formality which both buildings seem to possess, whilst both somehow remaining informal and - can I say - proletariat? Just look at those awnings!
* BRUTALISM & BOOZE EVENT No.1 * 'What Will Tomorrow Bring' - 12.00 Sunday 24th October
Meeting outside Marino's Cafe, 31 Rathbone Place, London W1T
We're pleased to be able to offer the chance to take part in David Head's excellent 'What Will Tomorrow Bring' audio walk on Sunday 24th October - the idea being that we all meet up with David at noon outside Marino's cafe in Fitzrovia, do the walk (which lasts 35 mins) and then go for refreshment in a pub nearby.
The walk presents a poetic vision of the changes time has visited upon the fabric of this fascinating part of the city, and takes in along the way anarchist terror cells, the wild men of Vorticism, and a lonely Boy George pondering his life from a rooftop...
Anyone wishing to take part will need to make themselves know to me directly at firstname.lastname@example.org - including a mailing address - so a CD can be provided to you. You can then either use this with a portable CD player or transfer the file to your Ipod/MP3 player.
Architecture discussion group meeting once a month at a selected building followed by rambling architectural debate in a selected pub. The group is open to all and welcomes your comments, photos and suggestions for future buildings to visit.