Herzog's theory on building renovation

A theory of architectural evolution. Change to endure.

Herzog has the key: change to endure. He argues that the durability of a building does not depend on the solidity of its construction, but on its versatility, on its ease of change of use and, therefore, on its ability to accept the new building's use. successive rehabilitations. Jacques Herzog, together with his partner Pierre de Moureon, both winners of the 2001 Pritzker Architecture Prize, inaugurate the new BBVA headquarters in the north of Madrid and apply this premise to the project with unquestionable mastery.

But it was not that simple. On their arrival in Madrid, what the Swiss architects found was a very new area, somewhat dreary and arid, with no life outside and no identity of its own. A desert, to use their terminology. So the two devised a project so that, when the city arrives there, the building will be absorbed and change its uses. Jacques Herzog argues that power can be introduced with monumentality to "scare" people, although they are more interested in introducing an intimate scale into large spaces. This is what they did, without going any further, in the project that launched them to world fame, the extremely important refurbishment with a change of use of the Tate Modern in London. There, they say, they discovered the city and learned to work with little architecture and to give more importance to thinking than to drawing.


This distinguished pair of Swiss architects insists that, in the distant future, their project will be transformed into a neighbourhood where housing and shops will replace offices. It has already happened with palaces, parks and monasteries that end up forming an integral and integrating part of the urban landscape, after a timely refurbishment. And that will happen in this bank headquarters too. This is undoubtedly the intention of Herzog, a firm believer in the reconversion of buildings for uses in keeping with the passing of time. It is a kind of theory of evolution, applied, with enormous success and modernity, to the concept of architecture.

He declares himself a supporter of the medieval plot and the intense street life that goes with it, and affirms that this vital pulse towards the outside of one's own home, towards the public space, is in decline throughout Europe. With one interesting exception: Spain, a country where people also live outwards. Urban developments in the city centre are undermining the survival of the typical street life of the Mediterranean city, where shops, homes, leisure areas and civic life are intertwined on the same route. Architecture, therefore, must not send out a single, closed, immovable message.

These Swiss architects believe that beauty is not invented, but produced when buildings work. The new BBVA headquarters will do the same.

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