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The Alter Laboratories Management Pavilion

Date: 1959
Address: C. Mateo Inurria, 30. Madrid 28036 View on Maps
Condition: Complete with alterations
Other: tel. 91 3596605 / 91 3592000

This small scale building is perhaps a minor work within the important repertoire of architecture developed by Fisac during the mid-20th century, but it is especially significant because it shows for the first time the possibility of building load bearing roofs made of concrete through modular elements with a big edge and of little weight. But the intuition of the beam-bones, one of the most important inventions by this enterprising architect, was already traceable in the use of undulating false ceilings that disguise the load bearing metallic beams ten years earlier, in the way he used curved laminar concrete in the canopy of the SEAT building in Barcelona, -in 1950, or the porticoes of undulating ‘shells’ in the school for the Dominican Fathers in Valladolid. But it is in the canopy of this small pavilion with a garden in front, facing Calle Mateo Inurria, where we can appreciate a considerable projecting roof made with a folded sheet of concrete of minimal thickness that exhibits with great sincerity its supporting function and without any other tectonic or aesthetic resource than the logical form to give rigidity and inertia to the building material. Almost simultaneously with the Alter project, but in a simplified way, he did a trial of the beam-bones in the MADE Laboratories (also 1959), but with a more complicated way of folding. Miguel Fisac’s inventiveness was at an effervescent crescendo at that time, and in the same year he carried out the project for the competition for the Parroquia de San Esteban, in Cuenca, where he proposed a hybrid formula between the future beams-bones-skylights of the Hydrographical Studies Centre and the undulating sheets of his canopies at the Centro de Formación de Profesorado in Madrid. This demonstrates his continued efforts to attain a coherent idea for the use and expression of reinforced concrete from his first works, and which he never abandoned even in his final projects. The commission of this building was not by chance because Fisac’s relation with laboratories came, -as he said more than once, from the fact that his father was a pharmacist, and then through a series of circumstances and successive commissions from important companies such as Alter, Made, Farmabión and Jorba. So this typology became one of his recurrent themes which allowed him to work in the environment of industrial architecture, great windows and neutral buildings. This was not the case with the Alter pavilion, which although it is included amongst the plain blocks with a strict realism, is a singular piece of architecture where the Chairman and Board of the company, as well as the management, the Boardroom and the advisers’ offices were located. It is therefore a representative building that carried him towards a language that was refined within its simplicity, and to the use of materials such as marble, wood and the large surfaces of glass, with the characteristic cleanliness he had showed in his house on Cerro del Aire. He did without all the accessory elements of carpentry or finishes and achieved an abstract and essential vision. The garden and the furniture were carefully designed. Part of the furniture was by Knoll International and the rest was by Fisac, such as the chairs and stools in the vestibule. For many years this pavilion displayed, close to the centre of Chamartín, its elegance and precision, more characteristic of German and American architecture, and its special nocturnal presence in which the canopy stands out, illuminated from the beam supporting it. Recent alterations and changes of section and carpentry colour have diminished some of its original features of note.


© Noemí Gª Millán, Mike Lumber

© Fundación Fisac


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