|Address:||C. Velázquez, 144, on the corner with C. Joaquín Costa, Madrid View on Maps|
|Condition:||Restored with alterations|
|Other:||At present Secretaria General del Mar, a section of the Ministerio de Medio Ambiente y Medio Rural y Marino. tel. 91 3476010/11/13/14/15|
The Consejo Superior de Investigaciones Científicas wanted to build an institute of microbiology on a plot close to the campus, but off the premises, on the corner formed by the streets of Velázquez and Joaquín Costa. They commissioned the project to Fisac, who had worked on other projects for the C.S.I.C., in 1949. The first thing that Fisac did that year was to travel around Europe to be able to study at length similar types in other countries, but behind this understandable technical interest there was also the appeal to see closely the work of modern architects and to explore creative modes that went beyond the classicism with which he had already experimented with as much success as dissatisfaction in previous buildings for the Consejo. For this trip he got a grant of eight thousand pesetas with which he crossed
This invention is the first patent in a long series of experiments that Miguel Fisac carried out in search of a coherent language with the new building techniques and it comes from the reflections about facades when they have lost their structural and massive sense as they hang from a load bearing structural skeleton. He did not see any sense in using solid brick to ensure the necessary isolation, but on the other hand he did not want to renounce the use of clay as a longer-lasting, safer and more economic material than prefabricated sheets of metal, plastic or wood. He then considered a hollow brick with an inclined exterior face and finished with an edge that overlaps the line below. Thus, they are watertight against rain and they also have an ‘interesting’ artistic presence which mirrors the light nature of such surfaces and somehow reminds us of the slats in wooden Nordic constructions. The insulation is achieved through a cavity filled with insulation material and an interior fold in the wall with hollow bricks. The wooden windows, painted in white, are fitted between the two layers, and have the peculiarity of tilting and are formed by two sheets of glass that have a cavity between them in which is the adjustable blind. These hollows with vertical shape and of Nordic inspiration are aligned with the surface of the façade to accentuate the impression of lightness which expresses its authentic nature, in contrast with the sunken recesses in the solid walls of the tower. In a similar way to the idea of “units of work” that the windows established in the Instituto de Optica, in this centre it becomes a module that allows flexible distribution of the plans of the laboratories.
The work has the quality of producing one of the most beautiful corners in Madrid, with both a plasticity that is both powerful and gentle at the same time, which hides under its apparent simplicity great wisdom in managing the proper and necessary elements of architecture and which achieves with minimum resources a sense of serenity and certain mystery. As in so many works by this author important attention is paid to the role of artists in his architecture, this is evident here in the biomorphic fountain with a human figure that is resting on the wall and the water running between its fingers, done by the sculptor Carlos Ferreira based on an idea proposed by the architect, or in the stone fountain in the courtyard which displays small mice made of aluminium by Susana Polack as homage to our debt t these victims of scientific advances, and recalling those drawn by Fisac during his confinement in the Civil War. The details of the stairs away from its mural box, the porticoes over the steps towards both streets, with their ‘v’-shaped pillars covered with thin slabs of white stone from Colmenar and the exposed beams, the stone skirting base that protects the lower parts of the hollow bricks, the landscaped garden in the courtyard –lost for years but now recovered, and many other details mark this work as one of the most refined carried out by Miguel Fisac. It deserved more care in the recent restoration undergone when it became the headquarters of the Secretaría del Mar because despite having recovered the brick walls, the silhouette of the tower has been erroneously altered with installations on the terraced roof, and the original quality of many interior spaces has been lost.
© Noemí Gª Millán,
© Fundación Fisac
|Fundación Miguel Fisac - Legal Warning