The city of Luxembourg is characterized by a strong duality: on one hand, in the eastern part of the city, the historical centre proposes itself as the model for the pre-industrial city, where the scale is totally linked to the pedestrian sphere and where space is the prevailing element over the architectural object. On the other hand, the Plateau de Kirchberg is the complete realization of the modern practice of city planning: the scale loses its relationship with the human being in favour of the car; a collection of strangely shaped objects prevail in a vast vacuum. None of these two city models is superior to the other, as Colin Rowe says. Each one presents its pros and cons.
The Parc des Trois Glands is precisely located in the middle between these two worlds, dividing but at the same time connecting them with an intricate topography. This forest is a highly evocative space where light and noise is filtered through the trees, and where the need of a point of reference is strong.
The place doesn’t belong to the city but seems to apply to its own natural rules: once you enter the forest the city is forgotten.
The City and site location are the solid elements on which the architectural gesture lays its foundations.
The proposed datum is an institution: a law think tank that houses 28 students (one for each European Union country) and trains them to become the future members of the European Court of Justice, located in the adjacent Plateau de Kirchberg.
The project is Vertically developed in three layers of action: The first one on the level of the forest, is a completely public space that functions as footing of the building. Its pointy paradigm recalls the tree trunks in the attempt to give order where randomness reigns. A covered piazza that frames a portion of the forest. The sequence and framing of space directly recalls the historical centre: space over objects. The second layer is to be found 10 metres above, where the roof of the think tank functions as parking spot for the cars coming from the Plateau de Kirchberg. The same geometrical elements found on the public ground floor are here solidified in concrete objects, recalling the paradigm of the modern city. Here, the object prevails as an obstacle. The third layer lays between the two: the think tank itself is a squared slab in which the most important space, the courtroom, is symbolically located in the centre. A ring of services acts as frame and limit between the double height central space and the peripheral two floor crown of secondary spaces.
The materiality of the building is expressed in the use of one material only: concrete. Depending on structural requirements or required insulation values, the walls are made of either ordinary concrete or insulation-grade structural concrete, thus producing a massive building that exploits the capability of concrete to store and release heat during the winter, while during summer the
Who influences you graphically?
I usually associate to each project i do a set of graphical references that are strictly linked to the theme of the project itself. These references are based on the topic, on the site, the surrounding environment, on the essence of the proposal and on the overall atmosphere I want to communicate with my drawings.
My influences are thus really wide. In this particular project I used a set of references that influenced each scale of the project, so that on a urban scale my models included Piranesi’s Nuova Pianta di Roma and Oswald Mathias Ungers Manifesto for Berlin. On the smaller scale, given the massivity of the building itself, which was something I wanted to communicate with my drawings, I was looking at Piranesi’s Vedute, Aldo Rossi’s heavy shadows, Boulle’s sections and Aires Mateus plans. One particular drawing is directly inspired by James Stirling’s Axonometric drawings from below the building.
What defined the square format? Why are all images except one repeat he format?
The square format was essentially the most suitable support and frame for this particular work. Given the formal approach of the project, it made sense that the frame that was holding it together represented to some extent a graphical translation of the building itself. Thus, in my mind, squared building equaled squared format. To some extent the square format also gives a clear hierarchy to the drawing itself: the central point is of absolute importance and it must be used to showcase the pivotal element to be perceived by the viewer, whereas as the distance increases from the central point to the periphery, elements of the drawing tend to lose importance.
The only drawing that escapes the square format is a territorial section that was meant to showcase the elongated bridge that connects the building to the existing highway, therefore the horizontal axis was to be reinforced.
To what extent has the work of Pier Vittorio Aureli Diploma 14 influenced the way you chose to represent this project?
I wouldn’t say I was influenced by Pier Vittorio Aureli’s Diploma 14 per se, but the graphical work that Dogma has been taking forward for more than a decade now was always in my mind while I was trying to develop the graphical output for this particular project. The clarity of their drawings is something I always try to reach, where abstraction is the key element to showcase what is most important. Dogma’s work was also present in my mind during the development of the project itself: the focus on the city, the square format of the building, the use of a strict architectural language are allurements that can be connected to Pier Vittorio Aureli’s and Martino Tattara’s work.
What dictated the choice of drawings?
There is a phase during my work flow that basically mixes the late stages of my design with the initial approach with how I want to communicate my project to others through drawings. This is the phase where I decide which drawing to produce for, let’s say, a final presentation. I sit and try to develop a first draft of drawings that go in line with the rational development of my project, so that my speech always has a clear counterpart in my drawings. For this particular project the sequence of drawings followed a clear sequence of arguments that went from the big scale of the city down to the particular of the building. Each drawing showcased a specific strong idea or element that was fundamental in order to explain the project, so that the whole presentation was an unfolding of strong concepts that one after the other explained the whole project.
What is the limit and power of the pure line drawing?
When I think about the architecture drawing in its classic and fundamental role, I see the line as the primordial element. Once this element is replicated throughout the drawing, with different line weights and patterns, it acquires the capability of showing an idea that one carries in his mind, on the piece of paper. Line drawing thus has the power of being unequivocal, in the sense that it shows the real edges of things, while at the same time letting the viewer wonder with his imaginative mind while looking at the drawing itself. In this sense, the viewer is free to paint the drawing with his own mind.
Andrea Cusanno is currently enrolled in the Master Program at IUAV, Architecture University of Veniceafter having completed there also his bachelor. Andrea spent a semester in TU Delft as exchange student and is now completing an Iternship at Common-Room, in Brussels. In the meantime he is also working on his final Thesis on the Productive Metropolis of the north of Italy. His main concern about architecture is how the single object (or building) is related to the city, and his main inspiration in this is Aldo Rossi.