Mass. State Rep. Calls on University VP to Increase Transparency for Allston Multimodal Project


Harvard President Lawrence Bacow Made $1.1 Million in 2020, Financial Disclosures Show


Harvard Executive Vice President Katie Lapp To Step Down


81 Republican Lawmakers File Amicus Brief Supporting SFFA in Harvard Affirmative Action Lawsuit


Duke Senior’s Commencement Speech Appears to Plagiarize 2014 Address by Harvard Student

Constructing a Visually Arresting Space

By James Crawford, Crimson Staff Writer

Located on Cambridge Street adjacent to Memorial Hall, the Gund Hall of the Harvard Graduate School of Design (GSD) is perhaps one of the ugliest and most poorly executed buildings on campus. The structure’s stepped profile, visually offensive from the outside, is also not conducive to the work students do there. On each step, rows of cubicles house scores of budding architects, but at the very bottom it is chilling cold at night, and at the very top, uncomfortably warm at midday. Despite the GSD’s structural failings, however, the building still periodically welcomes compelling—if frequently overlooked—exhibits. One such exhibition features approximately a dozen structures co-designed by architects Anotio Cruz and Antonio Ortiz in a show entitled “Cruz y Ortiz.”

Cruz and Ortiz were born a year apart in Seville, Spain (the former in 1948, the latter in 1947), and both graduated from the Madrid School of Architecture in 1971. Their work has been erected throughout Spain—primarily in their native and adopted homes—but has also been welcomed in Germany and the rest of Europe. Cruz and Ortiz are currently guest lecturers at the GSD, and in a fitting homage to their award-winning work, models and preliminary sketches detailing some of their most notable work now inhabit the lobby of Gund Hall.

To study Cruz y Ortiz is to examine contrasts. The thrust of their work has both encompassed large public projects and smaller private housing developments. They have embraced both pedestrian and vehicular transport concerns and created spaces housing everything from a library’s hush to a stadium’s roar. They also have a penchant for layered flat planes that betray high, open air expanses. What unifies them all is an absorbing, vaguely structuralist style that manages to appear clean without being clinical.

The most visually arresting of Cruz and Ortiz’s work are their designs of Olympic and soccer stadiums. The Madrid Community Sports Stadium, as viewed from the M-40 highway, positively erupts from the ground. A dramatic arc of stadium seating soars out of the grassy meadow, made all the more striking by its elevation above the compressed and linear stands below. The mass concrete is an architectural feat; it is as functional as it is an intense visual statement. The stadium obviously served as the inspiration for the main track and field stadium for the 2000 Sydney Olympics; it also vaults the spectators above the playing field, providing unobstructed sight lines.

The football stadium at Jerez, Spain, follows a similar pattern of broken linearity. The oval stadium seating is topped entirely by a corrugated metal covering, but has its lines interrupted by a pavilion that escalates above the surface. In contrast to the undulating planar surface, the pavilion is a jagged enclosure with the appearance of fractured rock.

Therein lies the beauty of Cruz and Ortiz’s designs: they would be reasonably mundane but for some small tweak that makes them interesting. Their Huelva Bus Station is representative of their spare geometry; it has an aerial outline of a triangular segment cut out of a circle. On two sides the exterior follows that contour, but on the third, the exterior wall curves inwards to create a fluid curve out of an originally straight line. As vehicles enter the terminal, they follow a twisted path around a static circle spoked by bus bays for arrivals and departures. As a result, the building possesses a dynamic interface between the passengers and their transport. This subtle bending of rigid shapes lends their models a palpable warmth, as realized in their Maria Colonel apartment block designed in the mid-1970s in Seville. The outer structure is angular and somewhat abrasive, but the courtyard within is organic and comforting, having been constructed in the shape of a kidney or an artist’s palette.

Ultimately, however, these Spaniards achievd their visions best when dealing with large public projects. The Tharsis housing development makes an interesting use of landscape, but doesn’t truly work as a viable housing development. Rows of houses are aligned in three rows, all converging to create a focal point for human interaction. However, the houses themselves are window-slitted modernist bunkers of concrete and metal that hardly seem conducive to actual human living. Drab and squashed, the dwellings are dwarfed by the surrounding countryside and possess a disquieting uniformity because they are all facing—literally, because they resemble masks with hats pulled down over their eyes—in one direction. While it is ostensibly a living development, it would have perhaps been better to keep Tharsis as a mental exercise.

Praising or condemning this work is a little foolhardy, because the presentation, in serving its function as a lesson to architectural students, focuses on Cruz and Ortiz’s process. An appreciation for the full weight and human implications of their work can only come from a visit to the structures themselves. The GSD attempts to fill that void by displaying coffee table books directly relating to the subject matter, but the exhibit still feels a little unsatisfying. “Cruz y Ortiz” remains a compelling intellectual exercise of minimalist space creation, if only an exercise.

visual arts

Cruz y Ortiz Buildings

Antonio Cruz and Antonio Ortiz

Harvard University Graduate School of Design

Through May 21

Want to keep up with breaking news? Subscribe to our email newsletter.

Visual Arts