Viana do Castelo Portugal, by Eduardo Souto de Moura
The boisterous fishing town of Viana do Castelo, in northern Portugal, preserves its Renaissance and Manueline structures with pride. More recent additions, including a library by Álvaro Siza and a leisure centre by Fernando Távora, attract sightseers with a passion for Portuguese modernism.
The latest development is Eduardo Souto de Moura’s cultural centre. Best known for his restrained structures (in particular the red concrete Paula Rego Museum in Cascais, Portugal), the Pritzker Laureate demonstrates his constructivist streak here. With giant aluminum pipes on the facade to reference a nearby ship, and a central hall for sports, music concerts, talks and other events, this project is more Centre Pompidou than Guggenheim Bilbao.
When Raimund Abraham died in a car accident in 2010, he left a legacy of wildly imaginative architectural drawings to rival those of Lebbeus Woods. The Austrian virtuoso, who taught at SCI-Arc and the Cooper Union, and influenced everyone from Thom Mayne of Morphosis to Wolf D. Prix of Coop Himmelb(l)au, had realized just one brilliant concept: the Austrian Cultural Forum Building, a slim yet formidable tower nestled between two New York skyscrapers. Yet he was busy at work on another project, at a former NATO missile base near Düsseldorf.
Just completed, the idiosyncratic structure consists of a concrete saucer 33 metres in diameter, and a wood-clad building within it that houses rehearsal spaces, living units, a courtyard, a subterranean arena – and much more. To make the most of the flexible program, the city recently held a competition and is in the process of determining how to use the building.
In 2012, Chiaki Arai wowed the world with his Ofunato Civic Center and Library in northeastern Japan, especially the cavernous interiors, whose cascading walls of concrete recall M. C. Escher’s dizzying drawings. The architect continues his playfulness with the brutalist material: for the Konan Ward Cultural Centre, in Niigata city, he enclosed a multi-purpose theatre, a library, a museum and a community centre in faceted surfaces of board-formed concrete, pinpricked with hundreds of recessed lights.