two cities, a park, a garden and two urban panoramas

   Brooklyn Bridge Park by Michael Van Valkenburgh and Associates.

  View towards Manhattan from the northwest corner of MVVA’s park. 

  Lurie Garden designed by GGN; Kathryn Gustafson, Jennifer Guthrie & Shannon Nichol at Chicago’s Millenium Park 

 Cloud Gate by Anish Kapoor; Millenium Park, where Chicago’s skyline is reflected and interestingly distorted as if captured by a wide-angle lens. 

The Poetry Foundation by John Ronan Architects; courtyard by Reed-Hilderbrand Landscape Architects

Designed by John Ronan AIA, the Poetry Foundation is located in a corner lot in West Superior and North Dearborn streets in Near North Side, Chicago. At first glance, the building seems like a solid volume, with its main façades aligned with the street frontage.

However, the building’s skin — primarily built in perforated metal — encloses an interior garden, designed by Doug Reed, that allows the main spaces to overlook the vegetated space through a fully glazed curtain wall that sets back from the street line. Therefore, the garden serves as a transitional space that guards the interior spaces from the street providing a spatial sequence like not to many contemporary buildings.

Despite being surrounded by the metal veil, the garden is visible from the sidewalk inviting visitors to enter freely from the site’s corner. Although trees populate almost entirely the open space, they are carefully placed to provide a path leading to the main entrance of the Foundation.

Although I visited the building on a Sunday, I experienced the spatial sequence of the garden, which gives the building a fascinating atmosphere. In retrospect, the courtyard of this compact urban building (completely aware of the difference in scale and culture) reminds of the Orange tree courtyard of the Great Mosque of Córdoba which offers itself as an oasis for wanderers, artists, and poets to shelter from the harshness of the surrounding context.

The following drawings are my attempt to illustrate and make sense of the spatial sequence of the Poetry Foundation’s garden.

Diseñada por John Ronan AIA, la sede del Poetry Foundation se encuentra en un lote de esquina en las calles West Superior y North Dearborn en Near North Side, Chicago. A primera vista, el edificio parece un volumen sólido, con sus fachadas principales alineadas con la línea de fachada hacia la calle.

Sin embargo, la piel del edificio — principalmente construida en metal perforado — encierra un jardín interior que permite que los espacios principales miren al espacio vegetado a través d una piel acristalada que recede de la línea de fachada. Por lo tanto, el jardín sirve de espacio de transición que protege los espacios interiores de la calle.

A pesar de estar rodeado por el velo metálico, el jardín es visible desde la acera invitando a los visitantes a entrar libremente desde la esquina del edificio. Aunque los árboles pueblan casi en su totalidad el espacio abierto, se colocan cuidadosamente proporcionando un camino que conduce a la entrada principal del edificio.

Aunque visité el edificio en domingo (que estaba cerrado al público), pude experimentar la secuencia espacial del jardín, que otorga al edificio de un ambiente fascinante. 

En retrospectiva, el patio de este compacto edificio urbano (completamente consciente de la diferencia de escala y cultural) recuerda al Patio de los Naranjos de la Mezquita de Córdoba, que se ofrece a visitantes, artistas y poetas, como un oasis para descansar de la dureza del contexto urbano.

Los dibujos arriba son mi intento de ilustrar y captar el sentido de la secuencia espacial del jardín de la Fundación.

Thanks to Virginia Durán ( for sharing her Architectural Guide of Chicago. (

caixa forum madrid _ herzog & de meuron

Designed by the Swiss duo Jacques Herzog and Pierre de Meuron CaixaForum Madrid is a contemporary art museum and cultural center near Paseo del Prado.


The architects manage to make an existing brick structure defy gravity in order to provide an open ground floor, a strategy already tested – albeit timidly – at the Tate Modern in London. However, the feat is more interesting for its structural audacity than for the space gained. The free plan allows the building to hover while a stainless steel staircase invite visitors to enter. Nevertheless, due to the sloping terrain the noble intention of providing access from every street is not possible. Thus, the southwest area and the entire west façade are inaccessible since they remain sunken in relation to the sidewalks. One third of the square lies underutilized most of the time despite attempts by the designers to program it with benches and a leaking fountain.


The opening at the corner of Almadén Street allowed the museum to become visible from Paseo del Prado. The square is complemented by a vertical garden conceived by the French botanist Patrick Blanc.


The main staircase, along with the entrance stair and the auditorium, is one of the hierarchical spaces of the Caixa Forum. Built in reinforced concrete, the staircase (illustrated above) literally pierce and spatially connects all museum levels. But, at each level the sculpted space is funneled rather awkwardly at the entrances of exhibition space.

Le Corbusier’s (& José Oubrerie) L’eglise Saint-Pierre de Firminy

This is a follow up on our trip to Italy and France last summer where we got the chance to visit the cultural complex at Firminy-Vert. Here are a few quick sketches made on site; a few trying to capture the feeling of the interior space.





Villa Savoye (1928-1931) Le Corbusier et Pierre Jeanneret

The Villa Savoye in Poissy (outside of Paris) was designed by Le Corbusier and his cousin Pierre Jeanneret. Built in reinforced concrete the house best exemplifies Le Corbusier’s five points of modern architecture. These were:

1. pilotis – a grid of reinforced concrete columns that served as main structural support, elevating the house from the ground to allow for the continuity of the landscape underneath.

2. plan libre – given the pilotis there was no need for load-bearing walls to support the structure allowing interior walls to be placed freely and only where the program required them.

3. toit jardin or roof garden – an open-air terrace that reclaimed the landscape displaced by the occupation of the building.

4. fenêtre en longueur – horizontal windows that provided rooms with an equal distribution of natural light and ventilation.

5. façade libre – unconstrained by load-bearing considerations building skins could be arranged freely to serve the requirements of the interior spaces.


Caja de Granada


Designed by Alberto Campo Baeza, El Centro Cultural Caja de Granada, also known as El Museo de la Memoria Andaluza is one of the best examples of contemporary architecture in Spain.

The reinforced concrete building (exposed concrete on the outside and white plastered interiors) is comprised of a horizontal base (114 meters long x 54 wide) and an eight stories height tower. The lower volume houses the main exhibition spaces and an auditorium, among other ancillary programs. While the tower (same width as the base but 42 meters height) contains the administrative offices, cafeteria, a public library, reading and meeting rooms and a restaurant at the top that allows panoramic views of La Alhambra, the city of Granada and the nearby landscapes of Sierra Nevada and Sierra Elvira.


The main façade of the building is monumental, formed by the tower — wider than it is high — rises to the west and is only pierced by the main entrance and the horizontal windows of the restaurant. The rest of the façade stands as a solid mass, as a monumental architectural screen that highlights its prescience within the surrounding context.


The main entrance displays a stainless steel sliding door (mechanically operated) that serves both as banner and harbinger of the monumental scale of the museum’s interior. Once past the main entrance the sequence proceeds by descending an entire floor to a rectangular courtyard that serves as lobby to the tower as well as the main gallery spaces. The patio doubles as additional exhibition area for temporary installations.

Once inside, the sequence of exhibition spaces is organized around an elliptical courtyard, undoubtedly the most important space in the museum. The courtyard emulates in scale, spatial organization and hierarchy the circular courtyard of El Palacio de Carlos V, not far in the Alhambra, and to which Campo Baeza pays homage with the building. The main feature of this open space — in addition to its elegant proportions and monumental scale — is a pair of helicoidal ramps that apart from defying gravity (and many requirements of the ADA law) connect the exhibition spaces, allowing for a dynamic and diverse spatial sequence. Recognized by Campo Baeza himself, the ramps emulate — somewhat literally — Berthold Lubetkin’s penguin pool (1934) at the London Zoo.


places I’ve drawn, but have not yet visited series: Le Corbusier’s (& José Oubrerie) L’eglise Saint-Pierre de Firminy

Designed in the mid-1960’s, this church by Le Corbusier was completed by José Oubrerie in 2006 who was a member of the original design staff. Construction started in 1973 but was halted in 1978 due to political conflicts. These drawings were made while looking at slides that my wife took when she visited it.


sketching por la isla: tren urbano

Here are some sketches I made on our last tour sketching por la isla. This time we decided to draw from the “Tren Urbano” (San Juan’s only metro line).

inside the train car; the curved buildings of el monte housing complex (where I live); tunnel entrance; san juan’s courthouse façade detail; and grab bar detail.

rum testing laboratories’ building at san juan’s botanical gardens; and escalators atrium at centro medicos’ station.

covered platform at cupey station.