Maybe we could try to reframe the moral question in a more specific way. Your architecture has strong interest in materiality, and materiality has been traditionally one of the battlefields of architectural moral.How do you approach this subject in your work?
Materiality is very important for me. When l did the Stretto House,l had a wealthy client building a large house. I wanted to challenge them right from the beginning to see if it was worth doing this project,if they were seriously interested in architecture，or if they just wanted a lavish residence. l proposed to build the house in the most generic concrete block. They accepted this and that made it clear to me that they were prepared to challenge conventions.This is where l think that resistance is very important in my practice. It is not that you would be unreasonably provocative to a client, but you open them to their extremes. If they work with you, the project is worth it, if they don’t,you’re fired.
One of the most interesting projects that we are doing now, the new Chapel for Seattle University, has also become a very interesting problem in terms of materiality as a problem of economy.The site is a street that runs right through the Seattle University campus. We proposed an elongation of the chapel structure and a formation of a new green quadrangle for the students on the West, on the North, and on the South, so a new campus space will be created as a consequence of building the chapel. Seattle University is the only Jesuit University in the Pacific Northwest. They never had a chapel —they have always had to use various worship spaces and they wanted to build a special worship space for the university. My concept drawing is a stone box，inside of which there are seven ‘bottles of light.’ Each one corresponds to a part of the Jesuit Catholic ceremony: Procession,Narthex， Reconciliation，Main Gathering, Choir, and Blessed Sacrament Chapel.After making the concept sketch we tested different possibilities through perspective drawings and models. In planning the layout of the chapel,one of the difficulties was the negotiation between the processional and the communal aspects of the space. In the end we placed the seating area around the altar, but kept the processional aspect characteristic of the Catholic liturgy. Each one of the bottles of light over the different spaces has a different color. We couldn’t afford to have huge stained glass windows but we could make a small piece of stained glass which would sit with-in a field of color that reflects the light.The colored field and the stained glass lens are complimentary colors, so for example,with the blue field,the lens is yellow. At night,the effect reverses and the bottles become beacons that shine over the campus. We built a half-scale mock up of one of the bottles of light -The Choir- to test the effects.The concrete slabs of the outside walls will be tilt up construction,like in Schindler’s Kings Road House in Los Angeles, but on an enormous scale. In order to decrease costs, the slabs will be cast face up, and then erected with a crane in one day.
One of these slabs weighs seventy-seven tons; to be picked up by crane we needed to insert pick up hook points in the slabs that will remain in the walls as a trace of the construction method. The hook covers will be cast in brass and applied over the holes once the wall has been tilted-up, casting shadows on the walls. As you can see, the tectonic， material realization is crucial to our process.
Sometimes the process reverses; it goes from the conceptual into the tectonic. In our project for the American Memorial Library in Berlin，the concept was about the movement through the building. This circuit was scratched on the curtain walls, as a trace of the idea. In the case of the Seattle Chapel the idea of the stone box is very important，even if the building is not to be built in stone. The walls still remain huge tilted up stones… of cast concrete.