Context is Still Everything

The building that looks like an anvil is the soon to be completed Disseny HUB Barcelona, a design museum by the veteran firm MBM (Martorell, Bohigas, MacKay). It is characterized by a very large cantilever suspended over an elevated highway and traffic circle surrounding a park. This gesture serves, presumably, so that the end of the cantilever, which will be equipped with a large multimedia screen, will be visible from the park without being obstructed by the elevated highway. Considering that the architectural firm MBM is known for its rational, urban and contextual approach, that would seem to me like the main justification for such structural gymnastics.

But as it turns out, the very raison d’être behind this architectural move — the elevated highway — is slated to be demolished and submerged beneath what will become a much larger Plaça de les Glòries. It even turns out that this fact was known before construction began on the building, meaning of course that there was an opportunity to re-design the building to suit the “new” context — an opportunity that the architects, in all their wisdom, declined. What are we to make of this: that the very context that formed the basis of the architectural strategy of this building is, then, not so important in the end? I am reminded of something I read somewhere once to the effect of “fuck context.”

To be sure, the elevated highway cannot be demolished until the tunnels are completed, so there is at least a window of some years during which the Disseny HUB design will make some sense. Just enough time for the building to be photographed, published, and talked about. And after that…who cares?

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