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How to Remember: El Grito de Alcorta by Opera Publica

How to Remember: El Grito de Alcorta by Opera Publica

Grito Alcorta by Opera Publica Ph. Gustavo Esmoris

This project is featured in NESS.docs 2: “Landscape as Urbanism in the Americas.” The issue takes its name from a project lead by the Office for Urbanization at Harvard GSD. It explores the potentials for landscape as a medium of urban intervention in the specific social, cultural, economic, and ecological contexts of Latin American cities. The issue will be available very soon. Sign-up to our newsletter to be the first to know! 

A tension between memorial space and monument defines El Grito de Alcorta. It explores the landscape and the portrait in pictorial terms, or more generically, the field and the object. The task was to avoid and confuse these terms constantly. This can also be found in Opera Publica, the studio’s research and practice platform that explores the intensity of things or building along with the res-publica or common good. Encompassing a political dimension of architecture inclusive to public interest issues such as the contemporary framework of the megapolitan city, it uses architectural materials to activate the micro-scalar urban territories that negotiate physical, environment, and societal struggles. It goes from architectural locality to environmental sociology and urban ecology, fostering socially entrenched urban infrastructure and applying disciplinarily engaged activism through architectural and social premises across multiple scales. It seeks fine-tuned proximity to reanimate public life, building on narrative, structure, citizenship, and landscape, the character and shape of the land to which people belong, or the vital breath of the every day, in both the singular and the ordinary of the universal scape of the city’s realm.  

This work celebrates the agrarian rebellion of small rural tenants in 1912—mostly Italian and Spanish immigrants—known as El Grito de Alcorta and evokes the farmers, their work and struggles, the use and possession of the land, and the cooperative nature that emerged. It also actualizes them in a daily gathering space for farmers and citizens to overwrite the passive, reverent monuments of the past. Only four large exposed concrete foundations remained in the bare terrain, monumental sculptural figures in the Socialist Realism Soviet style built for the 50th anniversary of the rebellion. In this project, the area was turned into a building program to hold small cultural functions, becoming a civic plaza, an auditorium, a gallery, or a historical interpretation center. The interiors’ intense and intimate scales are housed by an extensive, folded exterior plane structured by large steel rhythmic porticos, inclined frames, and modular rugged panels. This screen carries the expressive aesthetic content while articulating its monumental scale as a classic scenery to be seen along the trails that circulate nearby.  

The massive relief, resembling historic stockpiles of burlap sacks, materializes through locally crafted panels made out of resin reinforced with fiberglass and crude burlap molded on geometrically pixelated wooden forms. The West pavilion, containing offices and public toilets, is a reinforced concrete structure with steel profiles emerging from the plowed earth. It depicts, on its descending terraces accessed by the exterior ramp along the main screen and a staircase along the stepping, the vast horizon, and the Pampean sunsets. Rough textures at different scales reveal a textile and tactile grain evoking the labor engraved by the agrarian workers on the land, their tanned skins rugged with wrinkles and cracked by the sun, their type of clothing, and the rough bags piled up in the storage. A free stacking wall and horizontally extruding porticos conjoin to form continuous sections. The fluted surface unfolds beyond the building and the sectioning of the metal panels unites it with the horizon.   

LOCATION: Route 90 Kilometer 78, Commune of Alcorta, Santa Fe Province, Argentina / DATE: 2011 (competition), 2018 (construction) / SITE AREA: 7,500 m2, 80729.32 sf / BUILT AREA: 400 m2, 4305.564 sf / CLIENT: Argentine Agrarian Federation, Government of Santa Fe Province, Commune of Alcorta, Government of the Argentine Republic / STATUS: Built / ARCHITECTURE DESIGN: Opera Publica / MAIN ARCHITECT: Claudio Vekstein / PROJECT MANAGER: Carolina Telo, architect / PROJECT ASSISTANTS: Mariana Pons, Pedro Magnasco, Mercedes Peralta, Martin Flugelman, Santiago Tolosa, Stephen Wanderer, Susan Franco, Alisha Rompre, Elizabeth Menta, Dolores Cremonini, Maca Cerquera, Pamela Galan, Shaghayegh Vaseghi, architects / CONSULTANTS: Elena Rocchi, Lucia Schiappapietra and Teresa Rozados, Landscape Architecture Consultants; Tomás del Carril and Javier Fazio, Structural Consultants; Mark West and Ronnie Araya, Paneling Consultants; Giuliana Nieva, Lighting Consultant / CONSTRUCTION MANAGEMENT: Province Department of Architecture and Engineering (DIPAI), Special Projects Unit, Ministry of Public Works and Housing, Santa Fe Province / PHOTOS: Federico Cairoli, Sergio Gustavo Esmoris  

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