Full essay at: Massilia 2011. Annuaire d’études Corbuséennes, edited by Josep Quetglas
[Paris-Marseille: Fondation Le Corbusier, Ed. Imbernon, 2011], 82-91
Le Corbusier was surely the principal reference Enric Miralles had throughout his entire career. At an early stage, as a second-year student at the Barcelona School of Architecture, Miralles studied Elements of Composition under Rafael Moneo, using Le Corbusier: Complete Works as a textbook. That course, in 1973-74, provided him with an early knowledge of Corbusier’s oeuvre. Twenty years later, in 1992, after a trip to India to visit Le Corbusier and Louis Kahn’s works, Miralles bought The Le Corbusier Archive – in 32 volumes, the most extensive publication on the Swiss architect. In the notebooks he carried during that trip, he critiqued the way Chandigard and other projects were presented in the Complete Works, which might explain his wish to have a more detailed anthology on Le Corbusier’s architecture.
This interest in researching and studying Le Corbusier remained unchanged until the very end. At Miralles/Tagliabue’s office on Passatge de la Pau, of the four shelves located behind the table where they both designed, one was entirely dedicated to Le Corbusier. There Miralles had the Complete Works, the Archive, and the vast bibliography that throughout his life he had accumulated on the architect. As a teacher, Miralles also wanted his students to learn how to design using Le Corbusier’s architecture, as illustrated by various courses and workshops he led in Barcelona and abroad: “Venecia” (ETSAB, Barcelona, 1994-95) was about this city and the never-built Hospital by Le Corbusier; “Quincy Street, almost a street” (UIMP, La Coruña, July 1998) included a detailed study of the Carpenter Centre; and “Work and workshop” (The Royal Academy of Fine Arts, Copenhagen, June 1998) proposed a combined use of Le Corbusier’s Paperback and George Perec’s Espèces d’espaces.
As a result of this lifelong interest, the presence of Le Corbusier in the oeuvre of Enric Miralles can be glimpsed, almost as a mark, from the first projects he designed with Carme Pinós to the last ones with Benedetta Tagliabue. The section of the Ronchamp Chapel at the Igualada Cemetery, the ramps of the Carpenter Centre at the Alicante Eurhythmics Stadium, or the geometry of the Open Hand at the office of the La Llauna school are just a few examples of this strong influence. Yet, beyond these formal or literal references, what Enric Miralles learnt from Le Corbusier, fundamentally, was that the plan libre made it possible to endow each plan with the utmost specificity within the whole, that designing did not mean replicating the same decision over and over, that a change in height, the awareness of being up or down, implied a change in spatial conditions. At least, this is what can be deduced from the evolution of his own architecture, which went from a Corbusian use of the free plan to the personal development of the capacities of the modern plan: the Miralles plan.
PROJECTS /// HEAD – Genève. Train Zug Treno Tren. Inaugural Exhibition at Mudac [Lausanne: Mudac, 2022] /// Javier F. Contreras, Ignacio Hornillos. Villa Cuadrada [Madrid, 2022] /// HEAD – Genève & India Mahdavi. Herbarium of Interiors: A Milk Bar [Milan: Alcova, 2021] /// HEAD – Genève & HEPIA. Archipelago: Architectures for the Multiverse [Geneva, 2021] /// Javier F. Contreras, Youri Kravtchenko, fala atelier. Nosy Hoods [Geneva: Dimanche Showroom, 2021] /// Javier F. Contreras, Ignacio Hornillos. Prismarium [Logroño: Concentrico Architecture and Design Festival, 2020] /// HEAD – Genève & USM Foundation. Space Duality [Red Dot Winner 2020, Frame Awards 2020] /// Javier F. Contreras, Youri Kravtchenko, Ignacio Hornillos. Large Kiosk [Geneva, 2019] /// Javier F. Contreras, Youri Kravtchenko. Scènes de Nuit. Nocturnal Exhibition at f’ar Lausanne [Lausanne: forum d’architectures, 2019] /// BOOKS ////// Javier F. Contreras, Roberto Zancan, eds. Intimacy Exposed: Toilet, Bathroom, Restroom [Geneva: HEAD – Publishing / Leipzig: Spector Books, 2023] Javier F. Contreras. Manifiesto de Interiores [Barcelona: Puente Editores, 2022] /// Javier F. Contreras, Youri Kravtchenko, and Manon Portera, eds. Scènes de Nuit. Night & Architecture [Geneva: HEAD – Publishing / Madrid: Ediciones Asimétricas, 2021] /// Javier F. Contreras. Manifesto of Interiors: Thinking in the Expanded Media [Geneva: HEAD – Publishing, 2021] /// Javier F. Contreras. The Miralles Projection: Thinking and Representation in the Architecture of Enric Miralles [New York: Applied Research + Design Publishing, 2020] /// Javier F. Contreras, Youri Kravtchenko, Arjen Oosterman, and Lilet Breddels, eds. Herbarium of Interiors. HEAD – Genève & India Mahdavi [Amsterdam: Archis-Volume, 2020] /// Javier F. Contreras. Fragmentos de Planta y Espacio. Sistema Diédrico en Enric Miralles [Madrid: Ediciones Asimétricas, 2018] /// ESSAYS /// Javier F. Contreras. “El Croquis Night: Excursus into Nocturnal Obliteration in Architectural Media” Interiority. Vol 4 No. 2 (2021): 181-190. /// Javier F. Contreras. “Tactile and Reflective Conditions in the Architecture of Marie-José Van Hee” In Marie-José Van Hee Architecten: More Home, More Garden, edited by Hilde Peleman, and Katrien Vandermarliere [Ghent: Copyright Slow Publishing, 2019], 217-229. /// Javier F. Contreras. “Différences de Perception: Le Chablais Lémanique” In Prises de vue. Un paradigme pour l’observation du paysage, edited by Michael Jakob [Geneva: Métis Presses, 2019], 129-146. /// Javier F. Contreras. “Tactile and Reflective Conditions: Marie-José Van Hee’s House Declercq” BITACORA Arquitectura no. 39 (2018): 134-139. /// Javier F. Contreras. “Dibujo y Repetición: Presencia Manual de Enric Miralles en la Planta del Ayuntamiento de Utrecht” RA Revista de Arquitectura no. 19 (2017): 97-104. /// Javier F. Contreras, and José María Sánchez García. “Concentration as Program, Emptiness as Flexibility: an Idea of Space” In Passion for the Built Environment (Perspectives in Metropolitan Research no. 2), edited by Gesa Ziemer [Berlin: Jovis Verlag, 2016], 98-106. /// Javier F. Contreras. “La Tectónica de lo Aéreo: Enric Miralles y la Vicisitud de lo Climático” ZARCH: Journal of Interdisciplinary Studies in Architecture and Urbanism no. 4 (2015): 22-35. /// Javier F. Contreras. “Plan Libre vs. Plan Miralles” In Massilia 2011. Annuaire d’études Corbuséennes, edited by Josep Quetglas [Paris-Marseille: Fondation Le Corbusier, Editions Imbernon, 2011], 82-91. /// Javier F. Contreras. “Océanos de Arena, Ciudades del Petróleo” Revista Arquitectura no. 361 (Autumn 2010): 88-91. /// Javier F. Contreras. “El Organicismo Expandido” CIRCO no. 153. Madrid: M.R.T. Coop, 2009. /// Javier F. Contreras, Gabriel N. Duarte, and Roberto Gª Caballero. “It’s Not Just Grass! Subverting Legal Planning and the Reinvention of the Dutch Process-Landscape Agenda 2000 & the C2751” In 306090 vol.8, Autonomous Urbanism, edited by Alex Duval, and Kjersti Monson [New York: Princeton Architectural Press, 2005], 21-30. /// INTERVIEWS /// “Depuis Rue Las Cases. A Conversation with India Mahdavi” Interview by Javier F. Contreras. In India Mahdavi, edited by Chronicle Chroma [Los Angeles: Chronicle Books, 2021] /// Javier F. Contreras, and Graeme Brooker. “The Future is Interior and Interiorised” Interview by Marco Costantini, and Claire Favre Maxwell. RADDAR no. 2 (2020), 192-213. /// Irma Boom. “Within Pages, Beyond Books” Interview by Javier F. Contreras, and Lilet Breddels. In Herbarium of Interiors, edited by J. F. Contreras, Y. Kravtchenko, A. Oosterman, L. Breddels [Amsterdam: Archis-Volume, 2020], 42-47. /// Javier F. Contreras. “Architecture d’intérieur. Espace et Communication” Interview by Nic Ulmi. In IN MY HEAD, edited by Julie E. Julliard [Geneva: HEAD – Genève, 2020], 240-243. /// Jean-Pierre Greff, and Javier F. Contreras. “Dialogue sur l’enseignement de l’architecture d’intérieur” Interview by Roberto Zancan. In L’architecture par l’intérieur, edited by Roberto Zancan [Geneva: MetisPresses, 2018], 185-205.
Javier Fernández Contreras (Dipl. ETSAM 2006, PhD 2013) is a Geneva-based architect, design theorist, and the Dean of the Department of Space Design at HEAD – Genève. His work explores the relationship between architecture, representation and media, with a specific focus on the role of interiors in the construction of contemporaneity. Contreras is the director of several BA, MA and research programs, including MAIA (Master of Arts in Interior Architecture) and Scènes de Nuit, a research platform investigating the entanglements between night and architecture. He is the author of the books Fragmentos de Planta y Espacio (2018), The Miralles Projection: Thinking and Representation in the Architecture of Enric Miralles (2020), Manifesto of Interiors: Thinking in the Expanded Media (2021), and co-editor of Scènes de Nuit: Night & Architecture (2021). His critical essays have been published in numerous books and specialised journals, including Marie-José Van Hee Architecten, Massilia Annuaire des Études Corbuséennes, Drawing Matter, India Mahdavi, RA Revista de Arquitectura, RADDAR, and Plan Libre. Contreras is a regular contributor to professional debates, international juries and conferences. His work has earned him prizes in various international competitions, including the Concentrico Design Festival 2020, f’ar Lausanne 2019, and several editions of Europan. His recent projects and distinctions with HEAD – Genève include Train Zug Treno Tren, the opening exhibition at MUDAC Lausanne in 2022; the invitation to the 2021 Seoul Architecture Biennale for the Circa Diem project (in collaboration with the EPFL); the Brands and Communication Red Dot Award 2020 and the Innovation Frame Award 2020 for the Space Duality project; as well as a Design Prize Switzerland 2019 nomination for the #Looslab project.
This website is an index of selected projects and writings.