Gables and Sawtooths

José Javier Gallardo Ortega ///g.bang///, Youth Mental Health Clinic, Zaragoza, Spain

Brooks + Scarpa, Metalsa SA, Automobile Lab and Testing Facility, Apodaca, Mexico

The studio I have been teaching focused on industrial districts and industrial buildings and a field house we are designing for a private school near Boston has made me “sawtooth sensitive.” The youth mental health clinic in Spain (no programmatic analogy to our school project!) and the Brooks + Scarpa factory in Mexico (which has been heavily covered by the design press) both take the regular pattern of a repeating serrated roofline and invite ambiguous poetic allusions by varying the pitch and proportions. In the Scarpa project, the composition can be read as an undulation of increasing intensity – implying to me the a graph charting the increase in sales of cars that are tested at the facility (with troughs when the testing lab breaks down?) or the crumbled hood of a car (but the crash dummies are fine!). The architects claim, on the other hand, that the profile of the roof reflects the silhouette of the nearby mountains.

The architects for the youth mental health clinic have a much more focused alibi for their roof form. “The roof, for the most part a sawtooth shape with variable slopes – very steep at some points – reflects, from the outside, the degree of internal mental activity in relation to the type of rooms they occupy: the resting or sleeping area with a slope of 60%, common areas or with maximum activity have outstanding peak of 240%. The treatment of the spaces occupied by the medical staff and caregivers has been dealt with flat roofs.”


One thought on “Gables and Sawtooths

  1. Interesting article. In school we are told that the roof is the ‘fifth façade’ and how the building meets the sky is of extreme importance. A flat roof is used to frequently as an easy scapegoat from a possible design solution. It is encouraging to see projects that live UP to the challenge.
    In terms of the Brooks + Scarpa factory I never would have guessed the Mexican mountains to be so jagged and almost glacial looking (I liked your crashed car analogy better, and now that’s all I see). But in all seriousness, I wonder if the factory is oriented in a specific way. The upward angled fenestration in the roof is an attractive feature, but seems impractical for the hot Mexican climate. I wonder in the skylights are orientated north and are operable. Or have exterior shading devices. On the other hand, I wonder if the solid angular portions are orientated towards the sun and could become stages for PV panels. What an intriguing form and beautiful façade, I hope the interior is just as playful.
    The way a pitched roof is utilized for the “youth mental health clinic” reminded me of Adolf Loos’s concept of ‘raumplan’. After visiting Villa Muller I have an appreciation for having the characteristics of a room behave in accordance to the function of the space. It’s wonderful to see that ideology utilized in a contemporary building and also being expressed on the exterior. I just hope the architects don’t say the determined angles of the pitch were derived by the angles of a distant plateau.

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