Jorge Newbery Municipal Sports Centre - Eduardo Leston-Estudio Kocourek

When at the end of the 70s, Eduardo Leston returned after getting his Masters Degree at the HarvardGraduate School of Design, he was hired by Estudio Kocourek (EK), a very particular office for Argentine reality, as its owner Estanislao Kocourek (famous pioneer for being a successful athlete), was hiring for his projects important architects who, for one reason or another, did not have an independent work. Thus, architects such as Ernesto Katzenstein or Raul Lier were able to perform important jobs obtained at this true study-company (in fact, the name was Estudio Kocourek S.R.L.).

In 1979, Leston was hired by EK to perform a direct work requested by the Municipality of the City of Buenos Aires to build a pool area and gym building with attached sports facilities and parks, on KDT grounds, a cycling circuit of the city, which in fact were lands of Tres de Febrero Park Southern border.

The works, commenced in 1982, were soon seen as a departure from what was canonized in those days (as something necessary) by Kenneth Frampton with his article on Escuela de Buenos Aires (EBA, Buenos Aires School). This production method, predominant for at least 20 years in the city architecture scene, had developed a series of topics which were (and still are) acylically replicated, and which were accepted first in contests, and then in several courses taught by FADU-UBA.

In his project developed in a large land, without important constraints, Leston organizes the main halls of the building (the gym and the pool), following each different axis with a slight angle between them. The pool helps to order all internal spaces, while the gym has an external gallery parallel to its structure (fig. 1). As a consequence of this interruption, the internal hall joining both entrances to the building (the hall and the bar) is winding and, at the same time, the stretch joining these two spaces is triangular (fig. 2). The rest of the building contains only support spaces (dressing rooms, storage areas, offices) aligned with the pool.

This layout was not only considered arbitrary, as EBA members, followers of Beaux Arts tradition of parti (party, locally translated), seemed not to understand the reasons of this interruption in the ground layout, not to mention some of the resulting spaces. The fine adjustment that gave freedom to Leston may be perceived in the whole access area. When approaching the building from the main entrance (also a part of the project) through a perspective way from a small pre-existing vertical element (a service installation), one can see front areas, first of the bar (fig. 3) and then, with a slight angle (obviously the same ground interruption) the gym (fig. 4).

When one arrives through this path, almost at the end of the building a gallery side is observed (fig. 5), which evidently takes us inside the building. This manner, in order to enter, first we must turn left and then go back (fig. 6). Obviously, this progression had little to do with typical axis of classic partis and was little understood.

This also happens with material resolution. While the building followed construction techniques widely used by dictatorship municipal management (machine bricks, exposed concrete, metal), Leston used them here in an antithesis to the manner then applied (and currently applied) by EBA.

Because if in organizational matters EBA follows Beaux Artstradition, in materiality it strictly follows the modern proposition of nature of material. According to this belief, each material must be used in the only manner that would be the answer to the (alleged) nature. And Leston did not do this.

The three piles seen at the bar entrance, made of exposed concrete, clearly do not have the size required by loading. The way some walls have a specific part developed into a widening section owing to specific spacial reasons is also a heterodoxy. And much more in oblique shapes, with constructive elements used in octagons. That is the case of highest run of Buenos Aires orthodoxy. This is reflected in obtuse bricks of the gallery. Pillars holding the upper body of offices making up the entrance gallery do not have the same alignment. Of the nine pillars, the first two (seen from access progression) are parallel to the gym structure (and its front), with the ground in rectangle (hiding the supporting reinforced concrete column). The remaining seven pillars are organized according to the pool ground; therefore, on the ground, a trapeze rectangle is obtained (to keep front alignment with upper body). Thus, one of the corners is an acute angle (and the corner brick may keep its size on one size and be cut on the other) and an obtuse angle. Thus, in order to get to the corner with an entire brick, such brick is completed with paste of the same material in order to build the obtuse angle (fig. 7 and 8).

With these liberties, Leston achieves a fair work, measured with spaces of an outstanding quality. The use of cenital light in deep areas of the plant in conjunction with the width of exposed brick walls (used both inside and outside), gives spaces a idiosyncratic character different from EBA spaces and remarkable for being produced in a corporate environment.

But as a result of all sacrilege of the dogma, EBA priests did not pay attention to this work nor the ideas that Eduardo Leston presented in such ideas. In some cases, those ideas derived from its rich culture.

In those times, Leston taught courses at La Escuelita (a private institution ran by J. Solsona, E. Katzenstein, T. Diaz and R. Viñoly), and for one of them the work “Heterotopia. : a study in the ordering sensibility of the work of Alvar Aalto”, the famous article of Demetri Porphyrios, had been translated.

This work, originally published in Architectural Monographs edition dedicated to Aalto, is a very intelligent analysis of his work, which was always a problem for EBA-. In this article, Porphyrios develops a theory on organizational complexities of grounds and elevations of aaltian work, where heterotopia is defined as the heterogeneous method of organization where project decisions are not governed by a higher order, by a primary governing decision. In contrast, homogeneity or homotopy, is the method where all partial decisions are subordinated to a general principle.

And while Leston work does not cover complexities satisfactorily analyzed in Porphyrios article, the project development is understood as a superior stage of definition of the first traces included in each work. This method of projection prevents that first time where all subsequent decisions are prioritized.

The EBA maintained its position (sometimes police) to project and judge, which prevented it from valuating this work in a fair manner and maybe the short-term thinking is the result of the primitive origin of parti technique.

In Ecole de Beaux Arts courses, there was a time when all students had to enter small individual rooms, closed with canvas. Once inside, they were given a subject and had to prepare a brief organizational sketch, aparti. They could only leave the room once they had decided upon their sketch. This sketch was kept by the professor, and it would be compared during the course with the advancements the student made of the pertinent project. Naturally, subsequent change of the proposed parti meant an adverse qualification, which generated a linear projection manner putting special emphasis on that first time, which was a mark of Beaux Arts and which somehow continued during 20th Century.

Seeing the little reverberation that this building had on the works subsequently built in the city, it may be concluded that the EBA never left the room.