[ + ]

Monument in Homage to Amancio Williams

Vicente López, Buenos Aires Province, Argentina

Status: Built

Construction Budget: $120,000

Design: Original Amancio Williams Design, adaptation Claudio Vekstein, Arch in collaboration with Williams Archive, Claudio Williams Dir.

Construction Assistant: Georg Ponzelar, Eng

Structural Design: Tomás del Carril and Fontán Balestra, Marcelo Rufino, Engs

Landscape Design: Lucia Schiappapietra and Teresa Rozados

Construction Management: Claudio Vekstein, Arch

Client: Municipality of Vicente López, Mayor Enrique García

Location: River Coast Park and Melo St, Municipality of Vicente López, Buenos Aires Province, Argentina

Area: 1 Ha

Photography: Alessandro Desogos, Sergio Esmoris, Sergio Sabag,

Originally designed by the architect Amancio Williams as a Monument in memory of his father, the music composer Alberto Williams for the hundredth anniversary of his birthday, tenth of his death, “the Monument, conceived to be built in a lawn park in Buenos Aires, consists of two high quadrangular shell vaults elevated over a marble floor, raised from the lawn, and linked by four narrow paths to the surrounding paths of the park.

The essence of the project results from the empty space between the two vaults and the marble surfaces. The vaults do not touch each other: their corners remain barely separated, creating a point of tension when viewing them from below. This point matches, just underneath, with a square lawn cavity with a flower emerging in the middle of it from a thin metallic pipe. The amazement generated by the vaults change with great richness according to the different points of view, whether they are seen with their parallel or diagonal sides through a line. A long bench made out of pre-stressed concrete and marble, and a marble row of prisms are situated in different positions allowing the visitors to enjoy these different views, to think or to converse in calm. A second smaller square cavity, filled with renewable water, contains under its surface a stainless steel plate very simply printed, with the commemorative inscription and a call to renew the flower. A system has been studied for the complete lighting of the monument: the vaults, the paths, the marble surface, the benches, the water, the flower, the plate” (Williams, 1962).

In 1966 Williams adapted and built a similar design for the Bunge and Born’s Exhibition Pavillion at the Argentinean Rural Society Centennial Fair in Palermo, using for the first time the vault shells, but reducing its plan dimension and thickness. “The Pavilion was built creating a virtual space under the vaults where a structure of great unit for exposition was built without columns or beams; as a result, everything that was form was at the same time structure” (Williams, 1966). Even though it was built almost entirely in reinforced concrete, after only two months of exhibition (obtaining barely a Third Prize from the jury) and despite Williams’ efforts to avoid it, the pavilion was demolished becoming later a fundamental piece of modern and avant-garde Argentinean architecture.

The intention to reconstruct the Pavilion arose from my personal interest and impulse working together with Claudio Williams (one of Amancio’s sons) thirty years later. The Monument in homage to Williams was commissioned by the City of Vicente López (one of the many cities in the Buenos Aires metropolitan area) in November 1999 after many diligences with different institutions to authorize the reconstruction, and after the publication of two extensive essays. One of the essays was about the Rio de la Plata’s horizon through the photographic studies of Williams (Vekstein, 1995), the other a review of the Bunge & Born Pavilion by Amancio Williams aiming towards its possible reconstruction (Vekstein, 1998). In addition, the Experimental Architecture Studio “Close to the Reconstruction (false-identikit)” was carried out (Vekstein, 1999), finalizing with the action “Fundament(-o) excav.action” at the Argentinean Rural Society in Palermo. In this work, students and professor together with the archaeologist Marcelo Weissel realized the excavation to discover one of the demolished pavilion’s foundations. These findings were conceived as a tribute to Williams at 10 years of his death. The Monument to Williams was finally built on the edge of the Rio de la Plata –a landscape of permanent reflection and inspiration for Williams- in his homage for the End of the Millennium.

The original version of the project was taken into account since only the vaults were approved to be built instead of the entire pavilion. Therefore, as in everything in Amancio’s work and the Monument, the homage becomes at the same time double: adding my personal visions in the two published essays mentioned above to those of Williams’ in his two projects. The Monument in Homage to Amancio Williams is finally a version of the Monument to Alberto Williams -his father-, but according to some of the dimensions and details of the Bunge & Born Pavilion, for example having the central water reservoir instead of the lawn, which receives now the river acoustic reflection as a consequence of the vaults exact curvature, and a concrete plate instead of the reservoir in the old version.

Allowing the park to extend into the Monument from underneath the vaults, Williams’ long paths of light are materialized in concrete and isolated from the great platform of the original project. The two benches complement each other; the extensive linear one facing the river holds a series of 6 backlights that become concrete shadows of the individual pieces in the other diagonal bench. As in the vaults themselves and their internal ideal articulation by the stainless steel capital, two sophisticated artists –both highly elevated, one expression of the most literal, while the other one the most subtly engaged to the land and the territory-, uphold a dialogue of equal peers. The dialogue is double and crossed, although silent and pure. The ideal union of the two parts (vaults as fingers) are kept barely distant, and the water reservoir reflects the sky’s connection between them. In the other direction they define the unquiet line of their own motionless (like the river) passions: Alberto and Amancio Williams, the pampas and the river, humid and liquid pampas.