“I have tried to make complex things with simplicity, and I will leave it up to you to judge if I have not succeeded. In any case, I have tried, intensely.” (Aldo Pio Favini)
During his time as a student, Aldo Favini, a structural engineer and the son of a real estate developer, crossed paths with the Italian architect Angelo Mangerotti. This encounter would go on to shape their professional relationship in the years to come. As their collaboration deepened, architect and engineer became an inseparable team, working together on numerous projects. They shared a fascination for solving complex engineering problems with simplicity.
“A few years after the project of the structures of the church of Baranzate, Arch. Angelo Mangiarotti asked me to design a structure for an industrial building. Thinking back on the church of Baranzate, I realized I had designed a classical type of structure, nothing new, that is. Exactly four pillars, two main beams, five secondary beams and tiles to complete it…” (Aldo Pio Favini)
When considering the projects of both architect and engineer the same structural type of the cantilevered slab is used to make a church, a pavilion, a gas station and a residential apartment block.
While refueling at a gas station, I noticed its resemblance to the designs by Mangiarotti and Favini. Acknowledging that our generation will be the last reliant on fossil fuels, gas stations now symbolize obsolescence. As we transition to solar-powered transportation, the question arises: how should we address these remnants of the past? Should we demolish them, erasing their memory, or appreciate them for what they are — an intriguing, flexible structural type — a slab supported by four points
These humble structures possess cultural references worth exploring. For instance, the 2004 documentary ‘Regular or Super,’ featuring the work of Mies Van Der Rohe, includes a simple gas station near Montreal amidst his renowned masterpieces. Equally captivating is the artist publication ’26 Gas Stations’ by Ed Ruscha, a book showcasing exactly what its title suggests: 26 examples of the same type. Through its straightforward arrangement, the book unveils the countless variations within the type—always similar, yet never identical.
In this studio, we will delve into all the gas stations in Flanders. We will meticulously map them, conduct comparisons, and gain a comprehensive understanding of their functionality. Our aim is to compile an archive and establish the boundaries of this particular structural type.
Following this analysis, students will collaborate in pairs to repurpose a former gas station, engaging in the creative process of reimagining and adapting the structure while considering its architectural and structural characteristics.