A good point of entry for understanding the complex designs of the brothers Jaime and Francisco J. Magén Pardo are the sculptures of the late Spanish artist Eduardo Chillida, with their play of dense solids and equally compacted voids. Take Magén Architects’ Bajo Martin County Council building, for example, which was inspired by the alabaster quarries of the area west of Barcelona, with their haphazard geometric cuttings, as well as Chillida’s own alabaster sculptures. The building is clad in alabaster and limestone, and is similarly eroded, as if cut from a solid block, with cantilevers and odd outcroppings. Inside, the main stair connects a sequence of double-height spaces on staggered floors, also finished in stone so that they read as excavations.
Another key to the duo’s work is the relationship between their sculptural buildings and visitors’ paths through them. In the Ebro Environmental Center in Zaragoza, the pitched roofs of the wood-and-glass pavilion create an accessible platform overlooking the Ebro River. The roofs are also the culmination of a series of switchback ramps that, together with a stepped amphitheater, are integral to the building.