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Hortus Conclusus | art of isolation (poetica dell’isolamento)


For as long as time architects have faced having to relate to the site and to the environment, weather it’s the city or nature. Which raises the question: should they always?  Most successful architectures entertain a relationship at some level with the neighboring. However, a number of building typologies has grown into very introvert and self-conscious architectures, mainly because their program requested it.
Alberto Campo Baeza and the portuguese masters of architecture reinterpreted the concept to pave the way for a poetic image of separation, born from the Hortus Conclusus.

Be it the monastery, the castle, the prison, there is a lack of spontaneity and intent in their isolation, for they follow the same set of rules that commands the community of people (monks, villagers, inmates) they house.

Separation. The medieval garden. The Hortus Conclusus is literally a closed garden. A sign, as subtle as a line, marks the territory.

Protection. It all starts with protection: the relationship of the ancient Greek polis with the land around it – the Chora – is no different from that of a monastery with the nearby grounds and farmlands. A selected circle of people would live in a walled community, using the land around for self-sustainability. The underlying concept, stemming from the set of rules these communities are based on, is that of isolation, not just from the contextual landscape or town/city, but from other people as well. The Castle works in the same way.

Restriction. The usability of the concept led to the radicalization of the process. The outside world is entirely unaccessible, as is the inside. Prison.


The applicability and usability of a simple and elegant concept such as that of separation through an imaginary or drawn line (as it was in the Medieval garden), stripped the Hortus Conclusus of its poetic ability to express difference, to surprise, seclude, hide.
A dimension that has come anew in modern and contemporary architecture. Houses, museums, office buildings: isolation is now an architectural choice.
HORTUS CONCLUSUS – Offices for Junta Castilla y León, by Alberto Campo Baeza
“We raise high stone walls built of the same stone as the Zamora Cathedral, that follow the outline of the site, like a box open to the sky. We thus achieve a secret garden in which we conserve and plant leafy trees, aromatic plants and flowers. And we cut openings in these stone walls that frame, from within, the cathedral, the landscape and the surrounding buildings. And in this verdant garden we build a transparent glass box that makes it seem as if one is working inside the garden.
For the stone wall, qualities and dimensions were studied to express the strength of the stone in the same way as it is in the Cathedral. The same stone in large dimensions and with great thickness that accentuate the strength of the proposal.
For the building itself, a glazed and perfectly controlled facade was conceived, with maximum simplicity in its construction system. The facade works actively in regard to the climate, able to hold in the heat in winter (greenhouse effect) and at the same time to expel the heat and protect the building in the summer (ventilated facade)


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Born in Athens, Greece. A naturally curious kid and man, the power of innovation and the pleasure of discovery fascinate me.

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