PRINT October 1991


LUC DELEU'S “BARCELONA (TUMBLING) APARTMENTS,” the project for Artforum on the following two pages, is based on a submission this Belgian architect and urban designer made to a competition for Barcelona organized by the Colegio de Arquitectos de Cataluña in 1988. In many regards, the submission is a summation of ideas that Deleu has been developing over the last twenty years. More specifically, it relates to his experience of the World Trade Center in New York, which he visited in 1980, and to his subsequent architectural model “Principle of a lesson in scale with two buildings of identical volume, model showing Queen Elizabeth I and II,” 1981. This model, extended in the unbuilt plan for Barcelona, opposes the themes of the vertical, waking state of being and the horizontal, resting state—or, in more architectural terms, it reflects on the basic tools of the plumb line and the level.

The Barcelona apartments mirror the upside-down, inside-out, topsy-turvy inversions of the post-Modern world, and transform that multivalence into a new kind of functionality. They are intended as parts of two identical buildings containing luxury apartments, a hotel, a car “silo,” and a factory—for computer chips, of course. The apartments “tumble” because, with the exception of the stair rails (which are colored red in the photographs), they function both vertically and horizontally: floors in the one become walls in the other. With more insidious distortion than a fun house mirror, Deleu’s apartments turn Newton on his head.

Like all of Deleu’s projects, the Barcelona apartments constitute a powerful spatial experience. Through reference, transposition, and reflection they demonstrate that everything is the same—and that it is not.

Charles V. Miller