Gables and Sawtooths
The studio I have been teaching focused on industrial districts and industrial buildings and a field house we are designing for a private school near Boston has made me “sawtooth sensitive.” The youth mental health clinic in Spain (no programmatic analogy to our school project!) and the Brooks + Scarpa factory in Mexico (which has been heavily covered by the design press) both take the regular pattern of a repeating serrated roofline and invite ambiguous poetic allusions by varying the pitch and proportions. In the Scarpa project, the composition can be read as an undulation of increasing intensity – implying to me the a graph charting the increase in sales of cars that are tested at the facility (with troughs when the testing lab breaks down?) or the crumbled hood of a car (but the crash dummies are fine!). The architects claim, on the other hand, that the profile of the roof reflects the silhouette of the nearby mountains.
The architects for the youth mental health clinic have a much more focused alibi for their roof form. “The roof, for the most part a sawtooth shape with variable slopes – very steep at some points – reflects, from the outside, the degree of internal mental activity in relation to the type of rooms they occupy: the resting or sleeping area with a slope of 60%, common areas or with maximum activity have outstanding peak of 240%. The treatment of the spaces occupied by the medical staff and caregivers has been dealt with flat roofs.”