“Hypars”, by Felix Candela
With profound admiration, I would like to preface my work with a quote from Mies: “Architecture is the will of the age conceived in spatial terms”.
Félix Candela was an erudite who captured space and manipulated it to create emotion in his audience. As a result of the model which catapulted him to fame, the Cosmic Ray Pavilion (1951) in Mexico, his list of client assignments reached 900 hypar projects. Hypars are hyperbolic paraboloids, a trademark of Félix Candela. The basic concepts of roof, façade and pillars become blurred here, as it is difficult to identify where one ends and another begins. The light and space captured by these distinctive constructions is enchanting. In the 20 years in which these unique projects emerged, Candela completed the studies which helped him to simplify their execution, with assembly-line industrial concepts.
“Cubiertas Ala” assignments were mainly industrial buildings and warehouses in which he was able to use the repetition of typology within the same project to get as much use as possible out of costly formwork which, as a result of scaffolding with screw jacks and wheels, was easily reusable. This formwork was in itself a true feat of engineering and the reason for a great part of the success (both aesthetic and economic) of the final result.
Curiously, Félix Candela and Mies Van der Rohe coincided in the Bacardi Buildings, where the first was in charge of the bottling plant and the second responsible for designing the office building. Two architectural viewpoints which opposed each other in the obvious but were similar in their concept: flat, rationalist faces compared to curved structures, free of additional features; right prisms vs. hypars, but free of spurious elements. Different ways of facing the same objective, with different aesthetic results.
Far from being uncouth, he was pleasant and determined. He stood out for his great sense of humour and the ability possessed by few to make fun of the status he had acquired and the recognition he had achieved in the world of architecture. He was one of the greats.