The August edition of “The Architectural Review” features an essay which presents the findings of the research project “Mat-Building Frankfurt Berlin Venecia Kuwait Valencia”. The article highlights the UPV building, which was designed by L35 between 1970 and 1974.
We owe the term mat-building to Alison Smithson. Her article ‘How to Recognise and Read Mat-Building. Mainstream Architecture as it has Developed Towards the Mat-Building’ in Architectural Design of September 1974 included a definition of this type of building and an extensive list of works and projects from the 1950s to the ’70s related to it. Several studies have recently revived the interest in this topic.1 As in the case of the buildings themselves, the appeal of re-reading Smithson’s article lies in its open and flexible theoretical framing.
Smithson reviewed the items discussed at Team 10 meetings, pointing out that mat-buildings were not dependent on a specific architectural language, and identifying certain contemporary works as offshoots of this phenomenon. ‘Mainstream mat-building became visible, however, with the completion of the Berlin Free University’, she said − but what are the characteristic features of a mat-building? We aim to answer this question by analysing five case studies: four projects mentioned by Alison Smithson and another in our own locale of Valencia. Our research, which gave rise to an exhibition, explains and provides clear examples of the main mat-building strategies. The basic hypothesis focused on three compositional principles: metrics, programme and place. [...]