Poured architecture: Sergio Prego on Miguel Fisac

Detail of the façade of the Our Lady Flower of Carmelite Parish, Madrid, designed by Miguel Fisac, 1983. Photo: Carlos Copertone.



Conceived as an experiential art installation, Poured Architecture presents an immersive view of artist Sergio Prego’s perspective on the late Spanish architect Miguel Fisac. Uniting these practices for the first time, this exhibition debuts a series of drawings and sculptures by Prego, informed by Fisac’s innovative material experimentation and construction. The confluence of the practices is evidenced by shared interests in material malleability using concrete, aluminum, and plastic to explore relationships between bodies and the built environment, topology and geometry, and figuration and abstraction.


Prego plays with scale and texture through his pneumatic and concrete structures displayed beside facsimiles of Fisac’s work, reproduced exactly as scanned by the Fundación Miguel Fisac. As the installation disrupts circulatory spaces in the galleries and veils clear sightlines, synchronicities between the practices emerge. Suggestions of anatomical characteristics lie in the impression of the soft, padded concrete facades of Fisac’s buildings and the dichotomy of surface is seen in Prego’s concrete and inflatable sculptures, just as skin might be realized in a marble sculpture by Bernini. Fisac explored the ductility of concrete, in contrast to its typical rigid use. His forms, made with plastic sheets, left folds illustrating the adaptability of concrete before it sets. Prego adopts the same methodology with his inflatable sculptures, trapping air within a plastic membrane that shows the tension of the material. Similar marks can also be seen on the surfaces of Prego’s cast concrete sculptures.


Facsimilies from Fisac’s archive include images, sketches, ephemera, plans, and patent drawings—ranging from the 1950s–90s—and highlight key features of his work that departed radically from the popular conservative style of the postwar regime in Spain. Informed by international travel, Fisac distilled his observations of modern architecture—from the grid to curvilinear forms—to develop unique material manipulations that incorporated his interest in biology and organic forms executed as affordable prefabricated elements.


Arquitectura vertida (poured architecture), Fisac’s patented flexible membrane cast concrete system, takes into account the initial liquid state of concrete. This approach eliminates the need for scaffolding, reducing construction time and cost. His iconic “bone beams”  (vigas hueso) inspired by the cross-section of hollow bones can be seen in buildings such as the Centro de Estudios Hidrográficos (Center for Hydrographic Studies). This design recalls morphogenesis, the biological process first described in Goethe’s seminal text The Metamorphosis of Plants (1790) whereby an organism develops its shape from the organization of cellular tissue. Fisac’s creative approach to construction and architecture resonates with current questions in the field as issues related to affordability, modularity, and sustainability dominate architectural discourse.


Drawn to the relevance of Fisac’s design practice and to the shared materials and forms derived from organic structures, Prego’s recent focus on Fisac builds on established research interests. Discussing his fascination with anatomical representation and haptic space, Prego cites his study of Leonardo da Vinci’s drawings, the material and philosophical practice of Joseph Beuys, the sculptural practice of Cady Noland, and his work with Vito Acconci, as critical references that inform this new body of work created for the Graham Foundation. Interest in the Greek myth of Leda and the Swan is also revisited, including likening the swan’s slender neck to human anatomy.


Prego’s practice questions the boundaries between art, design, and architecture and engages with concepts of mass, void, and scale. In this way, Prego references the history of inflatable interventions in architecture—first introduced in t he 1960s as counterculture utopian spaces for experimentation designed by visionaries such as Ant Farm, Archigram, Buckminster Fuller, and Frei Otto. Today, these lines of inquiry remain central to Prego’s boundary-breaking practice.


Here, the inflatables, Get out of the way, 4 in chains, and membranes, Bubble Fgum, converge in the gallery, alongside and a new suite of drawings created by Prego as a rigorous rote exercise in which he painstakingly digitally traces Fisac’s original plans and sketches to scale, then uses a plotter outfitted with a ballpoint pen to produce the drawings. The inflatables—created by a simple flat rectangular sheet of flexible plastic, folded to form a tube—are constrained by rigid linear aluminum elements, dividing the structure into a chain of modular tetrahedrons. The light and bright structures occupy and vacate the space with their hollow mass.


As Fisac’s works are displayed beneath inflated polyethylene sculptures, Bubble Fgum epitomizes the properties of organic structures referencing how organisms and organs are enclosed membranes defined by interior and exterior boundaries. Swans, Prego’s concrete sculptures, respond directly to the formal and technical qualities of Fisac’s facades. Throughout, the installation occupies walls, thresholds, ledges, and windows, destabilizing conventional ways in which the Madlener House is perceived and negotiated. Accompanying the exhibition is a video interview with Miguel Fisac, initially shot for Spanish public television in the 1980s, in which he references Chinese philosopher Lao Tzu, saying “architecture is not four walls and a ceiling, but the air that is inside.” Ultimately, Poured Architecture contextualizes the architecture of the Madlener House within the oeuvre of Miguel Fisac, inviting a multifaceted conversation about architectural imagination, experimentation, and material expression.



Patented, prefabricated bone beam ready for installation during construction of the Centro de Estudios Hidrográficos (Center for Hydrographic Studies), Madrid, designed by Miguel Fisac, 1961. Courtesy Fundación Miguel Fisac.


Interior view of Centro de Estudios Hidrográficos (Center for Hydrographic Studies), Madrid, designed by Miguel Fisac, 1961. Courtesy Fundación Miguel Fisac.


Laboratorios Jorba (La Pagoda), Madrid, designed by Miguel Fisac, 1967.  

 Façade detail of Iglesia de Nuestra Señora Flor del Carmelo, Madrid, designed by Miguel Fisac, 1983. Photo: Carlos Copertone



Poured Architecture: Sergio Prego on Miguel Fisac, Graham Foundation, Chicago, 2020. Photo: Iker Gil.


Poured Architecture: Sergio Prego on Miguel Fisac, Graham Foundation, Chicago, 2020. Photo: Iker Gil.


Poured Architecture: Sergio Prego on Miguel Fisac, Graham Foundation, Chicago, 2020. Photo: Iker Gil.


The first connection between the Spanish architect Miguel Fisac and the practice of artist Sergio Prego is intimately connected with Chicago. In 2015, Patxi Eguiluz and Carlos Copertone, at the request of MAS Context editor Iker Gil (and co-curator of the exhibition), wrote a text about Jorba Laboratories in Madrid (La Pagoda), probably one of Miguel Fisac’s most iconic buildings that was unfortunately demolished more than twenty years ago. As part of the research for that text, they interviewed Sergio Prego as they knew of his vast knowledge about the architect’s work. They quickly realized the close relationship between Fisac’s architectural practice and Sergio Prego’s artistic proposal. You can read the text here: www.mascontext.com/issues/25-26-legacy-spring-summer-15/the-short-life-and-long-history-of-the-pagoda


Sergio Prego, model for the Graham Foundation, 2019. Courtesy the artist.


Sergio Prego, model for the Graham Foundation, 2019. Courtesy the artist.



Exhibitions Credits

Curators: Carlos Copertone, Patxi Eguíluz, and Iker Gil.
Organizing Institution: Graham Foundation.
Organizing Team: Sarah Herda, director; Ellen Alderman, deputy director, exhibitions and public programs; and Ava Barrett, program and communications manager.
Production Support: Javier Soto.
Support: Program for the Internationalization of Spanish Culture (PICE) grant from Acción Cultural Española (AC/E), and Fundación Miguel Fisac.
Photos of the exhibition: Nathan Keay Additional Support: Ozinga.
Acknowledgment: Graham Foundation staff: Alexis Bullock, Alexandra Drexelius, Carolyn Kelly, Ron Konow, Jillian Lepek, Junxi Lu, James Pike, and Alexandra Small. Thanks also to Steve Montgomery, Brian Weatherford, Bob German, and Brent Carter.


Sergio Prego is a Basque sculptor, part of the experimental space Arteleku in San Sebastián, and now based in New York. During the five years he spent in Vito Acconci’s studio, Prego was the only artist in a group of engineers and architects who contributed to the work of the classic conceptual artist. Along with Itziar Okariz, Prego represented Spain at the 2019 Venice Biennale.

Miguel Fisac (1913–2006) was a key figure in Spanish architecture of the second half of the twentieth century and his works contributed to the modernization of architecture in Spain. He graduated from the School of Architecture of Madrid in 1942, and his first work, the Church of the Holy Spirit, was completed that same year. He was awarded the Gold Medal for Spanish Architecture (1994), the Antonio Camuñas Award (1997), and the National Architecture Award (2002).

Patxi Eguíluz is an architect, curator, researcher, and critic focused on construction and urbanism. He is an editor of books on art and architecture at Caniche Editorial and has curated several exhibitions and developed projects at various institutions across Spain. His writing has been published in MAS Context, Openhouse, and Architectural Digest, among others.

Carlos Copertone received his PhD from the University of Extremadura, specializing in urbanism and regional planning. He is an editor of books on art and architecture at Caniche Editorial and has curated and developed several exhibitions, programs, and projects with Spanish cultural organizations. Copertone has lectured extensively in Spain and abroad and has been published in several media.

Iker Gil is an architect and director of MAS Studio, an architecture and urban design firm based in Chicago. He is also the editor-in-chief of the journal MAS Context and editor of the book Shanghai Transforming (ACTAR, 2008). He has curated exhibitions for the Chicago Architecture Biennial and the US Pavilion, Venice Architecture Biennale. Additionally, he is the executive director of the SOM Foundation and teaches at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago.


For further information: http://grahamfoundation.org/