Billboard Building

In 1972, Robert Venturi, Denise Scott Brown and Steven Izenour published the outcomes of a university research at the Yale School of Architecture in the late 1960s, where they had led a team of students to document and analyze the Las Vegas Strip (perhaps the least likely subject for a serious research project imaginable at that time). The original title of the publication was “A Significance for A&P Parking Lots, or Learning from Las Vegas”, which was revised in 1977 as “Learning from Las Vegas: the Forgotten Symbolism of Architectural Form". According to MIT Press, the book created a healthy controversy on its first appearance, calling for architects to be more receptive to the tastes and values of "common" people and less immodest in their erections of "heroic," self-aggrandizing monuments. Learning from Las Vegas introduced terms such as "Duck" and "Decorated Shed" as descriptions of embodying iconography in the buildings of Las Vegas, describing a new form of symbolism in post-modern architecture and the iconography of urban sprawl.

The Central American cities seem to repeat the patterns of urban development in the United States of the 1960s and 70s, producing an urban sprawl type of environment, which is defined and dominated by the use of the private individual car (versus compact cities made accessible by means of public and collective transport).

The landscape is dotted with structures of outdoor advertisement -either detached or connected to the urban and suburban architecture- leading to considerable levels of visual pollution. In this context, we designed the Billboard Building for the eastern edge of La Sabana park in the center of Costa Rica’s capital San José. Chronically congested by legal and illegal billboard structures, this prime site of the city is currently devaluated by the visual as well as sonic and environmental pollution caused by the motorized traffic along the perimeter of the park. The urban public space quality of the area is in decline: noisy at daytime and dangerous at night, as a lack of illumination and urban program has created a no-go zone after office hours when people have left the city center towards their sleeping cities in the suburban periphery.

As a response to this situation, we developed a set of proposals to use the commercial billboard structures as agents of change, to define scenarios where they could actually support or even enable public life and help to create an urban environment that is used 24 hours a day, 7 days per week, all year long.

The Billboard Building creates a win-win situation: it provides a large-scale indoor space for sports and recreation to be used by the students of an adjacent school, as well as the valuable vertical surfaces for a billboard company that is looking for an integrated advertisement space at the park. The prismatic and rotating facade panels multiply the commercial skin of the building and at the same time provide fresh air and natural ventilation for its interior spaces. At night time, the indoor sports facilities are commercially rented out by the school for the use of a popular ball game in order to extend day time uses and finance the purchase of educational equipment for the students.


Team: A Company (Oliver Schütte with Ronald Fonseca and Christian Castro)

Scope: Concept Design

Client: Colorvisión

Location: San José, Costa Rica

Status: Completed

Year: 2010