The Umbrella Columns of Amancio Williams: Resistance, Autonomy, and Versatility as Seen in 10 Projects

The Umbrella Columns of Amancio Williams: Resistance, Autonomy, and Versatility as Seen in 10 Projects
The Umbrella Columns of Amancio Williams: Resistance, Autonomy, and Versatility as Seen in 10 Projects - Image 1 of 21
Una Nueva Bóveda Cáscara (1952). Image Cortesía de Archivo Williams - Director Claudio Williams

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The umbrella column or hollow vault (bóveda cáscara) is a reinforced concrete structure designed by Amancio Williams (Buenos Aires, 1913-1989) that, thanks to its form, has the capacity to support massive amounts of weight while independently maintaining its balance. In other words, it doesn't need any reinforcing structure, save for its singular column, to remain standing.

The studies surrounding bóveda cáscara in architecture were started by Williams in 1939, and resulted in numerous essays and small-scale models. The structures, specifically designed for high roofs and also known as 'umbrellas' or 'parasols,' are a prime example of the modern architectural movement in Argentina, distinguished by their experimentation in form and function.

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Amancio Willimas sobre el Pabellón de exposición en Palermo. Image Cortesía de Archivo Williams - Director Claudio Williams

This structure has become an architectural element in its own right, in many cases working independently from its original purpose. In many cases, umbrella columns were developed as a roof support system that also acted as a second layer of protection from the sun and rain. The high roof creates a shaded, cool area while the column serves as a storm drain.

The modular form of the structure increases its flexibility as well as its ability to be applied to multiple projects such as schools, houses, hospitals, churches, and industrial buildings to name a few.

To illustrate the wide range of uses for umbrella columns, we have compiled a list of projects—7 that have yet to be built, 1 temporary, and 2 built after Amancio Williams' death—that showcase its qualities as an element of architectural design:

Three Hospitals in Corrientes (1948)

  • Status: Not built
  • Category: Healthcare

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Tres hospitales en Corrientes (1948). Image Cortesía de Archivo Williams - Director Claudio Williams
The Umbrella Columns of Amancio Williams: Resistance, Autonomy, and Versatility as Seen in 10 Projects - Image 15 of 21
Tres hospitales en Corrientes (1948). Image Cortesía de Archivo Williams - Director Claudio Williams

Avellaneda Service Station (1954)

  • Status: Not built
  • Category: Industry

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Estación de servicio en Avellaneda (1954). Image Cortesía de Archivo Williams - Director Claudio Williams
The Umbrella Columns of Amancio Williams: Resistance, Autonomy, and Versatility as Seen in 10 Projects - Image 10 of 21
Estación de servicio en Avellaneda (1954). Image Cortesía de Archivo Williams - Director Claudio Williams

Olavarría Industrial School (1960)

  • Status: Not built
  • Category: Education

The Umbrella Columns of Amancio Williams: Resistance, Autonomy, and Versatility as Seen in 10 Projects - Image 5 of 21
Escuela Industrial en Olavarría (1960). Image Cortesía de Archivo Williams - Director Claudio Williams
The Umbrella Columns of Amancio Williams: Resistance, Autonomy, and Versatility as Seen in 10 Projects - Image 17 of 21
Escuela Industrial en Olavarría (1960). Image Cortesía de Archivo Williams - Director Claudio Williams

Bernal Textile Supermarket (1960)

  • Status: Not built 
  • Category: Industry

The Umbrella Columns of Amancio Williams: Resistance, Autonomy, and Versatility as Seen in 10 Projects - Image 3 of 21
Supermercado textil en Bernal (1960). Image Cortesía de Archivo Williams - Director Claudio Williams
The Umbrella Columns of Amancio Williams: Resistance, Autonomy, and Versatility as Seen in 10 Projects - Image 9 of 21
Supermercado textil en Bernal (1960). Image Cortesía de Archivo Williams - Director Claudio Williams

House in Punta del Este (1961)

  • Status: Not built
  • Category: Residential

The Umbrella Columns of Amancio Williams: Resistance, Autonomy, and Versatility as Seen in 10 Projects - Image 4 of 21
Casa en Punta del Este (1961). Image Cortesía de Archivo Williams - Director Claudio Williams
The Umbrella Columns of Amancio Williams: Resistance, Autonomy, and Versatility as Seen in 10 Projects - Image 11 of 21
Casa en Punta del Este (1961). Image Cortesía de Archivo Williams - Director Claudio Williams

Palermo Exhibition Pavilion (1966)

  • Status: Temporary structure
  • Category: Cultural

The Umbrella Columns of Amancio Williams: Resistance, Autonomy, and Versatility as Seen in 10 Projects - Image 2 of 21
Pabellón de exposición en Palermo (1966). Image Cortesía de Archivo Williams - Director Claudio Williams
The Umbrella Columns of Amancio Williams: Resistance, Autonomy, and Versatility as Seen in 10 Projects - Image 16 of 21
Pabellón de exposición en Palermo (1966). Image Cortesía de Archivo Williams - Director Claudio Williams

Sanctuary of Our Lady of Fátima in Pilar (1967)

  • Status: Not built
  • Category: Facilities

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Santuario de Nuestra Señora de Fátima en Pilar (1967). Image Cortesía de Archivo Williams - Director Claudio Williams
The Umbrella Columns of Amancio Williams: Resistance, Autonomy, and Versatility as Seen in 10 Projects - Image 8 of 21
Santuario de Nuestra Señora de Fátima en Pilar (1967). Image Cortesía de Archivo Williams - Director Claudio Williams

House in the Hills of San Isidro (1969)

  • Status: Not built
  • Category: Residential

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Casa en Las Lomas de San Isidro (1969). Image Cortesía de Archivo Williams - Director Claudio Williams
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Casa en Las Lomas de San Isidro (1969). Image Cortesía de Archivo Williams - Director Claudio Williams

The following two projects were built after Amancio Williams' death in accordance with his original design and layout. 

Monument to the End of the Millennium, A Homage to Amancio Williams (2000)

  • Status: Completed
  • Category: Cultural
  • Architect: Claudio Vekstein

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Monumento del fin del milenio, homenaje a Amancio Williams (2000). Image Cortesía de Archivo Williams - Director Claudio Williams

The Mill, Cultural Factory (2010)

  • Status: Built
  • Program: Cultural
  • Architects: Mario Corea. Francisco Quijano, Silvana Codina, Luis Lleonart

The Umbrella Columns of Amancio Williams: Resistance, Autonomy, and Versatility as Seen in 10 Projects - Image 20 of 21
El Molino, Fabrica Cultural (2010). Image © TitiNicola [Wikimedia] bajo licencia CC BY-SA 4.0

Photographs are courtesy of Archivo Williams and its director, Claudio Williams.

For more information, visit the Amancio Williams official website.

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About this author
Cite: Maiztegui, Belén. "The Umbrella Columns of Amancio Williams: Resistance, Autonomy, and Versatility as Seen in 10 Projects" [Las Bóvedas Cáscara de Amancio Williams: Resistencia, Autonomía y Versatilidad en 10 proyectos] 06 Sep 2020. ArchDaily. (Trans. Johnson, Maggie) Accessed . <https://www.archdaily.com/946745/the-umbrella-columns-of-amancio-williams-resistance-autonomy-and-versatility-as-seen-in-10-projects> ISSN 0719-8884

Una Nueva Bóveda Cáscara (1952). Image Cortesía de Archivo Williams - Director Claudio Williams

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