Madrid: Caixa Forum (Spain)

Caixa Forum

Paseo del Prado, 36, 28014 Madrid, Spain

Herzog & de Meuron (2001-08)

This may be the most audacious architectural idea that I’ve seen turned into reality!

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The brief was to take a former power station (with adjacent service station) and transform it into a vibrant new art complex.

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At the corner, the existing service station was removed, increasing the public space in front of the building and connecting the Caixa Forum with the main street. Here, the architects, Herzog & de Meuron, collaborated with Patrick Blank, creating a ‘Green Wall’ at the edge of this new plaza.

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For the design of the building, the architects decided to remove the lowest level of the power station to create a generous covered public space, in a way where the remaining building appears to ‘float’ over that space.

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The building is, in fact, supported by cleverly placed lift and fire-stair cores and the dramatic stainless-steel clad entry stair structure, but it still seems to defy gravity as one walks around and under the building wondering how the entire heavy structure is held up.

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Hidden underneath the entire ground plane, a series of new additional spaces containing theatres, offices, storage rooms and some additional gallery spaces were inserted.

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A new steel framed structure, with rusted steel cladding has been placed on top of the historic shell, with the new gallery spaces, shop, public spaces, circulation, and café then inserted into the new hybrid building.

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The café is located at the very top where the rusted steel panels have been perforated, creating a veil-like screen through which to view the neighbourhood.

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From the moment one enters via the twisted stainless steel staircase, the entire project is a kind of labyrinth testing the visitor’s perception of their spatial location within the overall composition, playing with their senses in the different types of spaces that have been created.

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The main reception and retail level is a sparkling composition of stainless steel and strips of light.

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Window seats create views to the surrounding lanes and public plaza.

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Herzog & de Meuron have explored some of the possibilities of gallery typology, creating regular spaces for more ‘traditional’ exhibitions, as well as some irregular or more challenging spaces for less conventional exhibitions as well as for the public areas and stairs.

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The spaces below ground level take on a suitably cave-like palette.

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The toilets continue Herzog & de Meuron’s explorations of saturated single colours.

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Moving through to the underground theatre below the main plaza.

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Exiting via the stainless steel stair.

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Another walk underneath the building.

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And a final walk around the exterior of this incredible building.

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ENTRY PLAZA

ENTRY STAIR & FOYER

INTERIORS

 EXIT EXTERIOR

 

FURTHER INFORMATION:

Place: Caixa Forum, Madrid

Architect: Herzog & de Meuron

Additional Information: El Croquis 152/153 and A+U452

Map: Caixa Forum, Madrid

 

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