Saturday, 1 March 2008

Madrid's Art Squiggle

Until the middle of last month, Madrid was famous for its 'Art Triangle' - formed by the Prado Museum, the Reina Sofia and the Thyssen Bornemisza. Now there's a new kid on the block, the CaixaForum. It's halfway between the other three museums, and so I think the triangle has now become a squiggle. This extraordinary building has been under construction for the last six years. The architects are Herzog & de Meuron, who also designed the Tate Modern in London. The name comes from the client/sponsor/owner: La Caixa. This is a kind of bank: actually more like a British building society or a US savings and loan. The bank is more social than commercial, and is committed to spending profits on 'social works' and supporting communities. La Caixa has a string of galleries around Spain.

The client must have Googled 'architects who turn power stations into art galleries'*. CaixaForum is basically an extinct coal-burning power station. But it now has two floors underground. And two extra floors on top clad in rusty iron (I must do a post on the Rusty Shed aesthetic one day). But the remarkable thing is they've taken away most of the ground floor. The building appears to float: there's a whole load of cantilevering going on here. I have no idea how they managed to do it without the original brick structure collapsing (perhaps it did, and that's why it took six years to finish). But it means that if there is a long queue to get in then you are in the shade.

At the front of the building there is a plaza. On one side of the plaza is an amazing vertical garden, designed by Patrick Blanc.

We spent a very relaxed half hour just looking at the garden, and at the kids who have decided that the hollow sculpture of a man's torso is actually a playground.

In days to come I might do a post on the interior, which is also very interesting. I went inside about a week ago, but didn't have my camera with me. The queue today was just too long.

*Although they would not have actually found the architects: either they have no website or it is so badly designed that no search engine can find it.


Erik Wirdheim said...


I'd be surprised if you were allowed to take pictures inside, but would appreciate if you try since we're not planning to go to Madrid any time soon.

CaixaForum will be a pride for all Catalans downtown Madrid.

Love the shades in your pictures of the vertical garden. What a brilliant idea.

Jayne said...

Architechts tend to go very quiet when they've cocked up :-)
Smashing pics keefie....keep 'em coming !