National Museum of Architecture
The Government of Spain organised an international competition for the restoration of the Bank of Spain in Salamanca to accommodate the National Museum of Architecture and Urbanism. Located in the historical city centre, it was built between 1930 and 1940. Originally constructed as a mixed-used office and housing building, the Bank was finally closed in 2000.
The principal element of our architectural concept is the “new vision” of the courtyard that will give the Museum of Architecture its own uniqueness as an institution over and above the historic-architectural substratum. The Bank and the offices were located on the ground floor of the original building. These spaces were covered by an enormous skylight that reduced their clear height to only five metres. Our proposal was very simple: to remove the skylight and to rebuild it much higher, on the roof level of the building. Therefore the clear height of the courtyard would be increased from five to fifteen meters. Its size and proportion will create a physical experience and an image and identity for the Museum. It is liberating because it opens up a number of new perspectives and adds a substantial dimension to the historicist concept underlying the building, constructed as the Bank of Spain in a mixture of regional styles in the 30s. The courtyard is designed as a pure and simple element. Abstract volumes and smooth white surfaces built with stucco. It is illuminated with three “skyspaces”, boxes with different sizes and openings in the roof to view the sky inspired by James Turrell’s work. Thus the contemporary intervention in the building just can be observed from the roofscape: three volumes covered with small pieces of Salamanca’s traditional gold sandstone, that is widely used on the façades of all the buildings of the city.
The other modifications that we propose for the building are simple and pragmatic. The main operations involve creating diaphanous exhibition rooms releasing the upper floors from all the partition walls of the previous apartments. The entrance to the Museum will be via a wonderful foyer with beautiful brass-paneled walls, in contrast with the abstract stucco of the courtyard. A new solid wooden staircase inside one of the two towers, it will be used as a link between the different exhibition spaces and the new Viewpoint on the top of the building. This new feauture affords spectacular and theatrical vistas of the skyline of the ancient Salamanca. The old bank’s strongroom located on the semi-basement will be transformed into a multipurpose space linked to the cafeteria and the back yard, an exterior and flexible area for outdoor exhibitions. A secondary entrance has been projected through this space.
The spatial variety between exhibition facilities is considerable. Almost all the rooms are different in size and proportions. In addition, temporary walls can be added or removed in certain places, allowing dimensions and scales to be adjusted for special installations. The walls and ceilings in these exhibition spaces are finished and painted in white, the floors are made of wood. Lighting -a decisive factor in the perception of works- alternates in every room between daylight, artificial ilumination and a mixture of both.
Client: Ministerio de Fomento. Spain
Project Status: Ongoing Project. 2007 International Competition. 1 Prize
Team: Gonzalo Martinez, Diego Daza (Architects). Collaborators: María Álvarez, Francisco Parra, Jesus García, Miguel Serrano, Pablo Blazquez, Francisco Romero, Marta Cáceres. Grupo JG. Gogaite. Maximo Sanchez, Fanny Bustos. INCOSA. CSP coordinación.