Address: Paseo del Prado 36 | MADRID | Spain
Latitude/Longitude: 40.4109, -3.6929
The Caixa Forum is located in the heart of the city’s cultural district, facing the Paseo del Prado, in close proximity to the Prado, the Reina Sofia, and the Thyssen-Bornemisza museums.
Conceived as an urban magnet, not only for art-lovers but also for the building itself, the architects lifted the building off the ground, in apparent defiance of the laws of gravity, to draw visitors inside.
History – old building
The museum is housed in a converted 1899 power station, one of the city’s few remaining examples of historically significant industrial architecture, that was acquired by the Caixa Foundation in 2001. An insignificant gas station was demolished to create a small plaza between the Paseo del Prado and the new CaixaForum. The classified brick walls of the former power station are reminiscences of the early industrial age in Madrid, while the gas station, a purely functional structure, was clearly out of place.
A 24-meter high vertical garden, designed in collaboration with the botanist Patrick Blanc, takes up one wall of the square.
“The garden establishes a connection with the Botanical Garden and the landscape of the Paseo del Prado.”
“The only material of the old power station that we could use was the classified brick shell. In order to conceive and insert the new architectural components of the CaixaForum Project, we began with a surgical operation, separating and removing the base and the parts of the building no longer needed. This opened a completely novel and spectacular perspective that simultaneously solved a number of problems posed by the site.
The removal of the base of the building left a covered plaza under the brick shell, which now appears to float above the street level. This sheltered space under the CaixaForum offers its shade to visitors who want to spend time or meet outside and is at the same time the entrance to the Forum itself. Problems such as the narrowness of the surrounding streets, the placement of the main entrance, and the architectural identity of this contemporary art institution could be addressed and solved in a single urbanistic and sculptural gesture.”
Herzog & de Meuron
Separation of the structure from the ground level
The separation of the structure from the ground level created two worlds; one below and the other above the ground. The “underworld” buried beneath the topographically landscaped plaza provides space for a theater/auditorium, service rooms, and several parking spaces. The multi-storied building above ground houses the entrance lobby and galleries, a restaurant and administrative offices.
There is a contrast between the flexible and loft-like character of the exhibition spaces and the spatial complexity of the top floor with its restaurant/bar and the offices.
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