Renzo Piano Building Workshop’s latest construction, the Centro Botín in Santander, Spain, was inagurated last week. The building is a Cultural and Arts Centre for the Botín Foundation, which has a history of over 50 years of dissemination and promotion of educational programmes in the realms of the arts and culture, education, science and rural development.
Besides the building design, the surrounding public garden area has also been renovated by creating an underground tunnel and restoring existing small-scale buildings in the park in order to adapt them to new uses, such as cafeteria, visitor’s information and tourist office, etc. The garden design also comprises the implementation of a series of fountain sculptural works by Cristina Iglesias, a renowned Spanish sculptor famous for her naturalistic pieces.
by Renzo Piano Building Workshop
June to September:
Tuesday, Wednesday, and Sunday, 10:00 – 21:00.
Thursday to Saturday, 10:00 – 24:00.
October to May: Tuesday to Sunday, 10:00 – 20:00.
Calle Muelle de Albareda, s/n, Santander
RENZO PIANO BUILDING WORKSHOP. ARCHITECTURAL STATEMENT
Centro Botín is a space for art that will also develop educational and cultural activities. Reaching out into the Bay of Santander, it sits in a highly strategic location. Once an immense dockland area, the site has, over recent years, been used simply as a massive car park. The project restores a key location to the city of Santander.
The site not only overlooks the sea but is also right next to the old city centre, and adjoins a wonderful public space, the historic Jardines de Pereda. The project restores the ties between the historic part of the city and the sea, while the road that once divided the gardens from the sea now runs underground through a tunnel. This has allowed the Jardines de Pereda to be doubled to an area of nearly ten acres, so that the gardens now extend all the way to the seafront. At the same time, pedestrian access to the sea has been restored.
Set between the park and the sea, and on the axis of the local market, Centro Botín sits elevated, half on land and half over the water. Thus the view of the bay is unimpeded for people strolling in the gardens, with Centro Botín seeming to hover weightlessly at the height of the trees, and glimpsed through their foliage.
A series of light walkways of steel and glass separate the two rounded volumes of the building and create a new square. Elevated high above ground level, to the north of the building, this square is fully public. Stairways and elevators then lead up to the two blocks of the art centre. From here the building projects 20 metres over the sea.
The two-lobed form of Centro Botín is the outcome of extensive modelling to refine the design, during which it became clear that a rounded form would bring more light to the ground floor and maximise the view from the park to the sea. On both lobes of the building, the facades are set with 280,000 small, slightly rounded ceramic tiles, pearl-coloured and vibrant, that reflect the sunlight, the sparkle of the water, and the rarefied atmosphere of Cantabria.
The west volume is dedicated to art. The exhibition galleries unfold on two levels, offering spectacular views over both sea and gardens.
The exhibition space on the upper floor is lit from above and is protected with three layers of roof covering: an outer level, composed of small silkscreened glass slats, prevents harsh light from entering the gallery space directly; a second layer of double glazing seals the gallery; a third layer of small aluminium louvres, controlled by sensors, can be used to black out the interior and modulate the lighting. Beneath the west volume is a glassed-in public space containing the restaurant, shop and leisure zones.
The east volume focuses on education and cultural activities. On one side, an auditorium rises to double height and is cantilevered over the sea. It is conceived as a multifunctional box that can host concerts, readings, lectures, festivals and ceremonies. Here, a terrace allows visitors to enjoy spectacular views of Santander and the bay.
To the north, the educational centre provides spaces that have been designed with maximum flexibility for multiple activities. Its rooms offer spaces of varying sizes to host classes, art workshops, music, dance and cookery activities for children, teenagers, families and adults.
Outside, a new amphitheatre has been created. It adjoins Centro Botín’s west façade, where an LED screen is installed for open-air cinema, and for screenings of activities held within the building.
On the ground floor, a fully transparent façade houses a café, restaurant, shop and information centre. Here the ceiling is covered with ceramic, while the floor is orange, leaving behind the blue concrete paving used for the outside spaces. The sea and the landscape around the bay are framed by the building’s broad eaves, which shelter the tables outside and create a space for gathering and socialising. Thus, building, gardens and city all flow together.