Designed by Alberto Campo Baeza, El Centro Cultural Caja de Granada, also known as El Museo de la Memoria Andaluza is one of the best examples of contemporary architecture in Spain.
The reinforced concrete building (exposed concrete on the outside and white plastered interiors) is comprised of a horizontal base (114 meters long x 54 wide) and an eight stories height tower. The lower volume houses the main exhibition spaces and an auditorium, among other ancillary programs. While the tower (same width as the base but 42 meters height) contains the administrative offices, cafeteria, a public library, reading and meeting rooms and a restaurant at the top that allows panoramic views of La Alhambra, the city of Granada and the nearby landscapes of Sierra Nevada and Sierra Elvira.
The main façade of the building is monumental, formed by the tower — wider than it is high — rises to the west and is only pierced by the main entrance and the horizontal windows of the restaurant. The rest of the façade stands as a solid mass, as a monumental architectural screen that highlights its prescience within the surrounding context.
The main entrance displays a stainless steel sliding door (mechanically operated) that serves both as banner and harbinger of the monumental scale of the museum’s interior. Once past the main entrance the sequence proceeds by descending an entire floor to a rectangular courtyard that serves as lobby to the tower as well as the main gallery spaces. The patio doubles as additional exhibition area for temporary installations.
Once inside, the sequence of exhibition spaces is organized around an elliptical courtyard, undoubtedly the most important space in the museum. The courtyard emulates in scale, spatial organization and hierarchy the circular courtyard of El Palacio de Carlos V, not far in the Alhambra, and to which Campo Baeza pays homage with the building. The main feature of this open space — in addition to its elegant proportions and monumental scale — is a pair of helicoidal ramps that apart from defying gravity (and many requirements of the ADA law) connect the exhibition spaces, allowing for a dynamic and diverse spatial sequence. Recognized by Campo Baeza himself, the ramps emulate — somewhat literally — Berthold Lubetkin’s penguin pool (1934) at the London Zoo.