caixa forum madrid _ herzog & de meuron

Designed by the Swiss duo Jacques Herzog and Pierre de Meuron CaixaForum Madrid is a contemporary art museum and cultural center near Paseo del Prado.

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The architects manage to make an existing brick structure defy gravity in order to provide an open ground floor, a strategy already tested – albeit timidly – at the Tate Modern in London. However, the feat is more interesting for its structural audacity than for the space gained. The free plan allows the building to hover while a stainless steel staircase invite visitors to enter. Nevertheless, due to the sloping terrain the noble intention of providing access from every street is not possible. Thus, the southwest area and the entire west façade are inaccessible since they remain sunken in relation to the sidewalks. One third of the square lies underutilized most of the time despite attempts by the designers to program it with benches and a leaking fountain.

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The opening at the corner of Almadén Street allowed the museum to become visible from Paseo del Prado. The square is complemented by a vertical garden conceived by the French botanist Patrick Blanc.

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The main staircase, along with the entrance stair and the auditorium, is one of the hierarchical spaces of the Caixa Forum. Built in reinforced concrete, the staircase (illustrated above) literally pierce and spatially connects all museum levels. But, at each level the sculpted space is funneled rather awkwardly at the entrances of exhibition space.

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