Unique cultural complex a sculptural landmark

by Tania Wannenburg
Unique cultural complex

Carme Pinós created a sculptural landmark with her design of the CaixaForum Zaragoza exhibition complex.


Seemingly defying gravity, the three-storey CaixaForum exhibition complex in Zaragoza, Spain, consists of two large geometric cubes suspended on different levels. Inside the cubes houses two exhibition halls of 780m² and 438m² respectively.

Probably the most fascinating aspect of this building, the facade, consists of 1 600 perforated aluminium sheets that allow light to create the bluish patterns on the sides of the building and underneath the elevated halls, and which illuminate the structure at night. In addition to creating a brilliant spectacle, the perforated plate also serves to hide the structure supporting the elevated halls.

With two main goals in mind, Carme Pinós designed the building to “feel like a city” and to make people feel part of the structure when interacting with it. From a distance, this unique building grabs people’s attention and draws them closer, with the raised halls freeing space on the ground floor for open and transparent public areas, including the lobby and gift shop.

To continue the feeling of openness and connectedness with the city, the park extends into the city by passing under the building, with a semi-underground garden underneath serving as the exit to the 252-seater auditorium, which is located underground and accessible through the lobby. The auditorium’s ceiling and walls are covered with the same wood found dispersed in and around the rest of the building, creating a unifying effect.

The two suspended halls face each other and the different levels allow visitors who exit one hall to have a view of the city below the other hall. Connected by escalators with relaxation areas between the halls, visitors can also enjoy distant views, instead of experiencing the typical decontextualisation usually associated with elevators.

At the top of the building, visitors can enjoy a panoramic view of the city from the coffee shop and the restaurant, and look out over of the Ranillas meander and Expo Zaragoza from the opposite terrace bar created by the different levels of the suspended halls.

“We wanted our building to become a symbol of the progress of techniques and the generosity of culture – we want it to be a reflection of only the best things of our times,” comments Pinós.

In 2014, the CaixaForum Zaragoza building was recognised for the techniques used, the innovation, the level of integration within the environment, the aesthetics, quality and social value, when it was awarded the ACHE (Scientific-Technical Association of Structural Concrete) Structural Engineering Award in the building category. This prize is awarded jointly to developers, designers and builders.

Full thanks and acknowledgement are given to Estudio Carme Pinós and www.metalocus.es for the information given to write this article.

Quick facts:
–    Total floor area: 7 000m².
–    Usable floor area: 5 980m².
–    Two exhibition halls of 780m² and 438m² respectively.
–    252-seater auditorium.
–    Facade: Perforated aluminium plate.
–    Construction time: Three-and-a-half years.
–    Completed in 2014.

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