Olga Picasso. CaixaForum Madrid
Pablo Picasso and the ballerina Olga Khokhlova met in 1917, when the painter was in Italy to present the ballet Parade with Sergei Diaghilev’s Ballets Russes company.
Madrid, 12 November 2002
Swiss architects Jacques Herzog and Pierre de Meuron, who have drawn up the plans for such buildings as the Tate Gallery in London, are in charge of designing the project for what will be the new headquarters of ”la Caixa” Foundation in Madrid, and which will serve as the venue for its cultural, social and educational activities beginning in 2004. The old Central Eléctrica del Mediodía power plant, located on the block formed by the streets of Almadén, Alameda, Cenicero and Gobernador, in front of the Royal Botanical Gardens and in the heart of the cultural enclave known as the “Milla del Arte”, has been chosen as the new site of CaixaForum-Madrid.
The building is one of the few remaining examples of industrial architecture left in Madrid’s old quarter, and it constituted an important part of the city’s urban development at the end of the 19th century. The project designed by Herzog & De Meuron intends to raise it up to the height where window openings finish off at, placing it atop enormous pillars, thereby creating a grand portico-enclosed square through which the public will enter.
The building will conserve the original brickwork on its façade, in accordance with Madrid’s General Plan of 1997, which grants it partial protection. It will have 3,600 square metres on the ground floor and another 2,400 square metres on the basement floor for exhibition halls; there will also be a print/multi-media library and an auditorium which will be used to stage the activities that form a part of the different cultural, educational and social programmes sponsored by ”la Caixa” Foundation. The new centre will host the exhibitions that up to now were held in the exhibition hall located at Calle Serrano.
The old Central Eléctrica del Mediodía power plant was built in 1899 as per the plans drawn up by architect Jesús Carrasco y Encina and engineer José María Hernández. With its brick façade, this plant is formed by two large parallel buildings, the typical structure that power plants were built with in Madrid back in the late-19th and early-20th centuries.
The Central Eléctrica del Mediodía power plant, which is owned by entrepreneur José Batlle, formerly supplied the entire southern section of Madrid’s old quarter with electricity. Still conserved from the old facility are the coal bin and large water tanks, which were required to generate continuous current.
This new project of the ”la Caixa” Foundation in the Community of Madrid joins the list of others already in progress. November 2001 marked the inauguration of CentroCaixa, an innovative Senior Citizen Centre (Arapiles, 15) that endeavours to put all of the possibilities afforded by new technologies to work in order to enhance the lives of the elderly. Among the many activities held at CentroCaixa are computer workshops, exhibitions, courses on health, well-being, etc., all of which are designed to encourage the active participation of older people in today’s society. Furthermore, right from the outset, science has occupied the spotlight at CosmoCaixa, the science museum that Fundación ”la Caixa” opened two and a half years ago in Alcobendas. Since it was inaugurated in April 2000, CosmoCaixa has received 1,250,000 visits and scientists of the stature of Georges Charpak (Nobel Prize for Physics), Christian de Duve (Nobel Prize for Medicine) and Paul Crutzen (Nobel Prize for Chemistry) have toured its facilities, as have researchers such as Lynn Margulis, Steven Rose, Sebastian Thrun and William Schopf, and astronaut Miguel López Alegría.