”la Caixa” Foundation presents the CaixaForum-Madrid project, commissioned to Herzog & de Meuron architects
Madrid, 10 February 2003
”la Caixa” Foundation will turn the former Mediodía Power Station, a hallmark of late 19th century industrial architecture that still stands in the city’s old quarter, into CaixaForum-Madrid, its new social and cultural headquarters in Spain’s capital. Spearheading the architectural project is the renowned Swiss partnership founded by Jacques Herzog and Pierre de Meuron, winners of the Pritzker Architecture Prize in 2001. The project is to preserve the plant’s original facade, and will take CaixaForum-Madrid from its current 2,000 m2 to occupy an approximate total of 8,000 m2 split over seven floors, two of them underground. A unique trait of Herzog & de Meuron’s design is the elimination of the granite base that surrounded the former plant. The new building will appear to levitate above a large public square of over 2,500 m2, open on all four sides, extending all the way to the Paseo del Prado. The entryway is through number 36 of this thoroughfare. The building will conserve the industrial outline of the old factory, and tracing new volumes. Located in front of the Botanical Garden and next to the Museo del Prado, the Museo Thyssen-Bornemisza and the Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofía, CaixaForum-Madrid will add to this area’s richly concentrated cultural offering. The new centre will offer a multidisciplinary programming oriented toward all types of public, distinguished by a co-existence of contemporary art, temporary exhibitions, music, humanities and social and educational programmes.
In 2001, ”la Caixa” Foundation purchased the former Mediodía Power Station because of its location in the area where the city’s greatest cultural offering is concentrated. CaixaForum-Madrid will take the place of the Sala de Exposiciones on Serrano Street. This facility, along with the space that the Foundation once held on Paseo de la Castellana, were forerunners in contemporary art exhibition in Spain in the 1980’s. These exhibition galleries hosted such emblematic showings as Other Figurations (1982), which was Miquel Barceló’s springboard to international renown; In Three Dimensions (1984), which unveiled the work of Susana Solana; Italia aperta (1985), which brought together ephemeral works in situ, such as a bedroom by Sol LeWitt; Art and its Double: Perspectives on New York (1987) and The Wild Garden (1991). There were also monographic shows devoted to Jannis Kounellis (1982) Enzo Cucchi (1985), Francesco Clemente (1987) and Richard Deacon (1991), in addition to other artists.
CaixaForum-Madrid will noticeably broaden ”la Caixa” Foundation’s offering in the city, making for a complementary, multidisciplinary programming in the social and cultural ambits open to all kinds of public. ”la Caixa” Foundation now possesses CentroCaixa, an elderly civic centre located in the Arapiles district designed to promote seniors’ active participation in society, and CosmoCaixa, the Foundation’s Science Museum, based in Alcobendas.
”la Caixa” Foundation has entrusted the restoration and expansion project to the prestigious Swiss architects Herzog & de Meuron. CaixaForum-Madrid will conserve the four original facades of the Mediodia Power Station, delimited by Gobernador, Alameda, Almadén and Cenicero Streets. Herzog & de Meuron’s project calls for the elimination of the former plant’s granite base. This will give the city a new public square at street level, open on all four sides, and giving onto number 36 of the Paseo del Prado, with a total area of over 2.500 m2. The building will appear to levitate over this square. Visitors will enter through the CaixaForum lobby on the first floor.
Another of the project’s trademarks is the preservation of the structure’s image; maintaining the geometry and expanding the former factory’s total area, facilitating the centre’s working plans
CaixaForum will have over 2,500 m2 earmarked for exhibition halls, a 322-seat auditorium, a “mediateca” (media library), several multi-functional rooms for presentations and other activities, conservation and restoration workshops and storage space for works of art. The large lobby, snack-bar, shop-library and restaurant will round out the centre’s facilities. These ambits are distributed over the following floors, or levels:
Level -2 Parking garage, art works access, foyer* and auditorium*
Level -1 Multi-use rooms, conservation workshop, storage facility
Level 0 Public square, access to centre
Level 1 Lobby, cafeteria, shop-library
Level +2 Exhibition hall
Level +3 Exhibition hall and Media library
Level +4 Restaurant, offices
* The foyer and auditorium also occupy part of Level -1
The framework for the CaixaForum-Madrid architectural plan is the Recoletos-Prado Axis Reorganisation Project, an urbanistic initiative of major significance for Madrid. This project is being directed by Alvaro Siza and Juan Miguel Hernández de León.
Jacques Herzog and Pierre de Meuron established their office in 1978. Harry Gugger and Christine Binswanger joined the office as partners in 1991 and 1994 respectively. Today the firm has 150 employees worldwide, with branch offices in London, Munich and San Francisco. Herzog & de Meuron have done a series of internationally acclaimed museum buildings, such as the Goetz Collection in Munich; the Küppersmühle Museum in Duisburg, or their best-known design for Tate Modern in London. The new Schaulager® for the Emmanuel Hoffmann-Foundation in Basel/Münchenstein will open in May 2003. Currently they are working on several projects in Spain: the Centro Cultural, Museo Oscar Dominguez in Santa Cruz de Tenerife (projected completion 2005); The New Link Quay and the Plaza España in Santa Cruz de Tenerife and the Forum 2004 Building and Plaza in Barcelona (projected completion 2004).
A century of history
The Mediodía Power Station was designed in 1899. On 28 November, 1900 the building permit was granted to entrepreneur José Batlle. The project was carried out by architect Jesús Carrasco y Encina and engineer José María Hernández, responsible for the installation of machinery. Their mission: build a coal-burning electrical power plant to supply the entire southern realm of Madrid’s old district with energy. The building was constructed on the lot of the bygone La Estrella candle factory, first licensed in 1857. Years later, the Unión Eléctrica Madrileña took possession of the power station.
The plant is delimited by Gobernador, Alameda, Cenicero and Almadén (formerly, Travesía del Fúcar) streets. The block has an area of 1,934 m2, and is the site of the station and a courtyard that gives onto Gobernador Street. The coal cellar and large water tanks, vital for the historical factory to generate direct current, still remain.
The Mediodía Power Station is among the few examples of industrial architecture that still exist in Madrid’s old quarter. Other examples are the Cerro de la Plata Sub-station and the Mazarredo Electrical Power Station, still in operation, albeit as mere storage facilities. An original feature of the Mediodía Power Station is the way in which its designers resolved the crowning of the main facades.
The plant, built in facing brick, is formed by two large parallel naves with double-sloped facades along the Almadén and Gobernador Streets, a classic structure of electrical power stations built in Madrid in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. The plant was built with load-bearing walls of solid brick over a base of granite ashlars. The roofs are ridged, of wood construction and built over A-frames of riveted steel, with a skylight in their central section, allowing the use of lay light.
The plant supplied the entire southern sector of Madrid’s old quarter. It had three steam furnaces built in Mahón by the Maquinista Naval company; three 120 HP horizontal or steam engines manufactured in England, and three 80 kW old current dynamos made by the Oerlikon company (Zurich).