”la Caixa” marks its centenary by laying the first stone of CaixaForum Madrid
Madrid, 10 May 2004
Today, the Mayor of Madrid, Alberto Ruiz Gallardón, the President of the Autonomous Community of Madrid, Esperanza Aguirre, and the Chairman of ”la Caixa” Ricardo Fornesa will preside over a foundation stone-laying ceremony for CaixaForum Madrid, the future social and cultural centre of ”la Caixa” Foundation in Spain’s capital. Also attending this event, to mark the centenary of ”la Caixa” (1904-2004), will be the Swiss team of architects Herzog & de Meuron, commissioned to carry out the project that will transform the former Mediodía Electrical Power Station into CaixaForum Madrid, and the Chairman of ”la Caixa” Foundation Josep Vilarasau. The future centre will preserve the original façade of the old plant and will have a total area of approximately 10,000 m2 spread over different levels, two of them underground. Located opposite the Botanical Garden, CaixaForum Madrid will become a part of the splendid cultural programming concentrated in what is known as the “culture triangle” delimited by the Museo del Prado, the Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofía and the Museo Thyssen-Bornemisza. The new centre will offer a wide range of activities oriented towards all types of visiting public, in which fine arts, photography, music and contemporary art will coexist with social and educational programmes.
The architectural project of CaixaForum Madrid will preserve the four original façades of the Mediodía Electrical Power Station, delimited by Gobernador, Alameda, Almadén and Cenicero Streets, so as to maintain the overall image of the old edifice.
The first phase of this rehabilitation and expansion project, which got underway in October 2003, has consisted of consolidating and securing the façades of the former power station. During this phase, construction work has been focused on eliminating most of the granite base surrounding the precinct. Thus, the building will seem to levitate’ over a public square at the street level, which is open on all four sides. A welcome addition to the city, this new square will extend to number 36 of Paseo del Prado, occupying an area of 2500 m2. Here visitors will gain access to the lobby of CaixaForum, located on the first level.
To consolidate and secure the façades, a task now well on its way to completion, micropiles have been used to support their weight. Moreover, the façade itself has been “stitched and taped” by means of a structure that adds sufficient solidness to withstand the force of the wind.
Finally, work is also underway on constructing the perimetric walls which will define the two underground floors. Now in progress, this phase will conclude once the final excavation depth is reached, some 10 m below street level.
CaixaForum Madrid, a new centre for everyone, with a wide-ranging cultural, social and educational offer
The opening of CaixaForum Madrid will mean that ”la Caixa” Foundation will expand its activities in Spain’s capital considerably. This new centre will have ample operational space (10,000 m2) for carrying out its social, cultural and educational programmes. CaixaForum Madrid seeks to be a platform for divulgation consistent with the cultural and social needs and concerns in our society. Families, senior citizens, school groups and a wide cross-section of the public will find a new meeting place in CaixaForum Madrid.
CaixaForum will have over 2500 m2 for exhibition halls, a 322-seat auditorium, a media library, several multipurpose rooms for conferences and other activities, conservation and restoration workshops, and storage space for art works. The spacious lobby, snack bar, book and gift shop, and restaurant will round out the centre’s offer. These different areas will be spread over the following levels:
Level -2 Car park, entrance of works of art, foyer and auditorium
Level -1 Multipurpose rooms, conservation workshop, storage area
Level 0 Public square, access to the centre
Level 1 Lobby, reception area, book and gift shop
Level +2 Exhibition hall
Level +3 Exhibition hall and media library
Level +4 Snack bar-restaurant, offices
The architectural plan of CaixaForum-Madrid is part of the project for reorganising the Recoletos-Prado axis, a sweeping urban planning initiative that Madrid City Council has entrusted to architects Álvaro Siza and Juan Miguel Hernández de León.
A century of history
The original project for the Mediodía Electrical Power Station was conceived in 1899, and the building permit was granted to the entrepreneur José Batlle on 28 November 1900. The project was carried out by architect Jesús Carrasco y Encina and engineer José María Hernández, the latter of whom was responsible for machinery installation. Their mission was to build a plant for generating electricity from coal combustion to supply energy to the entire southern sector of Madrid’s old district. The building was raised on the lot of the bygone La Estrella candle factory, first licensed in 1857. Years later, the power station was taken over by Unión Eléctrica Madrileña.
The old Mediodía Electrical Power Station is one of the few examples of industrial architecture still standing in Madrid’s old quarter. Others are the Cerro de la Plata Substation and the Mazarredo Electrical Power Station, which, while still open, have been relegated to storage purposes.
The exposed brick building is made up of two large parallel naves with double-sloped façades on Almadén and Gobernador Streets, a characteristic structure of the electrical plants built in Madrid in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. The building was made with solid brick load-bearing walls over a base of granite ashlars.
As mentioned, the Mediodía Electrical Power Station supplied the entire southern sector of the old district of Madrid. It had three steam furnaces built in Mahón, on the island of Minorca, by the Maquinista Naval company; three 120-HP horizontal steam engines built in England; and three 80 kW direct-current dynamos made by the Oerlikon firm, based in Zurich.
”la Caixa” Foundation in Madrid
In 2001, ”la Caixa” Foundation purchased the old Mediodía Electrical Power Station because of its location in the district where the city’s greatest cultural offer is concentrated. CaixaForum-Madrid will replace the Exhibition Hall in Serrano Street. This venue, complemented by the hall that ”la Caixa” Foundation also had in Paseo de la Castellana, was a pioneer in exhibiting contemporary art in the Spain of the 1980s.
Furthermore, ”la Caixa” Foundation now possesses CentroCaixa, a senior citizens community centre located in the Arapiles district. There, under one roof, training, volunteering and leisure all focus on the new technologies. The courses in computer use, Internet and other subjects taught at the centre have a dual purpose: to train senior citizens in the world of new technologies, so that they in turn will pass on this acquired knowledge to their peers. To achieve this goal, CentroCaixa has a total of 60 computer terminals, an Internet café, a media library and a computer classroom. CentroCaixa currently has 4060 member users.
Also within the Autonomous Community of Madrid, in the nearby city Alcobendas, ”la Caixa” Foundation operates CosmoCaixa, its science museum, which received over 800,000 visits in 2003. CosmoCaixa is a centre for scientific divulgation, a forum for debate and a meeting point for leading scientists both at the national and international levels. It is made up of four main sections: temporary exhibitions, which focus on scientific subjects of current interest; the permanent exhibition, World Sciences, which proposes an interactive journey through the different scientific disciplines explaining our world; a planetarium with the latest digital technology; plus an extensive activity programme that includes experimental workshops, conferences, symposiums and courses for an extremely broad visiting public.
In 2003, over 1,300,000 people took part in the 986 social, cultural, scientific and educational activities organised by ”la Caixa” Foundation in Madrid.