SEVILLE – In March 2017, Seville became the eighth Spanish city to inaugurate a Caixaforum cultural centre under the ownership of banking foundation Obra Social ‘la Caixa’ whose mission is to make culture ‘accessible to all’. Located near the old town – an area which is hoped to become a vibrant hub of activity in the city – the project by local architect Guillermo Consuegra Vázquez repurposes a space that previously existed as the subterranean car park of the Pelli Tower complex (2015).
The Caixaforum Seville is the third largest of the centres across the country – after Barcelona and Madrid – comprising two large exhibition rooms, an auditorium, multi-purpose space, a restaurant and a shop.
The intervention repurposes the space without compromising its industrial character, integrating the building’s exposed structure into the interior architecture. ‘In this way, the main strategy was to locate a number of relatively independent spaces within the existing structure, seeking a peaceful coexistence between the old and the new; they cohabit but do not merge’ Vázquez Consuegra comments.
The design addresses two main considerations: occupation and visibility. ‘The occupation strategy is based on an analysis of the existing – and previously planned – uses for this part of the complex,’ says the architect. ‘To solve the problem of visibility for the underground building, we proposed the construction of an outdoor shelter that covers the entrances and facilitates the flow of visitors like a small plaza.’
Existing almost entirely below ground – only the restaurant is above grade – the centre’s entrance is identifiable by a metallic covering. The canopy is built from stabilised aluminium foam panels – a material the allows light to pervade into the foyer below.
The architect describes the forum as a building of two parts: the interior excavation, which houses the majority of the project’s functional spaces; and the exterior world, represented by the sculptural shelter, which is shaped by the limits of its environmental context. ‘In this project, we could speak of two superimposed worlds connected light,’ he concludes. ‘The shelter not only covers and protects the entrances to the Caixaforum but is also a container of light which captures and channels the light towards the underground vestibule by way of a large skylight.’ In this way, the outside and the subterranean centre are equal in their ability to illuminate their respective spaces.