La Coruña, Spain
The Caixa Galicia Foundation, a regional cultural center designed by Grimshaw Architects, packs a lot of design intensity into a small but prime port-side site in La Coruña, on Spain’s northwest Atlantic coast. Only 72 feet wide, its custom-designed facade forms a single eccentric gesture, parabolic and off-kilter in section, that nevertheless takes a respectful place among the glazed wooden galleries of the city’s traditional seafront buildings. It plunges three floors below the sidewalk to bring natural light to an underground gallery and auditorium, and rolls over the top of the building to drop down to the intimate scale of the pedestrian alleys behind it. A full-height central interior atrium stuffed with stairs and glass-floored bridges echoes this curving, unbroken exterior surface as it slices through the building.
The foundation is one of the philanthropic ventures of a local savings bank, which commissioned the building as the flagship of its eight cultural centers throughout the politically autonomous region of Galicia.
The building is straightforward in concept, although the large program for the limited site added complexity. Its massing completely fills the permitted zoning envelope’s setback outline at the rear of the plot, which is literally traced by the curving back of the building. The atrium brings light from the boulevard and park facing the main entry into the pedestrian rear alley, while the ground floor, with its bookshop and cybercafé, forms a visual and physical bridge between them. Above, three levels of galleries are crowned by the two private floors of the penthouse reception suite and the foundation boardroom.
The plunging main facade angles inward from the street wall as it descends, dropping to a below-grade sculpture court with a glazed floor—designed for point loads of over 1,000 pounds—covering a double-height lobby for the 286-seat auditorium in the second basement. A glass-floored entry bridge, detailed like the atrium bridges with laminated-glass balustrades and stainless-steel handrails, spans this court at street level.
The design of the facade proved to be the architects’ greatest challenge. Lees explains, “We were looking for an all-enveloping skin that adapts to all the main elements of the building, so that on first impression it’s very simple, but as you get closer you read the different levels of complexity.” Working with the fabricators Seele Austria GmbH, they developed a system of angled horizontal panels, like clapboards in appearance, that roll over the entire building.
Personnel in architect's firm who should receive special credit
Neven Sidor Riba Director
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