Arquitectura Viva
Wednesday, October 28, 2020

Renzo Piano Building Workshop with Luis Vidal, Centro Botín

The Centro Botín, a space for art, culture and education, projecting into the Bay of Santander, was strongly supported by Emilio Botín (1934-2014), president of Banco Santander and financed by the Botín Foundation, one of the most important private foundations in Spain, established in 1964 with the aim of fostering the social, economic and cultural development of Cantabria.

The project restores the ties between the historical part of the city and the sea. The freeway separating the park from the sea has now been rung underground through a tunnel, making it possible to double the area of the Jardines de Pereda, extending them to the seafront and restoring pedestrian access to the sea for Santander’s citizens.

Located between the park and the sea, the building is held up in part by pilotis planted on the ground of the dock, while the other part forms a cantilever over the water. This avoids obstructing the view of the sea and the beautiful bay landscape for people strolling in the park, as the Centro Botín is cleverly masked by the foliage of trees. A series of light walkways of steel and glass separate the two rounded volumes of the building and create a new square set above grade and fully public.

The two-lobed form of the building provides better illumination of the ground floor and accompanies the view of visitors and citizens looking out from the park to the sea. The two bodies that make up the building are completely faced with 280,000 small, slightly rounded ceramic tiles, pearl-coloured and vibrant, that reflect the sunlight, the sparkle of the water, and the rarefied atmosphere of Santander.

The east volume houses an auditorium rising to double height and cantilevered over the sea, and to the north, the educational centre: spaces designed with the maximum flexibility to adapt to multiple activities. In the west volume the exhibition galleries unfold on two levels, characterized by a spectacular double view over the sea and the park. The exhibition space on the upper floor is illuminated zenithally by glass roofing consisting of four layers which protects against stray light and can be used to make the lighting flexible.

An amphitheatre hewn out of the park runs alongside the Centro Botín, its west façade equipped with a LED screen for screenings and outdoor cinema. On the ground floor a fully transparent façade encloses a multifunctional space animated by a café, restaurant, commercial space and the information centre. In this way, the inner and outer space are almost indistinguishable and visitors and citizens can see the sea and landscape of the bay framed by the broad eaves of the building.

Finally, it is worth highlighting the piece that the artist Cristina Iglesias designed specifically for the grounds around the Botín Centre and the Pereda Gardens. Executed with stone, steel, and water, ‘Desde lo subterráneo’ (From the Underground) is a sculptural intervention, composed of four wells and a pond, that simulates algae that could exist in a possible submarine garden. The gardens also feature a light installation by Carten Höller, subject, incidentally, of one of the center’s inaugural exhibitions, Höller’s first monographic show in Spain.
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