If you love concrete you’ll love this piece, built between 1960-1990. The Spanish cultural heritage building, “Instituto del Patrimonio Cultural” is the most unusual concrete building in Madrid.
Building: Instituto del Patrimonio Cultural de España
Architects: Fernando Higueras (1930-2008), Rafael Moneo (1937- ), Antonio Miró (1931-2011)
Year built: 1960-1990
Location: Calle del Greco, 4 (Madrid)
WHAT IS IT: The project of the Headquarters of the Cultural Heritage of Spain (Instituto del Patrimonio Cultural de España) was won in a competition by architects Fernando Higueras and Rafael Moneo (making them the winners of the National Prize of Architecture in Spain too). The program, “An artistic restoration center” was organized in a circular building layout. However, the design changed over the years.
Construction started in 1967 but it took several years until it got finished. In 1970, 4 months before its completion day, construction stopped leaving it unfinished for a long time. And it wasn’t until 1990 that the building completed its construction.
PLANS: Its form changed over the years. The original design was composed by a pyramid but the built design was the result of inverting the voids. The building’s form is a 40m radius circle divided into 30 sections and 56 frames. It has 4 storeys which have a big courtyard in the middle plus 5 inner courtyards with interior gardens.
ARCHITECT AND ARCHITECTURE: So you’ll wonder what this piece of naked architecture is doing here. The IPC is a stranger to the rationalist architecture of its environment (surrounded by The Fine Arts building and the two Faculties of Architecture). This building was a result of the main architect’s obsession.
He claimed he was anti-Le Corbusier and anti-Mies stating -”More is more“-
He was obsessed with the logic of construction, he was obsessed with biomorphism and the raw beauty in depth and light. Most of his buildings were therefore made in reinforced concrete.
CONCEPT: His architecture could be described as an obsession of the following factors:
- Simple spatial distributions: Clear circulations, functionality
- Composition: Construction and form get together in its geometry.
- Repetition: Rhythm in the structure
- Symmetry: By having an axis
- Circles: Either in form, in structure
- Center: Which works as the core of the building
- Zenithal light: That comes trough the space vertically
- Vegetation: Inside and outside the building avoiding limits.
- Balconies: Hierarchy
- Monumentality: Provided by geometrical forms and materials (always pure).
MATERIALS + DETAILS: Tectonically, the building is conceived as one whole. It is made of reinforced concrete without any interior additions, which saved money. It has two cores of stairs and elevators.
INTERIORS: The interiors are very impressive. It’s hard to distinguish were the exterior begins due to the light and use of vegetation. Spaces are monumental due to the floor to ceiling height and the lack of ornament in the walls.
In conclusion, no matter how isolated it looks from its exterior, interior spaces are fluent, open and full of light. A new concept of circulations is possible due to its circular form and lack of closed spaces. Windows and other separation devices have been added recently because water from the gardens came in the working spaces, but that doesn’t interrupt the visual continuity inside the building. Definitely, this is one of the most significant concrete buildings in the Spanish capital.
What did you think of the building? Would you enjoy working here?
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Pictures: Javier F. Escribano, Virginia Duran
Bibliography: “La corona de espinas Instituto del Patrimonio Cultural de España 1960-1990″ by Alberto Humanes