The Most Bizarre Concrete Building in Madrid

6 Feb

Virginia Duran Blog- La corona de Espinas IPC (Instituto Patrimonio Cultural)  by Fernando Higueras- 1970Winter 1970, Madrid

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)

Virginia Duran Blog- La corona de Espinas IPC (Instituto Patrimonio Cultural)  by Fernando Higueras- aerial viewIPC, Faculty of Fine Arts, Faculties of Architecture (ETSAM and ETSEM)

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.

Virginia Duran Blog- La corona de Espinas IPC (Instituto Patrimonio Cultural)  by Fernando Higueras- MaquetaModel of the initial project

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.

Virginia Duran Blog- La corona de Espinas IPC (Instituto Patrimonio Cultural)  by Fernando Higueras- Dibujo por Antonio LopezFamous drawing by Antonio López

Virginia Duran Blog- La corona de Espinas IPC (Instituto Patrimonio Cultural)  by Fernando Higueras- Obras Construction stops, exterior.

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.

Virginia Duran Blog- La corona de Espinas IPC (Instituto Patrimonio Cultural)  by Fernando Higueras- Alzado Section Virginia Duran Blog- La corona de Espinas IPC (Instituto Patrimonio Cultural)  by Fernando Higueras- Floor Plan Virginia Duran Blog- La corona de Espinas IPC (Instituto Patrimonio Cultural)  by Fernando Higueras- SeccionPlans

 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.

Virginia Duran Blog- La corona de Espinas IPC (Instituto Patrimonio Cultural)  by Fernando Higueras- ArquitectosFernando Higueras on the front

CONCEPT: His architecture could be described as an obsession of the following factors:

  1.  Simple spatial distributions: Clear circulations, functionality
  2. Composition: Construction and form get together in its geometry.
  3. Repetition: Rhythm in the structure
  4. Symmetry: By having an axis
  5. Circles: Either in form, in structure
  6. Center: Which works as the core of the building
  7. Zenithal light: That comes trough the space vertically
  8. Vegetation: Inside and outside the building avoiding limits.
  9. Balconies: Hierarchy
  10. Monumentality: Provided by geometrical forms and materials (always pure).

Virginia Duran Blog- La corona de Espinas IPC (Instituto Patrimonio Cultural)  by Fernando Higueras- BibliotecaCircular Library

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.

Virginia Duran Blog- La corona de Espinas IPC (Instituto Patrimonio Cultural)  by Fernando Higueras- Interior Detalle
Structure Detail

Virginia Duran Blog- La corona de Espinas IPC (Instituto Patrimonio Cultural)  by Fernando Higueras- Detalle lucernarios
Skylight detail

Virginia Duran Blog- La corona de Espinas IPC (Instituto Patrimonio Cultural)  by Fernando Higueras- Detalle de la escalera
Stair detail

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.

Virginia Duran Blog- La corona de Espinas IPC (Instituto Patrimonio Cultural)  by Fernando Higueras- Pintura de Caballete
Easel Painting Department

Virginia Duran Blog- La corona de Espinas IPC (Instituto Patrimonio Cultural)  by Fernando Higueras- Oficinas
Offices, 4th floor

Virginia Duran Blog- La corona de Espinas IPC (Instituto Patrimonio Cultural)  by Fernando Higueras- interior nivel 1
Inner Courtyard
Virginia Duran Blog- La corona de Espinas IPC (Instituto Patrimonio Cultural)  by Fernando Higueras- Primer Nivel
First Level

Virginia Duran Blog- La corona de Espinas IPC (Instituto Patrimonio Cultural)  by Fernando Higueras- Espacios abiertos
Open Spaces

Virginia Duran Blog- La corona de Espinas IPC (Instituto Patrimonio Cultural)  by Fernando Higueras- LobbyLobby

Virginia Duran Blog- La corona de Espinas IPC (Instituto Patrimonio Cultural)  by Fernando Higueras- AccesoAccess

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.

Virginia Duran Blog- La corona de Espinas IPC (Instituto Patrimonio Cultural)  by Fernando Higueras- Cubierta bnWhat did you think of the building? Would you enjoy working here?
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Discover more amazing architecture of Madrid on the map below or download my Free Architecture Guide of Madrid.


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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
ISBN: 978-84-921038-9-8
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26 Responses to “The Most Bizarre Concrete Building in Madrid”

  1. Gallivanta February 6, 2014 at 11:53 am #

    Extraordinary! I am not sure what to make of it. The courtyards and the light seem lovely. Have you been inside it?

    • Virginia Duran February 6, 2014 at 12:11 pm #

      Yes, I visited it last week for the first time, although it’s a 5 min walk from the School of Architecture where I go every week. The day I visited it was very sunny and the interior light was fascinating to be honest. As there are barely no partition walls light goes from the windows to nearly the other side of the corridor. The only thing that didn’t seem to work was the temperature. Since it has the same form on every angle, some areas are too cold in winter and too warm in summer. Apparently the blinds didn’t protect the building enough. I did a thousand pictures (even the bathrooms haha) so if you think I missed some important information I coud add more photographs!

      • Gallivanta February 6, 2014 at 1:37 pm #

        I wondered how the temperature control would work! And I am always interested in bathrooms; often a much neglected aspect of a building :)

  2. lensandpensbysally February 6, 2014 at 1:15 pm #

    The joy for me is the creative use of the material. It’s always stunned me that (especially in America) there is such bland use of concrete. Of course, Frank Lloyd Wright changed it all. Wish that I could explore the space. Thanks for this post.

    • Virginia Duran February 6, 2014 at 1:44 pm #

      Sometimes the use of certain materials is a matter of fashion. It’s true that Frank Lloyd Wright used concrete, however, he always put ornament over the materials (concrete, brick etc.). This tendency in leaving the raw material exposed is actually something recent (last 20-30 years). You should visit Madrid some time anyways :))
      Are there any concrete buildings close to your area, I bet so!

  3. richhell February 6, 2014 at 1:44 pm #

    What a strange fascinating building. I kind of like it because it is so darned different. I would love to see it firsthand. It’s not grotesque or offensive or bland…It’s definitely one of a kind. :)

    • Virginia Duran February 6, 2014 at 1:50 pm #

      If you visit Madrid you’ll definitely have to see this building, it’s very close to the city center actually. The way you describe it makes me think of the Prentice Women’s Hospital (which is under demolition right now) in Chicago. I always went by and wondered what it was. Do you remember that building?

  4. Waldo "Wally" Tomosky February 6, 2014 at 1:45 pm #

    You captured it all Virginia. Thanks for a great post.

    • Virginia Duran February 6, 2014 at 1:52 pm #

      Your comments are always nice!
      Thanks so much for stopping by :)

  5. Luke Barley February 6, 2014 at 3:06 pm #

    A bit of the poetic Brutalism

    • Virginia Duran February 6, 2014 at 7:15 pm #

      Sometimes that is all about concrete, isn’t it?

  6. psychologistmimi February 9, 2014 at 1:56 pm #

    interesting building. Somehow I missed this on my travels through spain :-(

    • Virginia Duran February 10, 2014 at 3:39 pm #

      Oh! You’ll have to return. There are so many hidden buildings in Madrid… but if you come back you can now visit :)

  7. kathryningrid February 10, 2014 at 3:41 am #

    It looks like the ‘mother-ship’ to me! But obviously, of *friendly* aliens, since they arrived bearing a library!!! Cool and quirky.

    • Virginia Duran February 10, 2014 at 3:40 pm #

      hahaha this comment made me smile :) It looks like military architecture in a way – mother ship too. But the interior is indeed friendly.
      Have you ever visited Madrid?

      • kathryningrid February 10, 2014 at 7:35 pm #

        Not yet, but it’s long been on my list of hoped-for destinations!

      • Virginia Duran February 11, 2014 at 12:33 pm #

        You should definitely, spring is the best time because in summer it gets extremely warm. If you visit Spain in summer you’d rather go to Barcelona :)

  8. UrbanBilingual February 10, 2014 at 6:50 pm #

    I am really ignorant as far as architecture is concerned… I love your detailed posts and explanations though… they make me feel like I have the right to have a solid opinion! I love this building for example but I wouldn’t be able to say why without your post… Now, I think it is because I love concrete (in general) and because the light seems to have been managed particularly well in this structure! Thanks for sharing your knowledge with us… it’s really precious and relaxing to read you!

    • Virginia Duran February 11, 2014 at 12:37 pm #

      Thanks for your kind words :) You do have the right to have an opinion even if you haven’t visited the buildings. Sometimes we don’t like a certain building, for no reason. However, I am happy that you liked this one, at least by the pictures in the post (it’s even more amazing I promiss). So if you ever come back to Madrid you should visit :)

      Love your new web by the way. It seems your project is going forward! Congratulations ;)

      • UrbanBilingual February 11, 2014 at 2:07 pm #

        Thanks Virginia… yes I’m done with the technical stuff and I’m ready for real information and knowledge exchange now!

  9. Waldo "Wally" Tomosky February 11, 2014 at 4:21 pm #

    Hello again Virginia,

    I sent my son, who is an architect, the link to this post. He enjoyed it tremendously.

    In return, he sent me a link to his favorite library. It follows:

    http://www.erikgunnarasplund.com/eng/gallery7-stockholmsstadsbibliotek.asp

    Thank you for your great posts.

    Wally

  10. Guillermo Jarava March 31, 2014 at 6:02 pm #

    Hola Virginia,

    soy estudiante de arquitectura en la Universidad de Navarra. Estoy haciendo un trabajo sobre la morfología estructural del IPC y he llegado a tu blog.

    Me parece una entrada muy buena y me preguntaba si podría usar las imágenes de los planos así como los detalles de la escalera y el lucernario.

    Si pudiera obtener las imágenes en buena resolución me harías un gran favor, tanto si me las puedes enviar por email o diciéndome si están disponibles en internet.

    Muchas gracias de todas formas,

    Guillermo

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