Santiago de Compostela and Galicia wanted to compete with Bilbao`s Guggenheim Museum
Santiago de Compostela is not only pilgrims, a beautiful Cathedral and an old city with charming narrow streets. The city has also taken into competition with Bilbao to have to most spectacular building. On a hill with a fantastic view over the city, the American architect Peter Eisenman has been given the task to build a new cultural city district; Cidade da Cultura de Galicia. Eisenman has said that the building, unlike Guggenheim`s explosion, is an implosion. The building breaks up from the ground and spreads out in the landscape. Peter Eisenman is also the architect behind the Holocaust Monument in Berlin. The relationship between the two is obvious.
The whole project has been strongly criticized after it’s opening in January 2011. Many argued that this only was a very big and expensive white elephant. There are many indications that they are partially right. The project has become so expensive that in spite of being officially opened, it’s not completed and the museum has no money left to by art.
But still – it’s impressing and therefor extra tragic and sad to walk between the buildings and see the big crater filled with dirty water and leftovers from the building process. The lack of people and life is significant. The building process is not completely stopped, but it’s slowing down to a minimum. And just some weeks ago it was decided that the two remaining building is not going to be built. Among them is the music and performing arts building.
Peter Eisenman has used some of the same techniques and methods that he used at the Holocaust Monument in Berlin. He placed a digital map of the streets in the old part of the town above the hill and transferred the contours into lines repeated in the buildings. The curved roofs are inspired by scallops. They are traditionally the symbol for the pilgrims walking the Camino. The windows, and there are thousands of them, are all customized. No wonder it was expensive!
We knew little about these matters while we where walking in drizzle and bitter wind towards the hill. We followed the signs, but they where probably not intended for pedestrians. Just below the hill, only some hundred meters from the buildings, we had to face the fact that the road went all the way around the hill and then back again. This was a detour of some 2-3 kilometer. No walkway we could use as a shortcut, only dense bushes and a tall fence.
The walking was worth it! In spite of all criticism and the fact that it is unfinished, we where trilled. The architecture is amazing, exciting and beautiful. It has organic forms you never thought possible to build. Absolutely a worthy competitor to Guggenheim Museum in Bilbao. So even if you cant expect art exhibitions and lively public life, visit the place! It’s absolutely worth a visit.
It was one exhibition there when we visited. Ramon Conde a Spanish artist living in Santiago de Compostela showed his naturalistic male figures in the glass building beside the tower constructed for ventilation and heating. The glass building is an exact copy of the tower building. The idea works very well because the tower building in itself is quite ugly. But against its glass copy it gains more interest and the two towers works more like a sculpture rising upwards in contrast to the rest of the buildings.
Conde’s naturalistic male figures seem like they are made specifically for this glass tower. But unfortunately that is not the case.
After a little refreshment in the café we managed to get a taxi back to town. We had a lot to talk about and discuss. We all hope that it will be possible to complete these magnificent buildings. Only the Spanish are this crazy, but that is also what makes their country so fantastic. You have to be a bit crazy to build all the giant Cathedrals, castles and amazing modern museums.