Cidade da Cultura

To build the “Cidade da Cultura” as a place giving identity to the emigrated, the seagoing and the domiciled Galician people, is to create an extraordinary place—to build a spatial monument. Compared with the expectation, the means employed are unexpectedly simple: the topography of the “Monte do Gaias”, four slightly varied cubical volumes and a connecting, plateau-like level all combine to form the “stage”. The “actors” are the view, the sun, the rain, the wind, the clouds, the vegetation that transforms with the seasons, and the people. The “play” is the past, the present and the future culture of Galicia.

For the Galician people who have emigrated in every direction of the compass, the four buildings are placed upon the ridge of the "Monte do Gaias" like "lighthouses" that are oriented to the north, south, east and west. They create an intermediate space that appears as a huge square compared with dense urban conditions, but that acts only as a large surface when compared with the expanse of the surrounding landscape. The buildings tend to mark the space more than they bound it. What does act to define, however, is the topography, the view to the west towards the city, and the view to the east to the more agrarian landscape with its implanted gardens and small parks.

The buildings are simple cubical volumes. They are specifically formed based upon their varying usages and their positions in the terrain. Common to all of the buildings is that they possess courtyards and that they are made of stone. The courtyards mediate between the large square and the small-scaled interior spaces of the buildings. This traditional building type allows the volumes to be permeable to visitors without having to be entered and "used" according to their functions.

The buildings are dedicated to seeing (Museum of Galicia), to hearing (Opera and Sound & Image Library), to learning/studying/reading (Library and Newspaper Library), and to speaking as well as interaction (Auditorium, Lecture Hall, Multi-Purpose Hall). The thematic combination of the uses and the consequential concentration of the volumes generate imposing, memorable buildings with corresponding effects seen both up close and from afar. The division into four buildings also simplifies the phased construction of the project.

The buildings are made of stone and are constructed layer by layer. Various sorts of stone from Galicia and singular stones from the entire world are either laid in courses or are poured as layers in concrete and then revealed once again by sandblasting and grinding. Either set as masonry or poured with concrete, the stones can be understood as the material memory of the history of Galicia, so to speak. Reflective metallic windowpanes contrast with the matt stone. In a literal sense their surfaces mirror the present.

The present-day agrarian landscape acts as a basis to structure the landscape interventions. In this area, like in all of Galicia, it is characterized by small-scaled patterns (Microfundismo). Individual gardens and park elements are "implanted" along paths into the agricultural pattern: for example a rain garden, a garden for the trees of the "Libredon", a place dedicated to the theme of the "Ultramar", a cabbage soup garden, a chestnut grove, a small eucalyptus forest, and more. The bush-like Matoral area to the west of the "Cidade" is to be successively reforested with native oak trees. A densified network of paths allows one to wander from garden to garden and station to station.

Location Santiago de Compostela, Spain

Competition 1999

Competition Organzier City of Santiago de Compostela, Spain

Team G/G Dalila Chebbi, Markus Lüscher, Arnault Biou, Stefan Thommen, Roger Naegeli

Landscape Architecture Zulauf Seippel Schweingruber, Baden