The new Botin Centre in Santander – what’s it all about?

cranes working on Centro Botin Santander

Silhouette of the cranes working on the Centro Botin, Santander

I’ve been banging on about the new building going up in Santander to friends and family and thought I’d write about it here. I’ve two reasons – one is that the building is a little gem – on the plans at least – and secondly – there isn’t much published in English – so I thought I’d explain what’s happening – given that I can understand presentations and the local media coverage.

The architect
Firstly, you should know that the architect is Renzo Piano, 76, the Italian responsible for the Shard, a stunning skyscraper (excuse my holiday snap below!) in London completed in February this year. Piano is an acclaimed architect who has won numerous awards. His first international project was in the 1970s for the Pompidou Centre (with Richard Rogers). Since then he has designed museums, libraries, exhibition centres, churches and city gates.

Renzo Piano's London Shard

Renzo Piano’s London Shard towering over the city

The banker
Back to Spain – and to the man with the vision and the chequebook. Emilio Botin (79) is President of Banco Santander. Botin joined the board in 1960 and took charge in 1986, from his father. Today he is Chairman and Executive Member of the Board of Directors. Although the operating environment has been extremely challenging for this sector, Banco Santander has grown significantly through expansion into the Americas. It’s annual revenues for 2012 was 43.68bn euro. Analysts predict revenues will increase to 44.79m for 2013 and 46.49m for 2014.

The philanthropists
While he was cutting his teeth as board-member of the bank, Emilio Botin and his wife, Carmen Yllera, set up a foundation with the aim of promoting social development of Cantabria. The Botin Foundation today runs an arts & cultural programme, a socio-economic programme (in education, science and rural development) and a social action programme. It also has what it calls a trend observatory in Madrid which focuses on environmental and social matters. The new centre will continue the work of the foundation in nurturing talent and promoting creativity.

The building
Creativity is over-flowing in the design of the building. It is not a majestic or landmark building – in a crude sense – but is curvy, elegant and under-stated – although somehow cheeky and daring as well – leaning over the water like a naughty child. I think it will seduce the city and the rest of the world. The completion date for the centre is June 2014 – which is the 50th anniversary of the bank’s cultural foundation.

model centro botin santander

Model of how the Centro Botin will look

Image credits (above and below):Fundacion Botin

Plans for Botin Centre & Jardines de Pereda, Santander

Plans for Botin Centre & Jardines de Pereda, Santander

The location

The south-facing views that the Botin Centre will enjoy

The south-facing views which the Botin Centre will enjoy

It’s exact location is on the sea-front between the elegant picture-perfect Puertochico and the ferry terminal for Brittany Ferries – itself a seductive structure built in brick by local architect Ricardo Lorenzo in 1971. And just like a big brother, the Banco Santander historical HQ looks onto the centre’s building site. The bank was designed by Javier Gonzales de Riancho in the early 1920s and still serves today as a point of reference for the residents of the city.

Banco Santander looks onto the Botin Centre building site

Banco Santander looks onto the Botin Centre building site

Opposition was mounted to the early plans for the centre – because of the importance of the port and sea-front to both tourism, trade and the many thousands who stroll up and down the marine walk every day. Renzo Piano incorporated some of the criticism into subsequent plans. The result is the safeguarding a much loved old crane ‘Grua de Piedra’ – circa 1900. And traffic will be channeled underground which creates more space for a larger ‘Jardines de Pereda’ park (in partnership with the Town Hall).

Location for Botin Centre from Jardines de Pereda with glimpse of old crane

Botin Centre building site from Jardines de Pereda with glimpse of old crane

The cost
The total budget for the centre is 77m euro. In 2012, 21.6m euro of the foundation’s annual budget of 46.3m euro went into the new building. In investment terms it will be the largest private institution in Spain. It is expected to draw 150,000 visitors in its first year and and 200,000 visitors annually thereafter.

Work in progress
Do you want to see what 21.6m euro of work looks like? This is what happened on the site from January to March 2013.

And this was the work done in the second half of 2012.

And this is what us locals see on a daily basis.

wall Centro Botin Santander

Colourful images guarding the building site, Centro Botin, Santander

Do you like the look of the new centre?

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