Renzo Piano’s Botín Centre goes from 2D to 3 in Santander

If you know me – you know I am interested in the new Botín Centre by Renzo Piano in Santander. It’s been a few months since I blogged about it so I thought I’d show you some snaps of a model of the building and the actual work in progress.

Santander 2014 Botin Centre Renzo Piano Spain

‘Two boxes raised on stilts’ is how architecture critic Richard Ingersoll described the design

Not just one but two curvy buildings

As you can see Renzo Piano has designed two separate curvy buildings that are connected by a bridge. The structures have been likened to many objects – my favourites are the hulls of a ship and spaceships. The wonderful curving of the corners isn’t just to please people like me who love soft edges. It’s to diffuse the light beneath the structures.

The western building offers 2,500 m2 of exhibition space. Underneath will be a restaurant, shop and a glassed-in public space. The eastern structure will focus on culture and education, and will house a 300-seat auditorium, four seminar rooms and workspaces.

The bridge

The bridge or pachinko (which is a Japanese pinball machine) was initially a means of access to the buildings over a busy road. When budgets were approved for an underground tunnel for traffic, the bridge idea could have been dropped but architect and patron seemed keen to keep it in. Its function will be to provide access from the art gallery space to the auditorium and vice-versa. The boardwalk section that reaches over the waterfront is a space for ‘socialising’. Should be good!

Botin centre santander cantabria spain renzo piano august 2013

An overhead view of the Botín Centre – see how the bridge stretches right over into the bay

The scales

I love the ceramic exterior that will clad the building. To me, they look a bit fish-scale like. Referred to as molecular in early Renzo Piano material – these tiles will shimmer like mother-of-pearl (especially useful on the not-too-infrequent grey day we experience here). Each tile is the size of an adult’s hand. Renzo Piano likens them to cells of human skin and has calculated he’ll need 360,000 pieces.

Botin centre santander cantabria spain renzo piano august 2013

360,000 of these glossy ceramic tiles will be applied to the outside of the two buildings

Botin centre santander cantabria spain renzo piano august 2013

Up close you can appreciate the depth on these tiles. It’s probably as near as I’ll get to these saucers for a while unless I’m let into the site with a hard-hat

 The Pereda Gardens  – a camouflage or cloak

In an interview in 2011 Renzo Piano said he is not trying to do a Frank Gehry with this design for Santander’s port. Unlike the Guggenheim that is highly visible from all angles, Piano wants the buildings’ structure as invisible as possible from the city centre and does not want to block any views of the waterfront. This is why he has placed the buildings on slender poles the same height as the tree trunks and level with the tops of the trees in the Pereda Gardens. He wants residents and visitors to have a clear line of vision to the waterfront. Time will tell whether he achieves this harmony with the site, but he can be proud that his building and the accompanying road tunnelling will enlarge the size of Pereda Gardens and give pedestrians a traffic-free route from the city centre to that section of the waterfront. For those of you who like the stats, here’s the plans for the park in more detail:

  • The green area will increase from 7,000 to 10,500 square metres – new additions include an urban orchard
  • 67 new benches (wood and aluminium) will be installed
  • 35 new rubbish bins to be put in the park
  • Mobile phone charging points will be installed
  • The docking station for 25 blue rental-bikes will be re-installed
  • Parking will be provided for 60 bikes
  • 6 static bikes will be installed in the park for exercise purposes
  • 5 structures/sculptures have been commissioned from Spanish sculptor Cristina Iglesias
  • The children’s playground will be increased from 320 to 476 square metres
Renzo Piano Botin Centre Santander 2014

The buildings will sit at the edge of the much-enlarged Pereda Gardens

Botin centre santander cantabria spain renzo piano august 2013

The traffic will go underground  – freeing up room for more parkland and the new amphitheatre  – for films, concerts and ‘lounging’

Botin centre santander cantabria spain renzo piano august 2013

The north-facing view of the building – you can appreciate the work the stilts will have to do supporting the structures

Progress on the building site – August 2013

Stats are fine – but what’s actually happening on the ground – you ask? Here’s a few snaps taken recently.

Botin centre santander cantabria spain renzo piano august 2013

As you can see – the Botín Centre will be highly visible at the waterfront. Those approaching the city by boat or ferry will see it shimmer

Botin centre santander cantabria spain renzo piano august 2013

Stilts on stilts – the Botín Centre structure goes up beside the much-loved old ‘Grua’ or crane in Santander

It’s tricky to get any images of the north side of the building because the construction site walls are blocking almost all vantage points. The only angle I can get is from this shut-down petrol station – which I was surprised to learn – is going to become a cafe. I like the lovely oval roof and circular structure and will be curious to see how it makes the transition.

Botin centre santander cantabria spain renzo piano august 2013

Excuse the glare – I’m still working out the shutter speeds. This recently-closed petrol station will become a glassed-in cafeteria and the road will go underground

The kickstarter

One man who will take advantage of the massive new exhibition space is Belgian-born Carsten Holler – who has been confirmed as the inaugural artist. I hope he is working closely with the buildings manager and architect’s team for the show. You’ll know what I mean after watching the video below…

See it for yourself…
If you can get to the exhibition at the Botín Foundation on Calle Pedrueca in Santander – do try to visit. I particularly like the live webcam that must be on top of the Hotel Bahia streaming images from inside the construction site.

Renzo Piano Botin Centre Santander 2014

The Botín Foundation exhibition space on Calle Pedrueca, Santander

Renzo Piano Botin Centre Santander 2014

The web-cam with a birds-eye view of work in progress can be seen at Calle Pedrueca, Santander

If you can’t get to Santander before September 15 – have a look at the Botín Centre’s video about the building in English:

What do you think of the plans?

One comment

  1. Very impressive. I’m glad I’ll see the site in a week or two. The video on the Carsten Holler installation is scary for any museum/gallery!

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