Perfection & Complexity at the Botin Centre

Botin Centre 2014 Construction overrun

You can’t pre-programme perfection, can you?

It’s been a tough start to the year in Santander. Not only have the waves been beating the coastline and the wind howling non-stop but those of us who like to follow the progress of the Botin Centre have been trying to do our sums.

Is A Project Overrun Likely?

We’re combing the usual sources such as the local newspaper El Diario Montanes to gauge when the Centre will be finished. But no date is emerging. Both the Mayor and the Botin Foundation said recently that they don’t know when it will open – giving the complexity of the building and Renzo Piano’s quest for perfection as the reasons for what nobody is confirming but everybody is thinking – there will be a project over-run.

Only a few weeks ago, it looked like a Summer 2014 opening was still on the cards – at least, that’s the date that was published on the site update video on December 21. Check it out if you’d like to see what happened on site from September to December 2013…

I suppose these minor project overruns are par for the course in these large projects. I looked into Renzo Piano’s 87-storey skyscraper in London and while its officially opening in July 2012 was on time, the building itself wasn’t officially completed until November that year. And a comment made by the Mayor of Santander about the complexity of Bilbao’s Guggenheim where he worked as a civil engineer for two years attracted my attention. Turns out the official opening was delayed from June to October 1997 due to some imperfections in the titanium cladding sheets.

Seeing at there’s no particular reason to have the official opening until the building is completed, we’ll have to wait and wonder. If the photos I took on Sunday are anything to go by, there’s quite a lot of building left to finish.

The Botin Centre Site on Febuary 2, 2014

Botin Centre 2014 Santander building site

The Botin Centre in Santander on Feb 2nd

Botin Centre 2014 Santander building site

This looks like an architectural drawing with the scaffolding as the guidelines

Botin Centre 2014 Santander structure

Yellows and greys abound when you zoom in

Botin Centre 2014 Santander ceramic tile high waves

Spot the ceramic tile that was put on in December – and the angry sea in the distance

Botin Centre 2014 Santander Jose Cobo sculptures

Jose Cobo’s memorial to the 1941 fire is in there in the thick of it. (He’s the same guy who sculpted the raqueros I wrote about a few months ago.)

Botin Centre 2014 Santander petrol station cafe

The old curvy petrol station that’s due to be converted into a cafe – is hanging in there…

Botin Centre crane 2014 Santander

My favourite crane from 1900 is being towered over by its younger more industrial looking siblings. I’m looking forward to seeing it from new vantage points. And while I’m zooming in, I think I see rust on the Botin Centre joints – which is not unusual given the humidity levels on the waterfront

Botin Centre 2014 Santander building site bay

I like the curves with the bay in the background…

Plenty Activity Beside the Site

While the work continues on the Centre itself, there are lots of other hard-hat sites popping up. The Hotel Bahia in front of the Pereda Gardens is undergoing a significant renovation. Not surprising, considering the amazing views it has of the bay and now of the Centre. I can’t wait to see the changes – and hope they take advantage of the views.

And the Town Hall is plugging away with its pedestrianisation of the area. Last month twenty companies bid for the Calle Cadiz job – which is the street that leads to the train station. The deadline for completion is August – and all eyes will be on the revolving platform to enable larger vehicles making deliveries to be able to turn around without having to take chunks out of the newly planted foliage.

We can also expect to see the diggers out on the road that goes west of the Botin Centre, alongside the ferry terminal and the Fishing Quarter to La Marga roundabout. That’s because funding was approved in December for a new stretch of bike lane. By this Autumn, Santander should have 20km of cycle paths, which doesn’t sound like much if you are Dutch or Danish or even from Seville, but it’s a start.

Botin Centre 2014 Santander height

The Botin Centre will be slightly lower than the Hotel Bahia. In the distance is the train station. The street that leads down to the station will be pedestrianised over the coming months. Can you make out the snowy mountains behind the train station?

Botin Centre 2014 Santander outdoor seating views

Although it’s dusty and unpleasant at the moment on Calle Calderon de la Barca, these seats and those of every other cafe on this street, will be highly coveted in a few months

Botin Centre 2014 Santander port

Here you can appreciate what lies west of the centre – first you have the passenger ferry terminal, then you get down to the Fishing Quarter and further on again where cargo ships dock. The new bike lane will go parallel to this route. In the distance, you can see the snow again

What Will Be Finished This Summer?

Botin Centre 2014 Santander Pereda Gardens

Pereda Gardens is to be ready this summer. As you can see a lot of landscaping needs to happen between now and then. The tunnel on the right of the image will take the traffic underground, creating more terrain for the park

Botin Centre 2014 Santander tunnel traffic

You can see the tunnel better here. You can also appreciate the building’s 5m high ‘stilts’ or columns that are designed to give an unobstructed view of the bay from the park. I’m guessing that this is a complex element of the design

Access All Areas?

And although I don’t know when I’ll get to set foot inside the completed centre, I have high hopes to get onto the site over the coming weeks. I became a friend of the centre – unfortunately not quickly enough to get my design on one of the building’s ceramic tiles (that’s what you miss out on when you’re in bed with the flu!) but I have signed up for one of the six workshops. Will I manage to be one of the lucky 150 people to attend a building presentation inside the Site Office?

And there I leave you. It’s red alert this evening and the forecasted 140km/hour winds are whistling around the building. I hope everything at the Botin Centre is well strapped down. I’ll leave you with a picture of the glistening bay…

Botin Centre 2014 Santander bay views

And this is what the centre looks onto…


  1. What beautiful pictures in both photographs and words. Such a complex building site on such a strategic site, it makes me want to come and see for myself! Thanks for sharing this Pamela.

    1. Thanks Barbara. Glad you enjoyed it. I’ll keep you updated on its progress 🙂

  2. Jude Crowther · · Reply

    Reading your posts always make me embarrassed about how little I know on what’s going on around here. Then again, having such entertaining and informative information on your blog helps a great deal. I’m curious too, lets see when the Botin Centre will open.

    1. Thanks for the kind words Jude. The next few months on the site should be interesting. Fingers crossed we’ll have a great space to show visiting family & friends when they come to town…

  3. Lovely post Pamela, I do remark your kind words about Renzo Piano’s soon-to-be masterpiece
    -which succesfully engage readers like me- as well as your skills behind the camera, fresh and quality shots 🙂

    1. Thanks for commenting Gonzalo. You seem to be a fan of the building too! I’m glad you liked the post including the pics. I’m a beginner when it comes to photography but I’m enjoying learning about it as I go along.

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