Botín Center – Santander
Centro Botín is a cultural center in Santander, north-western Spain, designed by Renzo Piano and primarily focused on visual arts.
History and site
Open to the public in June 2017, the center is the main venue of the Botín Foundation, a philanthropic institution established in 1964 by the Botín family, owner of Banco Santander. Part of a larger urban renovation project, the building is aimed both to publicly showcase pieces from the foundation’s permanent collection of art and to accommodate special exhibitions, film screenings, live performances, and art-related educational programs.
The new Botín center is located in the heart of the waterfront of Santander, a Spanish city with a population of 170,000 and the capital of the Cantabria region. A 5-kilometer-long stretch of the city’s seafront is currently undergoing a major regeneration process, based on an ambitious masterplan developed by Arup and aimed to establish the city as one of the cultural and leisure capitals of the Bay of Biscay transnational region.
Aerial view of the Botín Center from the south; photo © Enrico Cano, courtesy of RPBW
Masterplan for the regeneration of the Santander waterfront, with the site of the Botín Center and the Pereda gardens marked in red; image courtesy of Arup
Renzo Piano’s building
The 8,739-square-meter (94,000-square-foot) building designed by Renzo Piano Building Workshop (RPBW) consists of two “lobes”, shaped like a vessel hull, which seem to float over the ground supported by an array of slender columns, and partially projecting over the water. Developed in collaboration with Madrid-based Luis Vidal + Architects, this is, quite surprisingly, the first work of Piano in Spain.
Reflecting Piano’s enduring passion for boating, the building vaguely resembles a maritime structure – kind of a drilling platform and a ship in a dry dock combined – gently laid down upon the seafront and overlooking the ocean, the city’s former dockland area, and the historic Jardines de Pereda gardens nearby, recently renovated after a design by Spanish landscape architect Fernando Caruncho.
To not impede the view of the sea, the two hull-like blocks are raised 6 meters (20 feet) over the ground, so to create an interrupted public space overlooking Santander Bay; for the same reason a trait of a preexisting coastal road – which, as in many port cities, was a physical and perceptive barrier between the city and its seafront – has been buried where it runs along the new center, thus creating new direct access to the waterfront, at the same time doubling the size of the Pereda gardens.
The lobes are clad with 280,000 pearlescent ceramic disks, which somewhat remember giant limpet shells encrusting a vessel.
A series of decks and large glazed openings and a rooftop terrace provide spectacular views of the Atlantic Ocean and the city.
The load-bearing structure of the hull-like volumes is a three-dimensional carbon steel frame resulting in a column-free internal space.
The west block, the larger of the two, accommodates two levels of exhibition spaces, with a total floor area of 2,500 square meters; the galleries on the upper level are naturally lit through a triple-layer semi-transparent roof equipped with aluminum louvers. A glazed volume located underneath the west lobe “hull” houses a lobby, a bookshop, a cafe, and the gourmet restaurant El Muelle run by 2 Michelin star chef Jesús Sánchez.
The east block is mostly dedicated to education, and live performances; it contains a 300-seat multifunctional auditorium and rooms for learning programs, art workshops, and classes of dance, music, and other creative activities.
The Botín center also features a 2,000-seat open-air theater and cinema.
Botín Center, site plan; image courtesy of RPBW
Botín Center, view from the Pereda gardens; photo © Enrico Cano
Collection and programs
The Botín Foundation’s collection is focused primarily on contemporary fine art and comprises paintings, drawings, sculptures, and installations by renowned international artists such as Miroslaw Balka, Tacita Dean, Carlos Garaicoa, Mona Hatoum, Joan Jonas, Jannis Kounellis, Julie Mehretu, Antoni Muntadas, Gabriel Orozco, and Juan Uslé, among others; pieces from the collection are usually showcased through thematic temporary exhibitions in the galleries on the upper floor of the west wing.
The program of activities of Botín Center features special exhibitions of art, either contemporary or not, special commissions, research projects, and educational / training activities mostly related to fine art, photography, cinema, and performing arts.
Exhibition “Art at the Turn of the Century”, June 2017-January 2018, installation view with works from the Botín Foundation permanent collection by Gabriel Orozco, Fernando Sanchez Castillo, Carlos Irijalba, Paul Graham, and Juan Muñoz
Image gallery – exterior
The Botín Center on Santander’s seafront at dusk; photo © Enrico Cano, courtesy of RPBW
A satellite view of the center which reveals the shape of the two “lobes”; photo © Enrico Cano courtesy of RPBW
The center viewed from the sea; photos © Enrico Cano
photos © Enrico Cano
The center at night; photos © Enrico Cano
An image of the center under construction, note the tunnel-like steel frame structure of the building; photo courtesy of Centro Botín
Details of the facade cladding made up of 280,000 pearlescent ceramic disks; photos © Enrico Cano, courtesy of RPBW
Views of the panoramic decks and terraces “wrapping” the two hull-shaped blocks; photos © Enrico Cano
Image gallery – architectural drawings
Renzo Piano’s conceptual sketch for the Botín Center; courtesy of RPBW
Top to bottom: Botín Center, east, south, west, and north elevations; images courtesy of RPBW
Level 1 plan; image courtesy of Centro Botín
Botín Center, transverse and longitudinal sections; images courtesy of RPBW
Image gallery – interior
Lobby on the ground floor, and the podium of the multifunctional auditorium in the west wing; photos © Enrico Cano courtesy of Centro Botín
The Drawings of Goya exhibition, installation view; photo courtesy of Centro Botín
Various views of the center’s exhibition galleries; photos © Enrico Cano
Cover image: Botín Center viewed from Calle Muelle de Calderón; photo © Enrico Cano
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