Herzog & de Meuron

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words Beatrice Galilee

Long narrow courtyards and public paths intersect an ancient city and dominate the design of Herzog & de Meuron's latest art centre in Santa Cruz, Tenerife. Located on a steep ravine amid the mottled street pattern, the building's large low form splits to create a path through the city towards the Atlantic. The path opens out to form a triangular public plaza in the centre of the building.

The 21,000 sq m art centre has one continuous roof, covering the courtyards and pathways but is open to public access from all sides. The dark low mass is wrapped in concrete allowing only glimpses into the galleries through a delicate pattern that breaks up the dense facade. The building hosts the city's new public library, the Biblioteca Insular, and the large glass walls that line the reading rooms flank the public route and look out onto the public plaza.

The architects made space for two permanent installations: a wall mural by local artist Juan Gopar in the entry plaza, and a collection of photographs by German photographer Thomas Ruff in the library. In the foyer, a sweeping spiral staircase connects to the upper and lower levels of the museum. The galleries are upstairs, illuminated by a series of skylights.

This was the second art centre designed by Herzog & de Meuron to open in Spain in 2008, following the inauguration of the Caixa Forum in Madrid in February.

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