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Caixa Forum in Madrid, Spain by Herzog & De Meuron Architekten

They did it again. Their remodeling of the old Central Electric station of Madrid, a building designed in 1899 by Jesus Carrasco-Munoz Encina and Jose Battle, is the talk of the town. When I visited Madrid in December 2007, they were putting the finishing touches - now the building is open and has become a new landmark for the capital of Spain..

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Looking as if miraculously hovering above ground, the old electrical station was transformed into a new cultural center for the city of Madrid, opposite the Prado: The Caixa Forum Madrid will be hosting art shows, exhibitions and artist performances, film projections etc. The new additions are distinct from the old edifice as they are clad with laser-cut copper sheets, making them stand out instead of diluting them into the pre-existing building. The material is used at the interiors of the building too, especially at the auditorium.

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Most impressive though is the cut-out of the ground level, making the building look like a flying space ship coming to land in the center of Madrid. By cleverly removing most of the ground floor, then enveloping the remaining structure with sheets of steel and glass, the effect stuns even the most sophisticated visitor.

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The surprising elements do not stop there. The side wall on the main entrance square was clad with a vertical garden by the specialist of the kind, Patrick Blanc. It houses 15.000 plants of 250 different species. winking to the Botanical Gardens at the opposite side of the street.

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The interiors, enlarged from 2,000  to 8,000 sq. meters, are minimal and modern, with the dominant element being a monumental staircase in concrete and wood, connecting all the levels with its soft forms.

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The data:

Building site: 1,934 square meters
Plaza: 650 square meters
Gross Floor Area: 11,000 square meters
Footprint, 1,400 square meters

Completed: 2008

Client: Obra Social Fundación “LaCaixa“, Madrid, Spain
 Architects: Herzog & de Meuron
Jacques Herzog
Pierre de Meuron
Harry Gugger

Project Architects:
Peter Ferretto, Associate
Carlos Gerhard, Associate
Stefan Marbach, Associate
Benito Blanco: Project Manager

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General Contractor: Ferrovial Agroman, Madrid, Spain
Structural Engineering: WGG Schnetzer Puskas Ingenieure, Basel, Switzerland
NB35, Madrid, Spain
MEP Engineering: Urculo Ingenieros, Madrid, Spain

Facade Consulting: Emmer Pfenninger Partner AG, Basel, Switzerland
ENAR, Madrid, Spain

Lighting: Arup Lighting, London, UK
Acoustics: Audioscan, Barcelona, Spain

Green Wall: Herzog & de Meuron in collaboration with Patrick Blanc, Artist-Botanist, Paris, France
Green Wall Consultant: Benavides & Lapèrche, Madrid, Spain

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