MACBA, Barcelona - Architectural Study, Research & Analysis
Nicholas Socrates 2008 MACBAThe Barcelona Museum of Contemporary Art (Museu dArt Contemporani de Barcelona,or MACBA) is situated on a previously monastic enclave near the historic Casa de laCaritat, in the Plaça dels Àngels, in El Raval, Ciutat Vella, in Barcelona.It was designed by Richard Meier & Partners (1987-1995).The building’s architectural style has strong referencesto Modernism.Exposing some of the most extraordinary architectureseen in Barcelona.Creatively Modernity is one of the most importantcomponents of our culture: it has made its self manifestin the fields of architecture, literature and musicMACBA came into being with the intention of bringingCatalan’s rich culture and heritage together.Expressing the international vocation of artists in abuilding that Richard Myer has built around the Mediterranean light, which has had somuch influence on Catalan art and artists.Barcelona is a city of architecture, with a history strongly related to art.It has a rich architectural heritage and also a good contemporary architecture.
Architecture is a mirror which reflects the changing direction of the city.The first thing noticed about the Barcelona Museum of Contemporary Art is thecontrast it makes to the surrounding city. Approaching the museum from the tight streets that lead in from Las Ramblas, to the east, the sudden exposure of the vast grid of granite pavement that covers the new Plaça dels Àngels, with its brilliant southern orientation, comes as a shock. The vast white wall of the pristine museum and its array of forms, heightens this moment to a dramatic, dazzling spectacle. It has a dazzling, monumental presence in the dense urban texture of Barcelona24 years ago Barcelona regained municipal democracy. Before that the city had beensubjected for many years to real estate speculation, governmental negligence and urbanoversight. But then a new generation took charge of the municipal affairs, with thenecessary and ambitious reconstruction of Barcelona.In hoping to help and revitalize the neighbourhood a series of cultural facilities wereprovided.In the past this too has worked in other European cities.It was thought appropriate to involve some of the most prestigious architects of the timein this process of urban renewal.MACBA was nick-named “the Pearl of the Raval”, because of its immaculate whitenessand its imposing presence.The museum is situated in the centre of the Raval area. The Raval barrio was one of thepoor parts of the old part of the city before the museum was built, but now the area isexperiencing a renaissance - trendy shops, bars and cafes open all overBarcelonas Raval was historically the red-light zone and a slum of Old Barcelona.Raval has a rich ethnic mix and the area to the south is often referred to as Barri Xino(Chinatown)However, it’s quickly becoming the city’s new “in” areaIn my opinion, this brilliant work by Richard Meier captures and embodies the richnessof the artistic and cultural dialogue between past and present, between tradition and newcreation. It also represents the need and fruitfulness of the collaboration between thepublic and the private sector – in a common search for a common good
MACBA possesses both the virtue and integrity of the 3 major defining characteristics ofthe process of urban renewal: 1. Location – this site was chosen in a place/ neighbourhood in the downtown area of Barcelona, which has problems of aging and marginalization. 2. Was the decision to choose high quality architecture 3. Is creating a resource the city needed: consolidating its cultural life: projecting its self beyond its own limitsMACBA embodies great hope of producing a positive effect on the area.This gleaming white building rises above the charmingly old-fashioned Barcelonaneighbourhood of the Raval Quarter, in Old Barcelona. MACBA has been the catalyst forthe urban regeneration this district of central Barcelona. It is massive, bright, white,pristine and inviting - it is intended to help regenerate.This large white building, with a longitudinalcuboid volume with a base measuring 120 x 35m; combines straight lines and curves in acontinuous dialogue between the interiorspaces and the light outside.The building has much of its southern elevationglazed, providing the visitor with views acrossthe plaza, allowing natural light into theinterior. With its enormous glass windows and strongly geometric architecture, the Barcelona Museum of Contemporary Art is in itself a work of modern art. The entirely white interior and exterior, combined with a system of windows & skylights; flooding the building with natural light giving the impression of being a place thoroughly dedicated tothe modern.The museum opened to the public on 28 November1995. All the art dates back from the late 20th centuryonward. There are three periods of modern artrepresented: the first one covers the forties to thesixties; the second spans the sixties and seventies; thethird period is contemporary.
The collections focus on post-1945 Catalan and Spanish art, although some foreign art isalso represented.The permanent collections from nationally recognized artists like Paul Klee. Thecollections real strengths comes from its collection of Catalan artists like Antoni Tàpies,one of Barcelonas most famous artists.‘A Sudden Awakening’; one of the only pieces of art on permanent display is AntoniTàpies’ deconstructed bed (1992–3), with its bedding flung across the wall in disarray. Itspresence to the right of the main entrance underlines Tàpies’ importance as a key playerin the world of Catalan modern art.Miguel Barcelos famous painting "Season of Rain no. 2" hangs on the second floor,amidst work by some of Barcelona’s the finest contemporary modern.The art collection revovles around the gallery from time to time.The permanent collection comprises of over 2000 – mostly European – modern artworks,10 per cent of which are on show at any one time. All major contemporary artistic trendsare represented. MACBA also displays an interesting diversity of temporary contemporary exhibitions.The ‘raison d’etre’ of MACBA is this flexible area showing the best in contemporary art. Past exhibitions have included Zush and acclaimed painter Dieter Roth. The MACBA Collection has been put together from the collections stored in the museum by the three institutions that make up the Museu d’Art Contemporani de Barcelona Consortium: the Catalan Government, Barcelona Council and the Museu d’Art Contemporani de Barcelona Foundation. Consequently the collection, which includes pieces by Cézanne, Picasso, Pollock, Johns and The Bambuso, by Hans van Warhol, is one of the largest and most impressive Koolwijk of modern art anywhere in the world.As well as holding exhibitions throughout the year, the museum also holds lectures,discussions and workshops on various themes. All of this is housed in this stunninglymodern buildingIt includes La Central library, specialized in artbooks and publications.
Pleasant and unusual features of MACBA are the white leather sofas between thegalleries, usually next to a shelf of relevant books and a set of headphones, these spacesprovide the perfect resting spot to contemplate – and learn more about the art.At ground level it houses the museums store and restaurant and above provides 2 galleryand 7 office levels.Connected by a bridge, the initial space flows uninterrupted into the main structure,providing curved spaces which counter balance some of the rectangular spaces activatedby the ramping system.The curving walls of the office block and of the reception and circular galleries vary thenorth sides geometry when viewed whilst crossing the bridge.This is Meier’s geometry – fully realised.Three long halls, running the length of the museum, morph in form: from circular torectangular. The underneath the walkways of the 2 upper halls have been paved, insections, with glass blocks, to allow light through. It is also possible looking up, fromunderneath, to see the other visitors feet as they walk past.These glass paved halls channel the visitors into the main gallery spaces.These galleries are exposed to controlled natural light from 3 sides and on the top level:also from a huge skylight.These rooms are the most flexible and account for the majority of its exhibition space.These spaces are fitted with movable interior walls/ partitions, which are scaled to themuseums permanent walls.The ground level of the museum responds to the labyrinthine nature of the existing pathsacross the site, these routes continue within the building.Out side locals/ visitors can pass through and under the museum – moving from the plazato garden, through the pedestrian passageway that parallels the main entrance. The atrium which gives spectacular views of the new piazza. As you go up the ramps, an ever-widening panorama of the surrounding medieval city is revealed. Space and light are omnipresent in the walkways between floors. Looking through the glass panels onto the Plaça dels Àngels gives the visiter a myriad images before even entering the gallery spaces.The transparent ramp hall ramps orients the visitor, offering views onto the plaza and thecity beyond – mediating ones mind between the difference and simulaeties of the old ofthe surrounding area, and the new of the building.
For visitors the ramps are a visual avenue into and out of the museum enhancing theirexperience of mobility within the building, whilst being able to view the movement andlife outside on the Placa del Angels.The surrounding square and architecture outside of themuseum is among the most well-known and respectedplaces for modern skateboarding. Together with thesurrounding places in Barcelona, it is a common placefor youth culture, due to its international popularity inthe world of skateboarding, photography and cinema.Entrance to MACBA from the Placa del Angels isalong a long, low ramp that runs parallel to the façade (and internal ramps).The ground level of the museum responds to the labyrinthine nature of the existing pathsacross the site, these routes continue within the building. The sculptural elements of the main façade, show themselves to full effect in the Mediterranean sun, in the square Opposite this main museum stands the medieval Convent ‘dels Àngels’ (the squares namesake), which includes a chapel converted into a separate exhibition area known as Capella del MACBA, with regular video art performances. Entrance to this part of the museum is free. Another contemporary art museum; Centrede Cultura Contemporània de Barcelona (CCCB), is adjacent to MACBA, and accessibleboth from the street and from the inner patio.El Patio de les Donnes/CCCB; This courtyard off CarrerMontalegre forms part of the neighbouring CCCB. Anultra-modern prismatic screen provides a mirror reflectingthe 18th-century patio – a magical juxtaposition ofdifferent architectural styles. Angled in such a way thatthe viewer can see the sea and surrounding area – reflectedover the near-by roof-tops.Unlike MACBA, exhibitions at the CCCB tend to be moretheme based than artist specific. Home to both a festival ofcinema shorts (September) and the Sònar techno festival(June), the CCCB always manages to be at the forefront ofthe latest cultural trend.
The CCCB serves as a crossroads of contemporary culture with cutting-edge art exhibits,lectures and film screenings.Set against the splendid azure-blue Mediterranean sky, Richard Meiers creation, ofMACBA, for the clarity and abstraction of a sublime whiteness can be nowhere moreappropriate than in Barcelona.Meier’s architecture is based on a manifest, clear rationalism, with allusions to themasters of the Modern Movement and to Le Corbusier in particular, combining straightlines and curves in a continuous dialogue between the interior spaces and the lightoutside, which penetrates the building into the galleries and through large skylights.Combining elements of contemporary American architecture with the Mediterraneanrationalist tradition.Its interior paths of turns, straightaways and meanders collaborate within its structuralframe, its penetrated screens, folded walls, clear and screened windows, light wells,circular stairway and arterial ramps – all producing a field of both free flowing anddirected movement.MACBA is highly charged architecture. It is the product of Richard Meier’s vision formoving visitors through its composition of hidden and then revealed forms and spacesexposed by natural light.The geometric forms, physically static, perceptively shifted in the continuous play of thevisitors activity and of light and shadow.In this geometric architecture the windows break open the box and cylinder and visuallylighten the weight of the concrete walls.The flexibility of movement and light inside and the museums interlocking geometry –this interior is as much a part of the spectacle, it is a part of the city, as is the exterior.This container for art itself becomes a work of art. The viewer/ the walker recognises the simultaneity of art within art, by the continuous shift of focus between what is being displayed and the environment it is displayed in. The origins of the urban framework for the Barcelona Museum for Contemporary Art lie in the urban design policy of Oriol Bohigas and his Catalan colleagues, which established a series of small-scale initiatives for the renewal of the decayed city fabric (as opposed to a larger scale masterplan), following the end of the Franco dictatorship in the 1970s.
Bohigass policy included the establishment of new small-scale piazzas and the revisionand rehabilitation of significant buildings such as churches and convents within the fabricof the former monastic cloister and the labyrinthine of paseos and buildings of the BarriGòtic.In 1987 the museum commission was awarded to Richard Meier in a flamboyant gestureby the Mayor of Barcelona, Pasqual Maragal.The typology is Meiers favourite - a contemporary art museum.It presented him with the most complex and demanding urban fabric in which to place hisinevitably startling and pristine project.The Barcelona museum is Meiers most monumental to date, within the Europeancontext. It is both assured and heroic.Meier describes this response; The museum creates a dialogue between the quartershistoric urban fabric and the contemporary art within. The labyrinthine nature of the sitesexisting paths and routes is reflected in the buildings organisation, most notably in themain entry, which is paralleled by a pedestrian passageway between the museums reargarden, and a newly created plaza in front of the museum. This paseo will join apedestrian network running throughout the old city. The gentle fold of this circulationpath emphasises the centrifugal movement of the cylindrical lobby and describes a fifthfacade, connecting the geometries of the museum to an urban context characterised byskewed intersections and the domes of ancient churches.The site is not level, so the building sits upon a wedge like base, as if it is elevated onto amassive plinth and the structural diagram, in particular, reveals the supremacy of theplanar geometries which both define the plan and the major systems of movement andspace.Meier has said that The whole formal basis of the Modern Movement, fostered a newkind of volumetric exploration, one that still seems to hold many possibilities. I am stilltaken with the poetics of Modernism“It’s a museum, a cathedral of our time…Today a museum is more than a container forworks of art…It’s a place where people come together, a social place, as well as a placefor contemplation.”Richard Meier explains that; Traditionally resonant materials, such as granite paving andstucco, describe the public signposts of the plaza, sculpture garden and sculpture gallery,while gently reflective materials such as glass, wood flooring and aluminium panels areused to encapsulate areas characterised by motion and light.MACBA is a composition of highly resolved forms and spaces acting in tightlycontrolled unison. Its beauty is its simplicity. A signature building and a landmark
BibliographyBarcelona Museum of Contemporary Art Introduction by, Dennis L. Dollens. Essay by, Richard Meier. After-word by, Frederico Correa. ISBN: 1400681102 http://www.wikipedia.com