Architecture for culture


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Adaptation of the SerreríaBelga(Belgian Sawmill) for the headquarters of the Medialab/Prado Centre in Madrid.

María Langarita y Víctor Navarro, arquitectos.

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The consolidation of a stable platform that would act as a catalyst for emerging digital culture is the programme objective of this appealing rehabilitation project.
Perhaps more than anything else, it is the very strangeness of the diverging intentions found in the La SerreríaBelga adaptation project for the Medialab-Prado that makes it possible for them to coexist. The first of these coexistences emerges from a certain institutional schizophrenia. While the Paseo del Arte was transformed into Madrid City Hall’s banner to attract international tourism, the Arts Department simultaneously promoted an architecture competition in the same area, which would end up serving as an institution that sponsored debated that were deeply critical of this model. Medialab defines itself as “a space for the production, research and dissemination of digital culture and the confluence between art, science, technology and society”, and, in contrast to the traditional exhibition model, it promotes production as a permeable and transversal process.
La Serreríavs La Cosa is another pattern of coexistence that, like a conflicting dialect, facilitated the occupation of the intermediate space existing between both rivals, beyond the conventional concept of restoration. La SerreríaBelga (The Belgian Sawmill) was built by the architect Manuel ÁlvarezNaya and was one of the first architectural projects in Madrid to employ reinforced concrete. On the other hand, La Cosa (The Thing) is the name we have used to refer to the group of mechanisms, installations and facilities that, when assembled, make it possible to bring the building up to date with current requirements. Ultimately, it is the coexistence of opposites that made it possible to think of the halfway point between these interlocutors not just as a consummate product, but rather as an open, versatile process activated by its users. This form of coexistence created the scope for some of the strategies used in this adaptation:
- The appropriation of the existing building, not only as a historic narration but also as a container for latent energies that have joined the project as effective material.
- Thinking about the action as a stratification with different levels of change over time. Lightweight construction systems that can be disassembled were chosen, as were materials whose durability and adaptability will not condition future transformations.
- Looking at each new intervention as an opportunity to incorporate support systems for creative actions and research. This included solutions such as the use of double blinds as projection screens, taking advantage of voids in the existing structure to create a retro-projected floor, the use of the dividing wall as a digital façade and the design of La Cosa as a mechanism for digital experimentation.

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Localización Location: Madrid. Spain. Arquitectos Architects: María Langarita y Víctor Navarro. Colaboradores Collaborators: Elena Castillo, Marta Colón, Javier González Galán, Roberto González, Juan Palencia, Guillermo Trapiello, Gonzalo Gutiérrez, Paula García-Masedo. Aparejador Surveyor: Santiago Hernán Martín. Estructuras Structures: Mecanismo. Instalaciones Installations: Úrculo Ingenieros. Paisajismo Landscaping: Lorena García Rodríguez. Fecha Proyecto Project date: Enero 2008. Cliente Client: Área de las Artes. Ayuntamiento de Madrid. Presupuesto Budget: 1600 euros/m2. Fotografía Photography: Luis Díaz Díaz y Miguel de Guzmán.
Miguel De Guzmán