THE CITY OF CULTURE, Santiago de Compostela

Once we were proposed for doing this blog, from the first moment I stopped to think about some project made in my homeland which was remarkable and interesting. It didn’t take me long to reach my goal, as there is one which have been incredibly commeted and questioned: “A Cidade da Cultura de Galicia” (The Galicia’s City of Culture), an architectural complex devoted (once it will be finished) to the contemporary knowledge and creativity. It is situated on the summit of the mount Gaiás, on the outskirts of the city Santiago de Compostela (Galicia’s capital). This is because during my last year in the University, I had the opportunity to visit it, awaking myself the curiosity to go into the subject in depth.

It has been designed by the American architect Peter Eisenman, internationally known due to so relevant architectural works such as the Holocaust Memorial in Berlín. He was designated after winning the International Architecture Competition announced by The Xunta de Galicia in 1999. The reasons for the award were referenced in its “unique both in concept and plasticity, and exceptionally in tune with the site’s location” (this is known as the “architecture code”: “The result is an undulating landscape, generated by Eisenman superimposing the ground plan of the medieval city of Santiago on to the striated ripples of the pilgrims’ scallop shell, composing an expressionist yet pleasant scenery that blends gently into the terrain, extending the deep clefts of the streets into placid promenades towards the parking space by the highway and towards the distant skyline of the Cathedral”).

Initially defined as a new wonder of the world, it is now considered the ultimate symbol of the excesses of the Spanish economic bubble, and the last “dream” during his presidency in the Galician regional goverment (Xunta de Galicia) of the recently deceased Mr. Manuel Fraga.

This feature was attributed for solid reasons, because while the initial objectives of the work were those of a complex of 60.000 square meters, at a cost of 108,2 million € and 12 quarters of work; twelve years later, it occupies 148.000 square meters, has cost 400 million € of the autonomous budgets and generated endless debate among political parties (there has been two changes of goverment during its construction, with huge discrepancies and diferent thoughts between them, which involved changes in the scope and uses of the buildings, incurring inexorably increases in the budget initially ascribed).

To all this, it must be added the fact that we are talking about a project without being completed in a 100%. After twelve years of construction, only two of the six buildings which make up the project (Obradoiro and Library) have been opened to the public in January 2011.

Although as I have explained so far, it is clear that, nowadays, the project stands out more for its mistakes (as the economic as the construction point of view) than its succeses, there are current of opinions which support the project, settling their arguments into thinking that it will be the time that will show us if actually the City of Culture has been a project entirely unbalanced and exaggerated to a little autonomous region like Galicia, or conversely, its beauty and incredible architecture, led to an influx people  to the city, and therefore a greater increase in tourism, making this much-criticized project into a profitable project, from the economic point of view.

So, to conclude, I would like to share with you a personal conversation that I had with a friend discussing about this, and which made me think differently about this project. He is currently  finishing his degree in architecture, and being myself an engineer, we all know the typical discrepancies between them, usually opting for the practical the engineer, and the architect for the aesthetic.

He argued in defense of the City of Culture that, probably, when the Cathedral of Santiago took place, this work was also too excessive for its time and place, and however, we see how it has become a place of pilgrimage for thousands of people from around the world as for religious as adventure reasons, one question showed out: why couldn’t it happen the same with the City of Culture? (for cultural, architectural, etc. reasons).This means, let’s support it, show it worldwide, and perhaps someday it will become “the second Cathedral of Santiago”. So, following the example, I have been there, and I would say that for those who love the nature, construction and architecture, and  are culturally restless, if you have tha chance to go….don’t doubt it and VISIT IT!!


Explanation of the work by the architect (Peter Eisenman):



Panoramic view, sequencing the construction:

3.- Extreme Engineering documentary:

Part 1:

Part 2:

Part 3:

Part 4:

Part 5:

Opinion Article (La Vanguardia, Anxo Lugilde):

Opinion Article (El Pais, Daniel Salgado):




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