The City of Culture of Galicia, a technologically advanced complex of six buildings is planned as a dynamic resource for today's Galicia and a new destination for visitors from around the world. Officials of Galicia and invited guests laid the cornerstone for this 810,000-square-foot, $125 million project on February 15, 2001. By the time construction is completed in summer 2004, the landscaped, 173-acre site on Monte Gaiás will have been transformed into a 'magic mountain' through the work of New York City-based Eisenman Architects.
The project began with an architectural competition, which the Department of Culture, Social Communications and Tourism of the Xunta de Galicia initiated in February 1999. A short list of eleven distinguished finalists submitted proposals: Ricardo Bofill, Peter Eisenman, José Manuel Gallego, Annette Gigon and Mike Guyer, Steven Holl, Rem Koolhaas, Daniel Liebeskind, Juan Navarro, Jean Nouvel, Dominique Perrault, and César Portela. In August 1999, the competition jury selected Eisenman Architects to design the CCG, with Peter Eisenman as Principal-in-Charge.
Commenting on the competition, Eisenman states, "We were given a complex and fascinating program, whose goals far exceeded any summary of spaces and functions. The first demand was for an open and dynamic design, which would be permeable to all sorts of possibilities that as yet could not even be envisioned. We believed we could take this demand at face value, as a statement of the project's first priority."
"Instead of the ground's being conceived as a backdrop against which the buildings stand out as figures, we generate a condition in which the ground can rear up to become figure, the buildings can subside into ground. It is a new kind of urban fabric," Eisenman says, "in which the space you inhabit can seem both smooth and furrowed -- much as a seashell, the age-old symbol of Santiago, is smooth and furrowed. The coding of Santiago's medieval past into the CCG creates the sense of an active present, as found in a tactile, pulsing new form -- what you might call a fluid shell."
The buildings of the City of Culture spread out over the terrain like a moldable mass of clay linked together by five long tree-lined thoroughfares. Alluding to five streets of Santiago's old quarter, as well as to their traditional extensions with rueiros, and in fact the final shape of the complex springs from the plan of the historic core, which is superposed by the characteristic striated surface of the venera, the scallop shell that is the symbol of the pilgrim's road to Santiago. Raising its shaken silhouette to the cathedral towers, over the highway that holds together Galicia's Atlantic facade, the new City of Culture presents itself as a magic mountain for pilgrims of knowledge.
Major components of the CCG are The Museum of Galician History (172,000 square feet) , New Technologies Center (135,000 square feet) , Music Theater (220,000 square feet) , Galician Library (122,000 square feet) and Periodicals Archive (86,000 square feet) , Central Services and Administration building (50,000 square feet), and Surrounding the built area of the CCG is the Arboretum of Galicia: an area of gardens and native woodland, conceived as both a recreational and an educational facility. While demonstrating the importance of biodiversity and habitat preservation, the Arboretum may also serve a ceremonial function, as a place where distinguished Galicians and honored visitors may be invited to plant local species, as their way of leaving a mark on the CCG.
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