White elephant museum in Granada

What should this white elephant be used for?

It is nice for Granada to have a Museum of Memory designed by Alberto Campo Baeza. The idea for the Cultural CajaGRANADA Memoria de Andalucía was to mimic the much un-loved courtyard of the Palace of Charles V in the Alhambra, ‘to which it pays aesthetic tribute’. The only review on Tripadvisor says ‘I’d rather have a tour of Granada see something interesting’. The design has a sculptural quality but, in sharp contrast to the old buildings on the Alhambra plateau ignores garden and landscape considerations. History should speak. This is a dumb project – can anyone think of a better use for the building? I suggest healthcare. They should have wrapped the museum round a beautiful garden cafe. Images courtesy Landahlaut and José Agustín

11 thoughts on “White elephant museum in Granada

  1. Christine

    Tom I agree they “should have wrapped the building around a beautiful garden cafe” perhaps with the potential also to function as a performance space. The use of the upmost level as a restuarant is excellent given the views it affords. Although the space would benefit from greater attention to the interior scheme.

    I am fascinated by the buildings use as a contemporary regional museum “promoting the tradition, history and customs of Andalusia.”

    A ‘green’ makeover may assist in reducing the contrast in the buildings contextualisation and better address “garden and landscape considerations”:

    1)Maybe…[ http://www.greendesign.com.au/images/green-wall-cafe.jpg ] 2) but not quite [ http://2.bp.blogspot.com/-2sywkFcPV-c/TbFf7OYLlqI/AAAAAAAAAIs/9bjT57ZEujA/s1600/green-living-walls_TiAab_11446.jpg ] rather more like… 3)
    [ http://25.media.tumblr.com/DAS9f5yCxlwjf61slnhxeJupo1_500.jpg ].

    4) With all ‘green’ considerations in keeping with its public building typology. [ http://www.thefifthestate.com.au/wp-content/uploads/2010/11/california-aca.jpg ]

  2. Tom Turner Post author

    The nice thing about your green wall ideas is that they could still do it. Even better, they could be honest about the fact that the spiral ramps idea came from Tecton ( http://0.tqn.com/d/golondon/1/0/a/j/-/-/OldPenguinPool09.jpg ). Just imagine if the base of the circular court was skyblue water with a population of friendly penguins (I wonder if they can tolerate hot weather). But I do not know where the coffee drinkers would sit. On the ramps?
    The podium level would also be a great site for a green roof, not mention greening the elevator tower, or whatever. At present the building looks like a data center for, as Prince Charles might say, the secret police.

  3. Tom Turner Post author

    “The career of the French Engineer and Garden Designer Salomon de Caus may be a good source for the influences on and evaluating of the Kenilworth Garden as well as the garden at Chiswick House (note his use of the cascade and an artificial water garden at Hatfield House). [ http://gardenin.ru/eng/renaissance_germany.html ] Sources for Anglo-Norman food are probably not that common or easy to find. See ‘Two Anglo-Norman culinary collections Edited from the British Library Manuscripts by Hieatt and Jones, Speculum (1986)’[ http://www.jstor.org/stable/pdfplus/2853971.pdf?acceptTC=true ]”

    Comment: the point I forgot to make about Anglo-Norman food is that the Norman aristocracy probably had a ‘paleolithic diet’ in the sense of eating large quantities of meat and fruit and not so much in the way of vegetables.

  4. Tom Turner Post author

    First generation Norman castles were 100% military. Second generation and third generation, stone-built, castles were family homes often with sweet-smelling ‘herbers’ beneath bedroom windows. Often, they were also set in ‘amenity’ positions with views of natural rivers or man-made lakes. It is amazing that supposedly ‘amenity’ buildings, like the White Elephant Museum in Granada, can be designed with so much less regard for garden and landscape considerations. I suppose the fundamental problem is that the clients are not real clients (ie owners): they are bureaucrats who might even be criticised for ‘wasting money on non-essential luxuries’. Should this be the case, we cannot blame the architects for doing what the ‘unreal client’ wanted. We just have to lament that the commissioning of buildings has become a dysfunctional ritual. Just imagine what happens in authoritarian countries where everything ‘belongs’ to bureaucrats.
    My small involvement as part of the ‘client body’ for our new school building continues and I am glad to say that the roof slab will be 700mm thick, to support green activities.

  5. lula

    I live in Granada por some years, I saw the start of constrcution of the “project” and know a little bit of how things are done there. It’s all about telling the world who is in charge. It was a wrong approach from the beginning and from the pictures it still is. The lack of landscaping and gardens talks to me about a lack of memory, since the “aesthetic tribute” to the palace in Alhambra stays only in the shape of the, but not in the concept of Andalousina constructions and gardens. It’s all a completely waste of money, resources and that is really terrible considering times.

  6. Christine

    Tom, I agree it is always difficult to critique a design in isolation from the process of procurement. The Sydney Opera House is a case in point of how, even with the best design in the world, things can and do go wrong it projects are caught within an election cycle as a ‘deliverable’.

    What is it possible to understand about the project from the architect’s perspective?

    It would seem that the architect viewed the musuem’s context as a tough urban space – addressing the bank opposite (also their design) and the ringroad around Granada. Thus the building’s specific site boundaries are viewed more broadly than is usual. [ http://www.arcspace.com/architects/campo/ma/ma.html ]

    Looking at Alberto Campo Baeza’s sketches it is also possible to see that the ramp is the main organisational device in a predominantly inward looking building, with the thin vertical entry building serving as a symbolic city gate:

    “It thus appears before the highway that circles Granada as a screen-façade that sends messages over the large plasma screens that will cover it entirely. Like Piccadilly Circus in London or Times Square in New York.”

    The photography of Javier Callejas, definitely contributes to the relative sense of achievement of the aim to create “the most beautiful building” for the museum. The building’s aesthetic is perhaps most coherent in the landscape view.

    Perhaps the realisation of the design for the MA open FIELD public space will provide a greater sense that the landscape has been consdiered?

    Oh, and they do drop a big hint about the inspiration for the ramp! [ http://www.archdaily.com/53701/the-ma-andalucias-museum-of-memory-alberto-campo-baeza/ramp-detail-section/ ]

  7. Tom Turner Post author

    Thank you (Lula and Christine) for the information about the design process. Strange to relate, I came across the photograph of the building in a web search for something else and was attracted by sculptural boldness of the design. This encouraged me to look for more and it was only then that I began to doubt whether it was a good project. First impressions can easily be wrong – I will aim to go there next time I am in Granada because a site visit is the only real way to judge a design project. For the present, my suggestions are to either (1) commission a landscape architecture firm to ‘green up’ the building and make it a famous place to eat and drink (2) re-cycle the building as a HQ for the Granada Police Department (the cells would go in the service tower).

  8. Christine

    It may be that the museum is indeed a good project. This is not to say that it is flawless…

    Sometimes a good project can be worthy or unworthy for a variety of reasons other than its gestalt impression (image). The best projects are often controversial, and continue even long after they have been completed and occupied, to contribute to the national and often global conversation. [ http://www.smh.com.au/articles/2002/09/27/1032734319538.html ]

    Before ‘greening’ his project it would be good to have a conversation with Alberto.

  9. Tom Turner Post author

    They should definitely speak to Alberto!
    With regard to the ‘goodness’ of the project, I agree that projects can be good in different ways. It may be that a Museum of Andalusian culture was not a good idea, or the location might have been wrong, or the design might not have been suited to the location. I often distinguish ‘good planning’ from ‘good design’ – and have seen examples of ‘good design’ combined with ‘bad planning’ (though no glaring example jumps to mind).


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