Cidade da Cultura de Galicia
by Peter Eisenman


Photographer Iñigo Bujedo Aguirre has sent us his photographs of the Cidade da Cultura de Galicia by Peter Eisenman, nearing completion in Galicia, Spain. 

Due to open later this year, the project will incorporate a museum, library, archive facility, arts centre and performing arts centre.

The buildings will be linked by five main pedestrian pathways leading to a central plaza, with 25 hectares of parkland surrounding the buildings.

The grounds also incorporate two towers (above) originally designed in 1992 but never built by Eisenman's colleague, the late architect John Hejduk.

Photographs are copyright © Iñigo Bujedo Aguirre/VIEW

The information that follows is from the Foundation for the City of Culture of Galicia:

Situated in Santiago de Compostela, an emblem of European cultural tradition whose historic city has been declared a World Heritage Site by UNESCO in 1985, the City of Culture of Galicia rises on the top of mount Gaiás as a formidable architectural milestone for the new century.

Designed by the American architect Peter Eisenman to host the best of cultural expressions of Galicia, Spain, Europe, Latin America and the World, this new "city", inclusive and plural, shall contribute towards meeting the challenges of the information and knowledge society.

Its unique buildings, interconnected by streets and plazas equipped with state-of-the-art technology, make up a space of excellence for reflection, debate and actions orientated towards Galicia's future and internationalization.

Its spaces shall host services and activities devoted to the preservation of heritage and memory, the study, research, experimentation, production and dissemination in the field of literature and thinking, music, drama, dance, film, the visual arts, audiovisual creation and communication.

As a place for convergence and international projection, the City of Culture of Galicia shall revitalize in the 21st century the twofold vocation -voyager and hospitable- of Galician people, contributing from a cultural standpoint to the social and economic development of the land.

The Xunta de Galicia held in 1999 an International Architecture Competition to build the City of Culture of Galicia. Out of the eleven proposals submitted, the project designed by Peter Eisenman was finally chosen, according to the Jury's decision, for its singularity both in terms of the concept and of the art, as well as its exceptional match to the site.

Galician Library

The Library of Galicia is due to open towards the end of 2010, designated as Galician Book and Reading Year, as well as being Xacobeo (the Holy Year of Saint James).

Destined to become the flagship of Galicia's library system, its mission is to assemble, preserve and disseminate Galicia's bibliographical heritage including all printed, sound, audiovisual and IT production. Likewise, it shall represent the Galician library system in Spain and before all international organizations, forums and platforms of the world of libraries.

It shall promote and disseminate Galician culture, enabling access to Galicia's bibliographical heritage, either in person or virtually, and it shall be a key element for any cultural activity related to books, reading and libraries. In this framework, special funds shall be allocated to promote literature in Galician language for children and youths, enhancing its value and cultural diversity.

Both the general public and professionals shall have access to relevant information for cultural and educational uses.

Galician Archives

The Galician Archives, situated in a building adjacent to the Library of Galicia, shall also open to the public towards the end of 2010.

Destined to become the flagship and center of reference for Galicia's archive system, its mission is to receive, keep and render available to citizens all public or private documents in any type of format (paper, video, photographs, audio, etc.) that should be preserved due to their value.

By virtue of its dual nature: administrative and historical-cultural, it shall also keep the documents issued by the activities of the Xunta de Galicia and its dependencies, ensuring access for citizens both at the facilities as well as via the Internet.

By managing the documentary heritage, the Galician Archives shall become a safeguard for a significant part of Galicia's memory, fostering the recovery and valuation of the documentary collections relevant to emigration.

Educators, researchers, creators and artists, as well as the general public may access the documentation they may need for administrative, research or cultural purposes.

Galician Museum

Conceived as a space for exhibitions to provide an international projection for the heritage and history of Galicia, as well as to simultaneously host international projects, construction of this building is well advanced and it is expected to open during 2011. Its spectacular façade, close to 43 meters high, and over 16,000 m2 of surface area make the Museum one of the most remarkable and unique buildings in the City of Culture of Galicia.

The schedule for the building is based on new concepts and exhibition techniques, including a permanent museum project devoted to the past and present of Galicia and to portray the keys to the future. On a parallel basis, large-format temporary exhibitions will be hosted and supplemented by training and dissemination activities that shall render it an active, fully up-to-date center, with ongoing renewal.

Centre for Performing Arts

Situated at the heart of the City of Culture of Galicia, these facilities are currently undergoing the initial stages of construction.

With the aim to adapt its features to the rapid changes in the world of the performing arts, the Escenario Obradoiro, originally conceived as a Music Theater shall now become the ideal space to host World-class music, drama and audiovisual performances.

It shall promote the projection to the World for Galician output in these fields as well as international exchange and cooperation.

Its main auditorium, with a multi-purpose stage and a seating capacity for 1,300 is to be complemented with other lesser spaces, where small-scale projects may be hosted and adapted to interdisciplinary experimentation and creation, as well as for training and professional exchange activities. Thus, the Escenario Obradoiro shall not only become a space of excellence for exhibition in the field of the performing arts, but also a resource center for creation.

International Art Centre

Situated on the northern side of mount Gaiás and next to the Museum of Galicia, it is undergoing the preliminary stages of construction.

The architectural project, originally designed to host a Museum of Communications, as well as of new technologies in communications and audiovisual production, has been altered to turn it into a center for modern art and the artistic and cultural relations between Latin America and Europe.

Today, given the preliminary stage of the construction process, there is the opportunity to tie in creativity and technology, reconciling, deepening into and expanding the expected content without having to bring changes to the works.

Central Services

Together with the Library and Archives of Galicia, the building for Central Services shall be inaugurated towards the end of 2010. It shall host the management and logistics services for the City of Culture of Galicia.

Covering an area of 7,500 m2, the building is structured on five floors that will host offices, a staff canteen, two smaller and one larger multi-purpose rooms (the latter sized 500 m2),, capable of hosting a variety of events.


Inspired by the historic city of Compostela, the complex shall be articulated by streets, colonnades, gardens and plazas, transcending the mere concept of a cultural center to become a city with a life of its own, where visitors may not only enjoy the programming scheduled for each building, but also go shopping, eating out or just simply strolling.

Five pedestrian streets link all the buildings to a main central plaza, surrounded by 25 hectares of parkland with walkways for strolling and leisure.

The built-up area includes parking space for around one thousand cars, a main road with access from downtown Santiago and the highway AP-9, enabling access from all over Galicia.

The Hejduk towers also deserve a special mention. They were designed in 1992 by the architect John Hejduk (New York, 1929-2000) to be built as a part of the Botanical gardens in Belvís, a project that never materialized.

When Hejduk passed away, Peter Eisenman suggested to erect them at the City of Culture as a memorial to their author, a friend of his and colleague in The New York Five, the group that best represents the spirit of neo-rationalism in architecture.

See also:

Posted on Tuesday April 20th 2010 at 1:18 pm by . Copyright policy | Comments policy

  • fran

    He is so influential in the US. So conceptual. And his buildings look like that? Nothing better than an average project in China or Dubai. Completely overrated. The roof-scape as the driving force looks completely alien to the context (opposite the original concept, which suggests an integration). The interiors are a lot of form, but I wonder if they perform better or different than a standard library (not to mention Hans Scharoun in Berlin).

  • javros

    underwhelming. this is what happens when you read too much.

  • Bopper3000

    The changes of heights of the floors, walls and ceiling is really interesting to look at! And the general massing of the building blends in well with the landscape….SUCCESS!

  • hj

    Wow, Hejduk’s towers look so much better than the clunky massing of Eisenman

  • Kwiatek

    Eisenman overrated, that’s right, but Hejduk’s towers are excellent. This is America! :)

  • k

    this is probably one the most extreme cases showing the gap between theory of architecture and architecture; another one that should be studied in this terms is our “beloved” Rem Koolhas.

    the project is stupid in nearly all of its basis; starting (also) from the extremely high budget.

    I can think in lots of cases of having a most profound and inspiring relationship with the landscape.

  • JuiceMajor

    the building in the second last picture looks like it is going to collaspe!

  • Santiago de Compostela is one of my favourite cities. The new Cidade da Cultura de Galicia will be an amazing addition to a city that is choc full of beautiful old buildings but I am not sure how well it will visually complement the existing architecture. Clearly it will be a fabulous amenity and draw many visitors into the area which is already a big tourist destination. I will visit!
    Yasmin Chopin Interior Design

  • dude

    To me this looks like another museum no one is ever gonna visit.
    Peter has been trying soooo hard to play in the league of the big boys for years. He just missed his best shot.

  • kolohe

    i’m so over eisenman. just done..

  • mvb

    This project has a very complex design process based on the Santiagos’s landscape and the Camino. All parameters considered aims to integrate this museum in the Santiago’s landscape in a very abstract way.
    Every thing in this project has been designed according to a process, nothing was randomly made. That is what make this building absolutely outstanding.
    However, that process is not as evident and understandable as OMA’s projects (everybody could design like OMA, BIG, REX…, you only need a functional diagram made in Illustrator to convince everybody that your project is the best).
    To understand and appreciate Eisenman’s project is neccessary to look in deep into the drawings, sections and site plan. But it is not an easy task, it is as difficult as walking the Camino.

  • Part of it, the tower bit in the first photo, looks eerily reminiscent of a former feed building silo that is rehabbed into some home furnishings store near to me.

  • M

    an example of what architecture shouldn’t be! what a poor example of design. eisenman sometimes doesnt understand how to design at all. he most the time talks a load of turd and thinks its architecture. its like marmite, liked by some, hated by most!

  • alex

    CONCEPT?: the building’s roofscape tries to recreate a mountain top. to do this they had to scrape the natural mountain top to fill it up. Hmmm, I wonder if they should have left nature alone and build his grids somewhere else. The internal spaces are a gypsum board festival to create the forms.

  • memo

    Finally the big white elefant is done.

  • k

    I was just in Charle’s Moore’s Piazza d’Italia this morning. I see so many similar ideas. Its kind of endearing.

    The thing is, Eisenman is very important theoretically. He has made space for so many other architects. This took me a long time, to come around from hating him initially. But actually I think he has had a very important impact in terms of being a generous teacher. Probably he is more of a politician than a hard core builder. [Remember he inherited Phillip Johnson’s mantle]. Actually this seems to be much better constructed than the early houses.

    This is really curious. Im not sure I understand the point entirely. Though I would guess that it ties into similar thoughts as OMA’s ‘junkspace’ 1990s conversations.

    On that token, REX-NY are making amazing buildings now by combining OMA ideas with a greater care for craftsmenship/elegance. Perhaps we can look similarly at the generation following/influenced by the intellectual space Peter has created.

    There is a real generosity to the man. I think.

  • steve

    This building would have had a chance if only the materials at least were better.. (nothing to add abt the lousy integration with the landscape / the volume)
    but its a major screw up on all levels.
    but i must admit the space from within looks far mo re interesting than the architecture.

  • ste

    well… finally one can see whats goin on with ciudad de cultura… wondered for 3 years how and if its gonna be finished at all. i guess that is or was one of the worst problems with this projects…

    and whats here after all the waiting… some interior shots which looks quite promising… its kinda interesting… the synergie between ornament, function and space seems to work quite well… wonder how it looks like in use. difficult to imagine the spatial qualities with these photos.

    the exterior is what is really hard to judge yet! i second that the integration in landscape isnt as cool as it looked like in the ancient wooden model eisenman showed us in about 1835… but then on the other side i geuss we have to wait for the roofs and the landscape to be finished… how will the buildings hit the ground? very important for the overall feel of this project… how will the roof end and the landscape start? how will it feel to walk from open scpace between thosse buildings… actually we cant see a thing if we’re honest. i guess some guys jsut waited so long for this moment to jump on eisenman and call this project weak… i still think this one will be intense.

  • Nac

    A palimpsest of the original centre streets + the mountain + a shell… Really…must be a joke. You should check how he spoke about it in a lecture last month at Berlage’s institute in Rotterdam.
    And for the people that defend its abstract-theoretical approach: GO THERE AND CHECK IT

  • cornballer

    Well, after all this time and so much promise the only thing that really comes to mind is disappointment. As mentioned by ste the contrast between the beautiful integrated, flowing, conceptual wooden model and the final outcome is huge. The structure really is a lumbering behemoth upon the mountain top and not the elegant, growing gesture it should be. Of course there is still more to do, and I’m sure the landscaping will soften the harsh edges and jarring finish.

    Personally the interior feels cluttered and excessive. Maybe once it has been populated and lived in it will begin to work, but for the moment it just feels needless. There are times when you need to step back from the theory and actually think about the space and unfortunately Eisenman has never really been that good at that.

  • ste

    i studied the conceptual models and schemes again cause this project/post makes me really think about architecture in general… if we have a look what he wanted to do initially we have to agree that it could have been a very nice space… some smooth and fluid transitions between landscape and buildings… and the most important… it was a conceptual form… a whole…

    if i now have a look at the built project there are complete buildings missing… theres a huge gap between the blocks… the main outdoor space goes ALONG the blocks instead of ACROSS the blocks… i’m not sure who failed here… is it eisenman who didnt remark his masterpiece is goin to fall apart? or is it the political situation and the people responsible in spain who did want a monumentum that much and forget about the fact that you cannot built a pyramid in budget… espacially not in 2010! so in fact the project was splitted and resized and in the end – and that is real sad for all the conceptual thinking architects – it comes out as 1:1 scale model of parts instead of a whole.

  • gab xiao

    It’s a good example that Eisenmann’s theory (and its subsequent architecture) can easily become obsolete.

    Beyond the flummoxing homothetical interpretation of the mountain, what really bothers me about the project is the poor spatial quality of the interiors. A stale flashback on the old – very old – Wexner Centre and Cincinatti School of Architecture.

    I don’t think one could trace any parallel between Koolhaas’ ‘dirty realism’ approach that’s rather current and responsive to a whole set of contextual/cultural complexities, and Peter Eisenmann’s formal ‘fabrications’. The first seizes and pokes fun at our times, the latter belongs to the bygone…

  • drewdrew

    I’m actually surprised I’m writing about this character, who’s books are complete nonsense, who hasn’t done anything for the field except make our lives more difficult by trying to maintain some mysterious cloak of the “illuminated genius architect”. “Post critical?” You can’t discuss something about being “post critical” without being critical. It would make more sense if he came out with a book called “post ego” or “post stupidity” then I think we would all sincerely purchase that book as architects, although never read it.
    Otherwise, i read this building as complete nonsense… is that a “landscape” on the roof… will anyone go there, for any reason? People go out into the woods because of the birds and the bees and the flowers and trees.. they don’t go to the roof unless you make it interesting. Its the cliche of “Building as landscape” + some geometry (or maybe just a grid)

    TO (K+ FRAN) I’ve been to a series of Eisenman’s lecture’s and he really has nothing to say worth anyone’s time, especially architects. Sometimes you wished you were in the locked in the trunk of someone’s car instead. To non architects he simply sounds pompous and egotistical, to architects its simply Eisenman rhetoric. Aren’t most of his buildings in Ohio anyway? Whats happening in Ohio? Interesting sitings? Nope.. a whole lot of space with no friction. He is generous with ego, and teaches at a university of complete incest, that hires all its own students… no wonder he wants to be post critical, because there is no real debate happening there, its outside of criticism outside of concept.

    However, I would encourage everyone to watch the discovery channel special on this building… its gives an overall idea of the space. But if i wanted to be truly critical, I’d have to visit the site. The wooden model looked quite promising, I wonder if he pulled it off.

  • Ryan

    I’m impressed. I don’t understand all the hate here. It’s kind of disturbing. The buildings are beautiful and also make me think.

  • DrewDrew

    To Ryan. Where’s your sense of humor?
    I agree, there was a little more hating than you’d expect. You’re right, as long buildings make us think differently about ourselves and our relationship with the world. Its just that less than 10% of all buildings are built by architects and less than 1% of that 10% are well done. So being critical is in our nature.
    Can you offer any suggestions about how we can bring that number to at least 50%?

    Give me a hug. (tears)

  • Sil

    The same negative comments were expressed about the Guggenheim. Love it or hate it, it is an architectural wonder.

  • CP


    Wow, “incest” is a very big word even for your furious lothe.
    It’s ok to criticize Eisenman as an architect and his building,
    but attacking multitude who happens to be in the school he teaches
    is another thing. Calm down, man..

    P.S. and as far as I know, the theoratical discourse that Eisenman put out is called “Critical Architecture” not “Post-Critical” (this term was used by Somol+Whiting to advocate the new “cool” architecture represented by “easiness”, “light”, “low-res”, etc…of architecture by Rem, Herzog..)

  • Pablo

    Hi all,

    I am an open-minded architect from the region where this complex has been built. If somebody builds in the garden of your house you will probably have a more sensitive point of view. In my opinion it is not integrated, it is a selfish creation, overbudgetted and what is worst, there is no activity that can fill and give life to this huge building!.

    The politics are going crazy to give it any use. And what is more, it has blown the infrastructure budget for the next 10 years.

    There are pillars that don’t support any structure, and rooms without any use and window. Each of the tiles of the roof is different and hand made, and the facade is horrendous. The amount of energy needed to cool down all the spaces makes it the most unsustainable building ever made in Galicia.

  • MOC

    There are many more things that need to be done and improved in my beautiful Galicia and Santiago de Compostela but Mr Manuel Fraga decided to raise a “monument” instead.

    I really hope that the taxpayers MONEY isn’t just WASTED on the “Cidade da Cultura” and people really do use it when it’s finally opened ten years after it all began…I still don’t believe that it will be opened this year!!! We’ll have to wait and see.

  • alfie

    hey there,

    amazing photos you got there!

    I though sharing my last video from a visit to ciudad de la cultura

    I hope you like it.. not a sunny day as yours haha

  • alfie
  • ofoegbu emmanuel

    This kind of design and complex of forms has gone beyond concept and creative ideas of which architects are known for.I called this design the ninth wonder of the world. I wish to get more of your designs on airports , cathedrals , stadiums ,hospitals,military baraks and their site layouts and site plans.I,m in my final degree project exams and i need your assistant now. Know that you are wonderful.

  • rolo


  • Anyone else shares this awkward feeling that Eisenman will come and trash your work on a school jury when you haven't slept for two days and worked so hard? This impression probably developed after hearing so many stories from his former students. Why does he appear so unhappy and unkind?

    It is hard not to associate his architecture with his personality but lets be honest this project as well as the Jewish memorial are very beautiful and mysterious. There are not one-dimensional like projects of the three letter generation.

    Having said that, the world is not made of wood: understanding the site would mean going there for a while, similarly to what Renzo Piano did for the Tjibaou centre in New Caledonia and not only looking at abstract drawings from Cambridge. My work colleague said that this project is made to be looked at from the sky. Prepare the helicopters!