Rooms and surfaces are generated from a complex web of hexagons at this contemporary arts centre in Córdoba, Spain, by Madrid office Nieto Sobejano Arquitectos (photography is by Roland Halbe).
Inspired by the patterns of traditional Islamic architecture, Nieto Sobejano planned the building as a non-linear sequence of connecting rooms that open out to one another in a variety of configurations.
"We have always been admirers of the hidden geometric laws through which those artists, artisans and master builders of a remote Islamic past were capable of creating a multiple and isotropic space within the mosque," explain the architects. "We conceived the project as starting with a system, a law generated by a repeating geometric pattern, originating in a hexagonal shape."
The six-sided rooms create a meandering trail through the building and each room can be used as either an exhibition area or as a space for art production. Every wall and surface is concrete, intended to evoke the atmosphere of a factory or warehouse.
"Walls and slabs of concrete and continuous concrete floors establish a spatial area capable of being transformed individually using different forms of intervention," the architects add.
Hexagonal funnels stretch down from the roof to channel natural light into concentrated spaces. Meanwhile, tiny perforations bring narrow beams of light through the facade.
From the exterior, these perforations make up another pattern of hexagons that face out towards the adjacent Guadalquivir River. At night, LED lights illuminate these shapes to present a glowing pattern across the water.
As well as exhibition space, the building also contains artists' workshops, laboratories and an auditorium for theatrical performances, films screenings and lectures.
The Contemporary Art Centre Córdoba was completed earlier this year, but while it was still under construction a Spanish graphics studio filmed a theatrical dance performance inside. Watch the movie below, or see a larger version in our earlier story.
Nieto Sobejano Arquitectos has become a specialist in museum and gallery design in recent years. Others to complete include the subterranean Interactive Museum of the History of Lugo and the perforated aluminium extension to the San Telmo Museum. See more architecture by Nieto Sobejano Arquitectos.
Above: location plan - click for larger image
Above: ground floor plan - click for larger image
Here's a project description from Nieto Sobejano Arquitectos:
Architecture nourishes itself constantly from images hidden in our memory, ideas which become sharp and clear and unexpectedly mark the beginning of a project. Perhaps this is why the echo of the Hispano-Islamic culture which is still latent in Cordoba has subconsciously signified more than a footnote in our proposal. In the face of the homogeneity which our global civilisation imposes in all aspects of life, the Centre of Contemporary Art aspires to interpret a different western culture, going beyond the cliché of this expression used so frequently.
Above: section one - click for larger image
Distrusting the supposed efficacy and flexibility of a neutral and universal container commonly used nowadays, let us image a building closely linked to a place and to a far memory, where every space is shaped individually, to a time which can transform itself and expand in sequences with different dimensions, uses and spatial qualities.
Above: section two - click for larger image
We have always been admirers of the hidden geometric laws through which those artists, artisans and master builders of a remote Islamic past were capable of creating a multiple and isotropic space within the Mosque, a building facetted with vaults and muqarna windows, permutations of ornamental motifs with lattice windows, paving and ataurique decorations, or the rules and narrative rhythms implicit in the poems and tales of Islamic tradition.
Above: section three - click for larger image
Like those literary structures which include a story within another story, within yet another… - a story without an end – we conceived the project as starting with a system, a law generated by a repeating geometric pattern, originating in a hexagonal shape, which in turn contains three different types of rooms, with 150 m², 90 m², and 60 m². Like a combinatorial game, the permutations of these three areas generate sequences of different spaces which possibly can come to create a single exhibition area.
Above: section four - click for larger image
The artists' workshops on the ground floor and the laboratories on the upper floor are located adjacent to the exhibition halls, to the point where there is no strict difference between them: artistic works can be exhibited in the workshops while the exhibition halls can also be used as areas for artistic production. The assembly room - the black box – is designed as a stage area suitable for theatrical productions, conferences, film screenings, or even for audiovisual exhibitions.
Above: section five - click for larger image
The Centre of Contemporary Art is not a centralised organism: its centre moves from one area to another, it is everywhere. It is designed as a sequence of rooms linked to a public walkway, where the different functions of the building come together. Conceived as a crossroads and meeting place, it is a communal area for exhibitions and exchange of ideas, to view an installation, see exhibitions, visit the café, use the mediateque, wait for the start of a show in the black box, or perhaps gaze at the Guadalquivir river.
Above: section six - click for larger image
The materials will contribute to suggest the character of an art factory which pervades the project. In the interior, walls and slabs of concrete and continuous concrete floors establish a spatial area capable of being transformed individually using different forms of intervention. A network of electrical, digital, audio and lighting infrastructure creates the possibility of multiple views and connections everywhere.
Above: section seven - click for larger image
Outside, the building aspires to express itself through one material: GRC prefabricated panels that at the same time clad opaque and perforated façades, or make up the flat and sloping roofs of the halls. The industrialised concept of the system as well as the conditions of impermeability, insulation and lightness of the material, contribute to guarantee the precision and rationality of its execution but also plays a part in the combinatory concept which governs the whole project.
Above: east elevation - click for larger image
The facade onto the river, a true mask that protagonizes the exterior facade of the building, is conceived as a screen perforated by several polygonal openings with LED-type monochromatic maps behind them. With an appropriate computer program, video signals will generate images and texts that will be reflected on the river's surface and enable installations specifically conceived for the place. During the day, natural light will filter through the perforations and penetrate the interior covered walkway.
Above: south elevation - click for larger image
In the Centre for Contemporary Art, artists, visitors, experts, researchers and the public, will meet as in a contemporary zouk, without an obvious spatial hierarchy. It will be a centre for creative artistic processes which will link closely the architectural space with the public: an open laboratory where architecture attempts to provoke new modes of expression.
Above: west elevation - click for larger image
Some of the most recent artistic proposals linked to the most recent technologies appear to move away from materiality and submerge themselves in a virtuality disconnected from a concrete place, but perhaps through it, disagreeing with this interpretation – which has become a commonplace – we are convinced that the building itself, the Guadalquivir river, the present and the past of Cordoba, will not simply be a casual circumstance but – as it has been for us as well – will be the start of a dialogue, agreement, or perhaps rejection. For are these not also emotions which underlie the search for all artistic expression?
Above: north elevation - click for larger image
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