Dezeen Magazine

Centro Botin by Renzo Piano
Photograph by Belén de Benito

Renzo Piano completes stilted art gallery on Santander waterfront

Thousands of shimmering ceramic discs cover the stilted volumes of Renzo Piano's Centro Botín art gallery, which stands on the docks in the Spanish city of Santander.

The Centro Botín is Renzo Piano Building Workshop's first building in Spain, and is part of a wider redevelopment of Santander's Pereda Gardens.

It occupies a former ferry car park in a newly created piece of the park, which was overhauled and extended by landscape designer Fernando Caruncho to a size of almost four hectares.

The 10,285-square-metre gallery is split across two D-shaped blocks and joined by an elevated walkway that cantilevers out over the sea.

The outer walls of the two blocks are covered in 270,000 ceramic plates intended to reflect the changing hues of the sea and sky, and huge curving windows set into their ends give views either to the gardens or water.

The metal staircases, stilted profile and grey-toned ceramic cladding lend the building an industrial quality.

Centro Botin by Renzo Piano
Photograph by Belén de Benito

Centro Botín provides a permanent home for the art collections, and cultural and educational programmes of the Fundación Botín, which was set up in 1964 by the Botins – the same family behind Santander Bank.

Inside, there is 2,500 square metres of exhibition space, a 300-seat auditorium, as well as classrooms and work spaces for the courses the centre runs in collaboration with Yale University. The building will also include a restaurant, shop and rooftop viewpoint.

Exhibition spaces are set over two levels in the larger of the two wings, while the smaller wing hosts education facilities.

A public plaza and amphitheatre are set on the piece of park surrounding the building, which was created by rerouting an existing road through a 200-metre tunnel.

Centro Botin by Renzo Piano
Photograph by Gerardo Vela

"Building on our work in the community over the last 50 years, our vision for Centro Botín is to be one of Spain's leading arts centres," said Fundación Botín director Iñigo Sáenz de Miera, "a lively welcoming place for people to enjoy themselves, learn and become inspired, and an engine for generating economic, social and cultural wealth for the region of Cantabria and northern Spain."

Centro Botín will open on 23 June 2017 with three exhibitions: a selection of drawings by the Spanish artist Francisco de Goya, works from the permanent collection of Fundación Botín and pieces by the Belgian artist Carsten Höller all on show.

It is hoped the gallery will act as a new landmark for the city, attracting tourism and in turn boosting the area's economy – in a similar fashion to the Frank Gehry-designed Guggenheim gallery in Bilbao.

Italian architect Renzo Piano came in at number 22 on the Dezeen Hot list, a guide to the most read-about architects, designers and brands of the last year.

His studio recently revealed plans for a San Francisco skyscraper, and completed a neuroscience research facility at Columbia University in Manhattan.

Project credits:

Architects: Renzo Piano Building Workshop and Luis Vidal + Architects
Client: Fundación Botin