Behind the green wall

10 Mar 2011

Nieto Sobejano Arquitectos elaborate on proposal for transformation of San Telmo Museum in San Sebastián

The Museum of San Telmo, in its present condition, represents the result of a long process of successive modifications which has partially altered its physical and functional character over the years. Its location on the fringe where the urban structure meets the topography of Monte Urgull is a reflection, on the other hand, of an urban problem very characteristic of San Sebastián: the solution of a division never completely solved between natural and artificial landscape.

How to approach a contemporary extension of San Telmo in response to new requirements for space and stringent landscaping conditions, while expressing its connection to the location with the passing of time? The direct and radical gesture which defines Nieto Sobejano Arquitectos' proposal implies paradoxically its practical dissolution in the landscape of Monte Urgull. They will limit themselves to building a new green wall, deep and light, which is defined by the existing topography, and which hides in its interior two pavilions which will house the new programme.

This decision heightens the appreciation both of the historical buildings as well as the new entrance to the museum, which offers access to the old building – which will incorporate the permanent exhibitions – as well as to the new pavilion for temporary exhibitions. The main vestibule will therefore constitute a natural link with the new areas for cloakrooms, shop, auditorium, mediatheque, didactic hall and cafeteria which completes the necessary areas in a museum with these characteristics.

A 'green wall': on certain occasions the metaphor associated with an architectural idea gives a sense to each and every aspect of the project. Hence the slight changes of direction of the wall are sufficient to provide a natural solution to pedestrian access to Monte Urgull, to configure an open air exhibition space, or to house a café-terrace open to the landscape and to the town. Rather an expression of the relation of natural/artificial which runs throughout their proposal, the new building/screen will be defined by a perforated metal skin enveloped in moss, lichen and other plant species which finally will come to surround the whole building.

In collaboration with the artists Leopoldo Ferrán and Agustina Otero starting with a combinatorial game of cast-aluminium pieces expressly conceived for this occasion, this will be an unusual intervention in a public area which represents a common field of action between plastic arts and architecture.

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