Where Solid Meets Void: Exploring the Concrete and Glass Edifice of A Coruña’s National Museum for Science and Technology

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AceboXalonso studio’sMUNCYT — the National Museum for Science and Technology building located in A Coruña — embodies a spirit of dualism in both its form and purpose. Originally conceived as a structure to house two distinct cultural programs, a dance conservatory and a provincial museum for the region of A Coruña, the building was designed to merge but simultaneously highlight each body under one roof.

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Architecture filmmakers ENTR ECOT channeled the opposition expressed in MUNYCT in their atmospheric short documentary of the building. Juxtaposing two channels side by side, the film explores how the firm implemented a system of interwoven yet contrasting elements to poise the structure between lightness and darkness, heaviness and lightness, solidity and void.

While the exterior appears quite straightforward in form, a solid cube clad with translucent glass panels, the interior reveals the central logic that orders the programming of the space. “We proposed to develop them in a single volume. This allowed us to explore the relationship between two structures that were different in every aspect: organization, perception, expression, function and construction. Using both factors, we had the chance to add, subtract, divide, but we chose to multiply,” say the architects.

Conceived of as a “concrete tree,” a rectilinear concrete core stands like a spine in one corner of the building. Concrete “branches” extend radially outward from this spine, occasionally piercing the glazed facade. These solid forms comprise the dance conservatory, allocating the surrounding void to the museum space.

This separation of space once again supports the programmatic intent of each cultural institution: The rigidity of the concrete supports the regular activity of the dance conservatory, while the openness of the museum allows for the ambiguous and ever-changing curriculum of the museum.

“The construction delves into the idea of duality. The concrete shape rests on a highly atomized steel perimeter structure, which becomes mesh-like so that the transparency can express the interior volumes,” explain the architects. “The museum texture is formed by pattern-glass and self-compacting concrete poured in wood formwork, seeking the prints of manual work becoming shadows. These textures seek [emphasize] the fragmented perception of the surfaces; the formwork faces different directions to make the construction of the different concrete planes explicit.”

While the museum was carefully planned around the functioning of these two institutions, the building’s evolution enforced another kind of dualism that posed a challenge to the architects. While the museum had won the prize for Young Architecture from the ninth Spanish Biennial in 2006, the tumultuous political and economic landscape in Spain in the years to follow forced the abandonment of the building for quite some time.

After much lobbying, the cultural landmark found its new role as the National Museum for Science and Technology, and the building has undergone several structural changes in order to accommodate the needs of the new institution. Nevertheless, the museum maintains the intricate dynamism established for its original intent and continues to serve as a compelling cultural fixture of A Coruña.

Words by Joanna Kloppenburg

See more films from ENTR ECOT on the urbanNext website.

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