The TEA will become a new and lively place for people of all generations and with various interests. In order to achieve an architectural concept where the different activities and spaces of the centre are interfusing and interflowing, access to the centre will be possible from all sides. A new public path diagonally cuts through the building complex connecting the top of the General Serrador Bridge with the shore of the Barranco de Santos. On its way down to the Barranco this path is widening and transforming itself into a triangular, semi-covered space in the heart of the cultural centre.
This unusual triangular space is a new public plaza which is open and accessible for everyone. The new urban life will be animated by the museum café and restaurant which will be able to serve food and drinks not only in the building but also on the plaza or under the large and shadowy canopy of the existing trees at the Barranco. The plaza can also be used at night as an open air cinema performing films and videos in collaboration with the TEA.
State of the art galleries
The main quality of the plaza, however, will be to lead people into the building complex and to provide a good orientation for all visitors. The lobby is conceived as a spatial continuation of the plaza. It generously arranges the museum café, the museum shop and the ticket counters. Beyond these counters a large spiraling stair connects to the upper as well as to the lower museum level. The upper level has skylight galleries in various sizes adapting to the requirements of the Oscar Dominguez Collection; the lower level displays a large surface that can be subdivided to match the needs of temporary exhibitions of international stature. All museum spaces will have state of the art climate control and fit out. Ceiling heights on both levels are almost 6 meters or more. More intimate in their size are the galleries of the Centre of Photography, which are also installed on the lower level and can be connected with the temporary exhibition space.
A new landmark for Santa Cruz
On their way across the plaza visitors will stumble on the light filled spaces of the Biblioteca Insular. The public plaza literally cuts through the large reading room of the library. Large glass screens allow for views inside and outside the generously open space of the library. The light filled volume of the Biblioteca Insular animates the nocturnal skyline along the Barranco de Santos and will become a new landmark for the city of Santa Cruz.
The building typology of our design for the TEA is based on courtyards. The elongated courtyards are important in many ways, providing daylight, views and orientation for the visitors and users of the museum spaces and the library. One of them, between the office and museum wings of the building complex is planted with typical plants from the island.
From the very beginning of the design process we operated with courtyards, also because we wanted to connect the new TEA typologically with its existing neighbor building, the Antiguo Hospital Civil which has recently been transformed into the Museo de la Naturaleza y el Hombre. However, it took a while before we understood that all different activities and functions of the TEA should be assembled under one continuous roof structure rather than break down into individual wings. This is also one of the reasons why the elongated courtyards do not appear like embraced exterior spaces but rather like interior spaces that are being left open. The spatial interplay between inside and outside integrates rather than separates the very diverse urban landscapes which are so fascinating in Santa Cruz. The new cultural centre is therefore not only a place of encounter for people but also a place of intersection for the landscape of the contemporary city, the old city with its skyline along the Barranco and the archaic topography of the Barranco itself.
Herzog & de Meuron, 1999/2008