In both size and historical importance, the Zaragoza Museum’s collection of works by Goya is not sufficient to fill a new building and attract enough visitors over the long term. Given the growing competition of new, exciting high style museums in Spain and in so many other places all over the world, even the most attractive exhibition schedule of old and new art would not in itself be reason enough for people to travel to Zaragoza.
Attempting a programme
We therefore gave initial priority to the programming of the future Espacio Goya, and we have chosen to focus on this aspect since it is the only means of discovering a truly new approach to finding an architectural solution.
Attempting a place
On the basis of our experience with museums and exhibition venues, and especially our collaboration with artists themselves, we realise that a successful Espacio Goya must unite architecture, artwork and location to form a distinctive, unique whole that is possible only in and for Zaragoza. It has become increasingly difficult to speak of an authentic place especially with respect to museums. Nonetheless, it is the almost old-fashioned idea of authenticity that underlies the understanding of a place to which we aspire, a place in which programme and architecture are inseparably linked. We therefore worked out an architectural concept for the museum that goes beyond functioning as a container for art. We aimed to establish an exciting and dynamic interplay between architecture and art, addressing the relationship between existing and added architecture, as well as old and new art: art by Goya and art about Goya. Our architectural and curatorial proposal for the Espacio Goya foregrounds the urgent and vital issues that confront architecture and art today, issuing both reality and simulation and their related processes of perception. Above all, the proposal allows a new encounter with Goya; it underscores the extraordinary and enduring influence exerted by this artist, by bringing to life some of his key works and placing them in an entirely different light.
The Anchor Rooms
The principal element of our architectural and curatorial concept is a group of four Anchor Rooms that break into the existing building like erratic blocks. Similar to the cathedral built into the Mezquita in Cordoba by Carlos V in the 16th century, the insertion of the four Anchor Rooms is essentially a violent act because it destroys part of the building, and disrupts its historical continuity and spatial configurations. However, it is also a liberating act because it opens up a number of new perspectives and adds a substantial dimension to the historicist concept underlying the Escuela, constructed as the Zaragoza Museum in a mixture of regional styles for the 1908 Spanish-French Exposition.
The four Anchor Rooms represent the reconstruction of interiors for which Goya created in situ works: the Aula Dei Charterhouse, the San Antonio de la Florida Chapel, the Quinta del Sordo and the Real Academia, in which Goya taught.
It is in these spaces, and another five sites around Zaragoza in which in situ works by Goya are located, that makes this city the only place where future visitors will have the opportunity to experience in full-scale almost all of the rooms ever painted by Goya. The Anchor Rooms will not contain the original works, but their size and proportion will create a physical experience that matches the original locations. Furthermore, they will do without stucco and decoration and they are all built of the same solid and smooth, light grey brick as used for the façades of the Escuela and the Museum. This establishes a complete and seamless connection between the intruding spaces and the existing buildings. The discreet light grey brick is an ideal background for both old and contemporary works of art. It also recalls famous structures reconstructed after the war, such as the Glyptothek or the Alte Pinakothek in Munich. Moreover, the Anchor Rooms are generously sized exhibition galleries that allow for all kinds of art installations and form a meaningful complement to the somewhat stereotypical sequence of existing rooms in the Escuela. The Anchor Rooms, with their specific dimensions and geometries, lend rhythm to the visitor’s tour of the Espacio Goya. They form a specific topography within the Escuela’s simple courtyard typology. Documentary material on each of the four original sites – photographs, drawings, maps and texts – will be placed in the broad hallways that connect them.
GOYA and about GOYA
The Anchor Rooms are specific and distinctive, not only in spatial terms but also in view of their content and their curatorial potential. As exhibition galleries, they are designed to revitalize the experience of Goya’s absent originals. These magnificent works will be brought to life in and through contemporary art. Today's artists, like the Chapman Brothers or Bruce Nauman, have already addressed the work of this master. However, rather than acquiring works already completed, it would be even more interesting to commission artists to produce a direct response to the absent in situ works in the four Anchor Rooms. The wide range of artistic strategies and methods, such as new media art, photography, video, installation art or sculpture, could make such a group of works on Goya a new highlight within the future Espacio Goya.
The transformation of the Escuela de Artes y Oficios
The other modifications that we propose for the Escuela are simple and pragmatic. They can be implemented in the prescribed period of time and their architectural understatement reinforces the concept of the Anchor Rooms. The main operations involve releasing the courtyard from the annexed volumes and the Grand Staircase, used as a link between the two buildings and the various exhibitions.
The Grand Stair
The only new, additional piece of architecture that we propose for the present phase is a large stair, a typical, representative element of museums. This Grand Stair, is placed neither in the Escuela de Artes y Oficios nor in the Museum, but instead connects the two in different ways, forming a focal point of the entire complex. This staircase will be the sign and symbol of the renewal of the Museum of Zaragoza as well as signalling access as a new shared entrance. We decided to give the buildings independent entrances, but also focalize the main entrance from the passage to the courtyard of the former Arts and Crafts School beneath the Grand Staircase. We reached this decision after having seen enough oversized glazed foyers in major museums.
A twin arrangement
Additions that have been made in the courtyard will be removed to reveal the original courtyard typology of the building. The floor plan will be centred on this courtyard in classical fashion, by means of which the originally balanced twin arrangement of the two contemporaneously erected buildings, the Escuela de Artes y Oficios and the Museum of Zaragoza, will be restored. The entrance to this new space will be via a central corridor that links the museum’s courtyard to Calle Moret. This connection is regarded as a planning gesture to encourage the courtyard's usage.
The Calle Moret
The traffic-free Calle Moret will become an area that the public will perceive in conjunction with the museum, by leading into the interior courtyard, a place that can be used for performances, concerts or street culture. At night, the light streaming out of the interior will illuminate the Plaza, filtered through the passage as well as thorugh the Grand Staircase, which will seem like a solid yet floating illuminated roof.
Structural modifications of the exhibition galleries
The steel structure of the building has a span of about four metres, which is a relatively close grid for exhibition spaces. We therefore propose a permanent sequence of larger galleries. Instead of freestanding supports, crossbeams can be used to transfer the load to the walls as needed. Placed underneath the ground floor and above the first floor, they would form voids also used for mechanical and electrical installations.
In the exhibition spaces we are leaving the ceilings open to preserve their beautiful vaulting instead of providing suspended ceilings. This also lends to the exhibition galleries authenticity. Structural ceilings are, moreover, a good way to visually background ventilation outlets, lighting elements and similar features. The walls and the ceilings in these exhibition spaces are finished and painted, and the floors are made of wood.
We are fully aware that entirely open-plan areas free of intermediate supports would be ideal for temporary exhibitions since they are more flexible and can be subdivided as required. That is our usual approach in designing new museums. In this case, however, given the character of the existing building and the timeline, major reconstruction of that kind is unrealistic regarding both scheduling and budget.
Modifications of the façade
The magnificent windows facing the inner courtyard will establish a connection to the outside and help to orient visitors. On the exhibition floors the existing windows will be walled up. Curators usually prefer as little lateral light as possible both to maximize wall space and eliminate direct sunlight. In addition, this measure enhances the effect of the large new openings of the Anchor Rooms, giving the historicist façades a greater sense of complexity. These openings have a classical geometry, but at the same time they are very contemporary, denying the structure of the existing façades and becoming direct projections of the museum’s interior.
Thus, the complex will become a magnet in the centre of the city, a place that will not only embody a new culture but would also welcome other forms of entertainment while enabling locals and international visitors to mingle.
Herzog & de Meuron, 2006