Archeology Museum Of Alava
July 26, 2011
You can almost hear the Indiana Jones theme music playing in the background as you imagine yourself walking through the spaces of the Archeology Museum of Álava by Spanish architect Francisco Mangado. Like all pieces of antiquity, the shell is interesting, but to a Denver architect like myself, the secrets it holds inside are of the utmost importance.
The bronze-clad Archaeological Museum of Álava in Vitoria, Spain, is a "coffer guarding a treasure" says Mangado. This concept is revealed at a number of different levels in the work, acquiring a sensual resonance that reaches beyond words to convey this poetic intent.
The contrast between the building's bronze and glass skin and its setting within Vitoria's medieval core further develops the archaeological layering of the concept. The vertical vanes of bronze convey solidity and depth despite the fact that the cladding is a nonstructural skin. The industrial material harks back to the Bronze Age, while the patina that bronze acquires through the years offers yet another mark of time. Large windows deeply set in handsome cedar surrounds puncture the bronze allowing natural daylight into the interior spaces.
This skin is not uniform however. The two sides of the entry court are sheathed in a glass curtain wall, luminous and open in contrast to the bronze-clad walls facing the surrounding streets. The building glows from within, like the Ark of the Covenant from Raiders of the Lost Ark. Visitors can see an interior stair with clear glass balustrades that floats up past the gallery levels within.
The museum, or conceptual treasure chest, is composed of three gallery levels housing a permanent archeology collection. Its floors, walls, and ceilings are finished in dark wood, creating a cave-like experience, as if the visitor were an archeologist searching for historic pieces. Glass shafts bring in daylight, descending from the roof to pierce all three floors at different angles, like shafts of light through the earthy ceiling. The galleries, featuring regional relics from prehistoric times to the Middle Ages, evoke an unexplored archaeological site, an underground mine, or a sunken ship. As visitors wander among the light shafts, spotlights tripped by movement sensors illuminate the objects.
Mangado's sense of spatial organization reveals itself in other details, such as the light trench that separates the entry from the court. This feature provides light to the underground research library, and is spanned, like a castle moat, by a wood-paved entry bridge. The irregular jogs of the side wing help modulate the spatial experience of entering the building from the street.
Like Fancisco Mangado's other projects, the Archaeological Museum exemplifies his identification with the Modern movement, upholding the ideals of a functional layout and structural logic of 20th-century masters.
Move over Indiana…make way for Senior Mangado.