Located near Placa de les Glories in Barcelona, Spain is one of Rafael Moneo’s most significant projects, L’Auditori. L’Auditori sits in the heart of Barcelona’s urban redevelopment of the Glories neighborhood that is transitioning from an infrastructural network to a more commercial, cultural node within the city. Completed in 1999, L’Auditori has come to be the center of music in the city of Barcelona showcasing operas, classical symphonies, and contemporary compilations.
Moneo’s L’Auditori is a bridge between the infrastructural and the cultural. The cor-ten steel that clads the building evokes a gritty aesthetic that’s juxtaposed to a more elegant and rich maple lined interior. L’Auditori’s inherent differentiation between elegant and industrial can be understood as a localized contextualization of Barcelona’s urban fabric.
As with most music auditoriums acoustics are the main priority during the design process, as well as during performances. However, L’Auditori approaches acoustics in a holistic manner. The exterior façade of the building reads as a solid mass in order to prevent any sound from the busy streets of Barcelona within the auditorium spaces. Within the compact volume, all of the surfaces are lined with a system of cork overlaid with maple to subvert any unwanted noise from being created.
The maple lined interior gives the buildings spaces a yellowish hue while absorbing any and all sounds. Even when the main lobby space is full of people during intermissions or special gatherings, there is a deafening silence that overwhelms the visitor in an almost claustrophobic and isolated experience.
The overall design of L’Auditori is fairly simple; it plays on Moneo’s reoccurring theme of compactness where the exterior and interior is void of any relationship aside from the fact that the exterior façade will wrap the interior freely designed spaces.
The building has a narrow profile that conforms to a 2:1 proportion that harmonizes the acoustics within. The long, narrow volume is subdivided into two different volumes that are separated by an exterior atrium. The larger volume contains the main auditorium, as well as large reception hall that looks out over one of Barcelona’s busiest streets, Avinguda Meridiana. The smaller volume has two auditoriums that are used for smaller events.
The exterior of L’Auditori employs reinforced concrete structural grid system with inlaid cor-ten steel. The striated pattern that the cor-ten creates lends to the horizontal reading of the building as one unbroken system. The heaviness of the cor-ten and the concrete evoke an unmovable presence within in the building.
Despite the buildings massive appearance, there is a break in the volume that transforms the heavy, opaque volume into a light and airy exterior atrium.
The atriums central location within the volume divides the two smaller auditoriums from the larger auditorium while creating a void through volume providing light to the ground floor, as well as defining an interstitial space where visitors are forced to navigate through upon entering the auditoriums. The 30 meter high light well, “lantern,” breaks up the strict geometry of the building volumetrically as well as materially, such that the volume begins to fluctuate between open/closed, mass/air, and dark/light.
Inside of the auditoriums, Moneo continues using maple throughout the entire space. Here the maple does not only have a sound absorbing quality, but it also creates new atmospheric conditions within the auditorium that are not experience in the corridors.
The way in which the light reflects off of the maple creates a glowing aura that seems to cloud the perceptions and senses of the visitors in order to enhance their auditory senses.
If anything can be taken from the experience of L’Auditori, it is the attention to detail both in a physical and sensorial manner. L’Auditori is a testament to Moneo’s theoretical framework such that the building is in a balanced state of compactness and freedom, open and enclosed, darkness and light. It is through these juxtapositions that architecture is created.
Not too long ago L’Auditori was featured in the short film The Third& the Seventh.
Architects: Rafael Moneo
Location: Barcelona, Catalonia, Spain
Project Year: 1999
Photographs: Flickr User: Francesc_2000