The City of Culture / Eisenman Architects


Architects: Eisenman Architects
Location: , Spain
Executive Architect: Andres Perea Ortega and euroestudios
Client: Fundación cidade da cultura de Galicia
Project Year: 2011
Photographs: Duccio Malagamba

The City of Culture is a new cultural center for the Province of Galicia in northwestern Spain. Its design evolves from the superposition of three sets of information. First, the street plan of the medieval center of Santiago is overlaid on a topographic map of the hillside site, which overlooks the city. Second, a modern Cartesian grid is laid over these medieval routes. Third, through computer modeling software, the topography of the hillside is allowed to distort the two flat geometries, thus generating a topological surface that repositions old and new in a simultaneous matrix never before seen.

© Duccio Malagamba

The original center of Santiago conforms to a figure/ground urbanism in which buildings are figural, or solid, and the streets are residual, or void spaces. Through this mapping operation, the project emerges as a curving surface that is neither figure nor ground but both a figured ground and a figured figure that supersede the figure-ground urbanism of the old city. Santiago’s medieval past appears not as a form of representational nostalgia but as a new yet somehow familiar presence found in a new form.


The six buildings of the project are conceived as three pairs: the Museum of Galicia and the International Art Center; the Center for Music and Performing Arts and the Central Services building; and the Library of Galicia and the Galician Archives. Visitors’ experiences of any given building will be affected by its relationship to its immediate partner. The caminos, or pedestrian streets, between the buildings also open onto a public plaza, which is bordered by the six buildings and features landscape and water elements. The largest building is the Performing Arts Theater, which will stand 42.5 meters high. The heights of all of the buildings rise in gentle curves that seem to reconstruct the shape of the hilltop with their collective rooflines, which are all clad in stone and marked with the grids that inform the design of the site.

© Duccio Malagamba

The Library of Galicia and Galician Archives opened their doors on January 11, 2011, during a ceremony presided over by the Prince and Princess of Asturias. The 17,372-square-meter Library will accommodate one million books in open stacks, rare book archives, and storerooms on several levels. The 14,149-square-meter Archive includes spaces for research and exhibition. Both the Library and the Archive are clad in quartzite and feature unique curtain walls. The museum and administration buildings are expected to open in late fall 2011.

Floor Plan

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* Location to be used only as a reference. It could indicate city/country but not exact address.
Cite: "The City of Culture / Eisenman Architects" 08 Jun 2011. ArchDaily. Accessed 26 May 2015. <>
  • Chris

    Pretty cool concept, and I like the plans and some of the interior and exterior spaces but I just don’t like the overall form. Seems a bit too amorphous for my liking.

    • JWim

      The “amorphous” form isn’t explained well in the article. They chopped the top off of a hill, and then derived form from the previously existing topography, 1:1. I attended an Eisenman lecture where he explained the architecture, and this is basically how he described it.

  • Andreas

    Eisenman! Finally! Superimposition, superseding and sexy! YESSS

  • up_today_arch

    I like this looks-like-a-wave approach … but it is very unexpected Eisenman….
    and also I feel contradiction between visible part of structure and wavy surfaces.

  • Leonardo Ximenes

    Horrible design, but design here is what matters less. This is plainly and simply a move to garner political attention using public funds. In this day and age, anyone who builds a building without a program and using someone else’s money should be put to jail. I’d gladly include the ‘architect’ in the lot.

  • john

    that gotta be skatepark!

  • Formula

    haters gonna hate (?)

    Eisenman did it again, for bad

  • Ale Gaddor

    i liked the conceptual model,,, the real result is dissapointing,,,, and the exterior material too… it’s not a great piece of art

    • Andr�s M�sz�ros

      Sadly Eisenmans designs always ends up looking cheap. His models may look pretty, but when they’re getting built, and have to materialize after all they never make it. My guess is that becouse the huge amount of money they always cost just becouse of their shapes, and sizes. So they always end up using cheap looking materials for the finishes (especially in it’s interiors).

      I can’t think of anything from him which looks great after the construction process.

      Altough he had a serious influence on architecture in the 90′s, nowadays he’s really the past of architecture i think. Or how else it is possible to chop off the top of a hill, just to rebuild its surface as a building? Is that really makes architecture closer to nature? Unfortunately it hasn’t got anything to do with what architecture has to deal nowadays.

      And I’m not glad to say this (im not really an enemy of him:)), i even like some of his theories and projects (on paper:D).

      • mvb

        I do not think the goal of Eisenman’s projects is to look cool and expensive nor cheap either. The way he uses the design process and geometry to create the form and articulate the space is what really matters.

        In his projects, the materials support the understanding of the idea in a conceptual way, like an x-ray picture of the building where you can see the ‘genetic code’ that generated it.

        I do not care if you think that the building looks cheap or not, because it depends on what is fashionable and trendy for you. The Government forced him to use stone, like any other vernacular building in Galicia.

        On the other hand, this project occupies a very huge site, 7 times bigger than the extension of Prado Museum (designed by Moneo) but it cost 3 times more, so the prize per square meter is less than half.

      • Andr�s M�sz�ros

        It’s not the point for a building to look cool, or fashionable (it can be tough), but it is to look well built, and show some quality.

        Nor i think it’s a point for it to understand the concepts of the creation when we walk around in it, the better it is the less we see about that in a space. Although the ideas for the creation is very important in the planning process, after getting built and stranger walks around in it he shouldn’t have to feel the ideas the architect concerned about in the design process, but to use his own ideas to understand it, or just to feel good in that space.

        I think after all, that the final building should be the point of the architecture, and not the design process (however important it is). Buildings really shouldn’t have any direct artistic message.

  • RL

    Scary and non-sensical.

  • Likwid

    7 years late … four time budget … superstar architecture … it deserves no consideration …