SGAE Central Office in Santiago de Compostela / Ensamble Studio

Spanish architects Ensamble Studio shared with us their building for the SGAE Offices in (the equivalent to the RIAA in the USA). Once again, Ensamble Studio shows us an impressive use of mass, using stacked slabs to create an intermediate space with filtered light. It also has a wall built with used CDs on the inside.

The SGAE (General Society of Authors and Publishers) Central Office in Santiago de Compostela, is located in Vista Alegre property, a privileged site with intermediate scale between a private garden and a public green area, from where the skyline of the historical city can be glimpsed. The project for the development of the plot was designed by the Japanese architect Arata Isozaki, and contemplated the construction of a series of buildings with academic purpose, most of them already built. The SGAE Central Office situated in the west limit of the site completes the intervention in Vista Alegre and defines its boundaries.

The architectural conception of the building incorporates the spirit of the city of Santiago developing a singular identity and entering a dialog with the history and memory of the place, as well as a close relationship with contemporary language.


The program includes not only social activities for the attendance of authors and publishers, but also a wide range of public cultural activities. It is divided into four functional areas distributed in four levels respectively: Diffusion, Formation, Public Area and Management, with accesses from the garden and the street. Three thousand square metres in total constructed to serve the city and its artists.

The SGAE central office expresses its will to become part of the perimetral wall of the property both by its location and longitudinal layout adapted to the border of the plot. The building puts forward the confrontation of three walls which run along a space of varied constructive, material and perceptive scales. A stone wall looking into the garden, an interior wall made of CDs and a translucent glass wall facing the street. They all work as filters of the different urban situations delimiting and organizing the program in functional strips.

construction process

The great stone wall, can be thought of as a monumental sculpture, constructed by the superposition and repetition of prehistoric orders adapted to a Renaissance broken composition. The Mondariz Grey stone facade components appear in one of their purest forms, as irregular ashlars of variable geometry and size, selected directly from the quarry overage, and ordered in permeable strips that manipulate the South light breaking it on the inside. This sculptural content causes the disintegration of the building as such, going beyond its mere symbolic and functional dimension within Vista Alegre property: the building becomes aware of the place and integrates; it stands as a representative background of the site.

The interior CD wall is a plane placed in between the outer curved elements: stone wall and glass wall. It represents the chord which draws the arc described by them and grants the scale of the space confined between walls. Its material composition and quality make it appear like an impressive stained glass window with different degrees of transparency, a wall made of color and light, in clear contrast with the nature of the opposite stone wall.

The translucent glass wall offers a discreet face to the street, controlling the light and views of the spaces inside, according to their activity and needs.

The building arches, widens and narrows, by the interaction of these three elements, generating fluid multivalent spaces, such as the porticoed street defined by the stone wall and the CD wall; a space that roots the building directly to the city of Santiago. Walking through it, the user experiences the compression of the space in the centre, where the main entrance to the building is located, and a progressive expansion to the ends where the space opens to the landscape and frames it, generating two viewpoints.

construction process

The building then becomes a street, an urban space inside a garden, which reactivates the site bringing vitality and dynamism to the atmosphere. And it also becomes a stone wall, thought of as both boundary and background, that fences in the garden and develops the use of a material which belongs to the place: stone.

Cite: "SGAE Central Office in Santiago de Compostela / Ensamble Studio" 18 May 2009. ArchDaily. Accessed 24 May 2015. <>
  • http://TEAM-X TEAM-X

    This wall ….is a metaphorical vision about the future of captalsim…?

  • Josep

    I’m in love with ensamble studio’s work!
    A couple years ago Cayetana Nicanor introduced me to their work and very glad she did!
    Very impressive!

  • Balkan

    This is very nice project. Love the use of stone where something massive has been put to create a shader of promenade.
    Indeed very good

  • Luka

    this really is something else

  • U_

    Honek narrua fatxadako harrien besteko gogorra dute!

  • U_


  • francis

    Music: rocks! No? Ok, I shall refrain from such notes. It is another robust challenge to our senses by Ensamble Studio; and while it is a fitting addition to their design for the Music Centre within the same park published here earlier, this has the danger of being read as the sort of cosmetic postmodernism prescribed by Charles Jencks. Not literally loose or lost as it was but no less metaphorically. It is possibly they are doing a form of “consequentialism” … basically, the end justifies the means.
    Difficult not to be drawn to the robust use of raw quarry stones in their projects; they remind me of the grandiose projects of an age past where an entire quarry is designated to achieve the ambition. It is a luxury to savour and I am glad to be titillated by this occasional apparition. Again, the methodology is first rate; and the publishing much to be thankfully for. The steelwork drawings are treats!
    The completed elevation facing the “street” is more successful than shown on the model. It is pleasing to see, and tells me that while the work from Ensemble Studio may look “raw” or slap dashed, they are constantly refining and bringing order to the chaotic. However, they do not tip the scales, if that make sense?
    Finally … it must be a “blast” (ola?!! geez) to work at Ensemble Studio.

  • Lite

    I’m speechless!
    It’s a masterpiece!
    Welcome back architecture!!

  • Lu


  • Bo Lucky

    It’s definitely a strange structure that makes some kind of a statement. It is however not entirely clear what this statement could be… it is likely that a construction cost was way higher than for a traditional building – is there any return for the price attached to having such the statement? I have some doubts whether the office layout meets contemporary office standards and a concern about a building behavior under extreme stress (say some kind of an accidental – or not – nearby blast).

  • Carlo

    what is this, an attempt to reinvent stone henge? it’ s a quite trivial and superficial
    interpretation of archaic elements of architecture. from a typological point of view it’ s nothing else than a porticoed as we know it from italian cities, which function is to invite people to walk under a roof and to shop in the attached stores. a beautifully urban expression, but what we have here is a game with duplo (big lego elements) that doesn ‘t create any interesting spaces.(in between)
    in fact the highly ambitioned light effect is missing. the stone elements are simply too big too allow a play of lights and shadows. The interior spaces do not profit from that “translucent” element and could be the same as in any other office building in the world.
    let’ s compare this mess with a building of herzog de meuron, the dominus winery in napa valley, where the facade is also a pile of stones, which are carefully positioned. the light and shadow effects are complex and interesting :

    these pseudo “assemblage” of stones is simply banal, unsufficiently thought-out and an impertinence towards the environment.

  • bungalabungala

    Carlo n Bo lucky, i am really sad that ur views on architecture tend to go to the money its going to be spent, or teh lack of anaylisis, do you there wont be any shadows and light in teh project? did u not see de picture of the auditorium? i think that uve greatly misunderstood the project and that trying to find somethitn gwrong with it u wrote ur comments. this is a great building and it most be really amazing to walk its halls, and sit in that auditorium.

  • Bo Lucky

    Can you write your posts in English? It’s hard to grasp an essence of your comments…

  • bungalabungala

    pardon me for the type-os Bo lucky, here it is

    Carlo and Bo Lucky, I am really sad that your views on architecture tend to go the money it is going to be spent. I think that you lack anaylisis, do you seriously think there wont be any shadowos or light in the project? Did you not look at the picture of the auditorium? I think that you have greatly misunderstood the project, and that in an efoort to find somethign wrong with the project you wrote those comments. Thi si s a great building and it must be really amazing to walk its halls, and spend some time in that auditorium

  • Ulises

    The Bluff Stone Wall seems to be completly absurd.They have very good projects, this is not one of them. I try to understand why some people posted: MASTERPIECE!.


  • Carlo

    let’ s answer like the big lebowski:

    “yeah? well, that’ s just your opinion, man!”

  • Ceno

    I don’t like the interiors (material inside,stairs,quality of the room) but I really love the architecture, its like combining the past in the back and the future in front

  • dao

    i love the rock wall that used, its strange and impressive

  • Legend

    isn’t it all a bit excessive?

  • Carlo

    of course it’ s excessive and for an important town like santiago de compostela, being a destination of pilgrimages it’ s even more an affront. in my eyes it represents the blind speculative tendency in the real estate sector of spain in the past 5-10 years. the main goal was for a long time to create expressive, spectacular architecture to attract tourists. (valencia, madrid…) today spain finds itseld immersed in a hangover mood, where the crisis struck harder than in other european countries. i hope that this phase influences future projects in a positive way.

  • francis

    Dear Carlo, In reference to … “let’s answer like the big lebowski: “yeah? well, that’s just your opinion, man!” … therefore, I would like to know if you are capable of your own? By the way, THE DOODE wants payment for his using his quote, and he thinks you’re a DUD!

  • Carlo

    @ francis, i think my opinion is quite clear, and the arguments in my comment are plausible. you are welcome to add your argumentation to the discussion.

  • francis

    Dear Carlo, who’s arguing? Plausible? Besides, what has a movie character got to do with this forum?

  • Carlo

    that quote was addressed to bungabulunga, who left a comment, reacting to my older comment, which has plenty of arguments that underline my critique. please read the whole comment history and give me a rest.

  • francis

    Dear Carlo, it was precisely “unclear” that bungabulunga queried … yes, I do read before I ask. Rest? What’s that?

  • Carlo

    …give it a rest… give me a break…i guess i got mixed up. either way leave me alone.
    besides, shouldn ‘t you write something about the building instead of typing nonsense?

  • francis

    Dear Carlo, first bit of sensible thing you’ve typed, no? Think about it … the penny (or something else very small but significant) will eventually drop. Goodbye and get the rest/break you deserve. All the best.

  • David


  • me


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