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Monday, April 07, 2008

Badajoz Congress Center and Auditorium

Badajoz Congress Center and Auditorium in Badajoz, Spain by SeglasCano Arquitectos
The last stage of knowledge is recognizing that all we were looking for was always in front of our eyes.
This line by Italian poet Giacomo Leopardi is SelgasCano Arquitectos's "headword" for the Badajoz Congress Center and Auditorium in Badajoz, Spain, a circular building located on the remains of an old bullring.

This line that the architects quote seems to indicate that a search for another form was fruitless, that when the circle was used for the current building it just worked. With the center of the circle occupied by the auditorium, one wonders if a uni-directional assembly space should occupy the same shape as a sporting event seen in the round. In the case of its current state, the circular shape allows for a certain hierarchy, with circulation encircling the auditorium and smaller rooms in a ring beyond. Most likely it is the historical reference that predominates more than functional concerns.

This historical linking is extended -- or, more likely, complicated -- by the site's location within a pentagonal bastion of the city's 17th century walls. Certain lower level functions extend to this impenetrable perimeter, but it's the plaza (and its repeated-circle-patterned paving), the space between the circle and the pentagon that exhibits these two strains of history the most. It is also the from the plaza that the Congress Center finds its greatest expression, the glowing cylinder of the auditorium rung by parallel rows of tubing, spaced to create a screen and strengthen the reading of the shape.

One enters down a stair curving opposite the building's circle, but roughly tangent to it. Still outside, one finds another in-between space, this time between the two circular layers. A hinged door in the outer ring allows access to the interior and the brightly painted circulation spaces that play off the predominantly white surfaces and the ever-present volume of the auditorium. It may appear that the architects went a little crazy with the circular motif rooted in Leonardo's assertion, but the circles are assembled in a way that make the experience of the place rewarding and, above all, memorable.

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