If you're in Madrid strolling along the Paseo del Prado (aka Museum Mile), make sure to take a slight detour off to the CaixaForum, a post-modern art gallery designed by Swiss architects Herzog & de Meuron. Not only will you experience a 1900s power plant renovated into a stunning modern space, but you'll also get to see a lush living wall installation by Patrick Blanc - a two-for-one experience. The striking adaptive reuse project was completed in 2007 when the industrial building was gutted, and it now features a fantastic rusty expansion on the top.
Herzog & de Meuron describe their transformation and renovation of Madrid’s Central Eléctrica de Mediodía into the art museum as if it were a surgical procedure. The brick building was completely gutted, demolishing the interior and the roof and leaving only a shell behind. Then they cut away the granite base to create the illusion that the building is hovering over the entrance plaza. They also added two floors underground and two on top clad in rusty steel to double the building’s original space.
The CaixaForum Madrid is owned and operated by the Social Works Foundation of La Caixa, Spain’s largest savings bank, and it is dedicated to programs in art, music, theater, and literature. Inside the museum includes a lobby, two levels of exhibition galleries, an attic café, below-ground classrooms and an auditorium. Herzog & de Meuron also convinced their clients to buy up a neighboring gas station, which was demolished to make way for a public plaza and a more direct connection to the Paseo del Prado.
Once the public plaza was completed, Patrick Blanc came in to design and install a 4-story high lush vertical garden. With over 15,000 plants and 250 different species, the gorgeous wall is the icing on the CaixaForum’s proverbial cake. Setting a stark contrast to the rough texture of the museum’s facade, the living wall creates an oasis in the heart of historic Madrid.