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Santander Unveils a New Art Centre

Santander is making its debut, a long overdue debut at that. The project, commissioned in 2012 by the deceased Emilio Botín, was slow in taking shape and transforming the waterfront of Santander bay, until it was finally unveiled on 23 June this year. A good thing is worth waiting for, or so they say, so this might well be the key to the secret of the Botín Centre, which has materialised in the Cantabrian capital and imbued this beautiful city of northern Spain with a cultural boost and a new lease of life.

A Signature Building
The first thing that strikes the eye about this new cultural space is the building housing it. The architectural project was obviously intended to not go by unnoticed and it drew both praise and criticism, like anything which entails a certain element of risk. This work by the Pritzker prizewinning Renzo Piano, who happens to be truly enamoured of Santander, was developed in conjunction with the studio of Spaniard Luis Vidal. It has endowed the city with a touch of modernity in one of its most emblematic spots – its bay. The building comprises two large volumes, connected by an ensemble of walkways and spaces that act as a main distributor. The western volume houses a big, 2,500 m² exhibition hall, with shopping and restaurant areas in the basement. The smaller module on the east side, which will be given over to educational activities, sports a large, protruding terrace with splendid vistas over Santander bay. Supported on pillars, which make it look as if floating in the air, its highlight is the large glazed frontage, affording privileged views of the coastline and the city, while the outer cladding is rendered in white porcelain shards.

However, this fabulous building, which acts to articulate the city centre with the harbour, doesn’t quite steal the show on its own. Its construction has been paralleled by an extension to the Pereda Gardens, located in the vicinity of the Botín Centre, which has seen its surface area increased from two to four hectares. Landscape gardener Fernando Caruncho and artist Cristina Iglesias have been tasked with making the approach walk to this new cultural space a veritable delight on the senses.

The City’s New Exhibition Venue
The Botín Centre made its debut with two opposing exhibitions – one classical, dedicated to the great master of modern painting, Goya, with his drawings as the centrepiece, and the other, more contemporary show dedicated to Carsten Höller, the first monographic of this Belgian artist’s work to date in Spain. Running parallel are a number of scheduled activities of all kinds, from workshops to film screenings, concerts, etc.

Ahead lies a long road and the project has spawned the question of whether it will experience the “Guggenheim effect”, providing yet another enticement to travellers on their visit to Santander, as well as giving extra momentum to tourism and the city itself. For the time being it has become the talk of the town this summer, as well as the venue that is willy-nilly pulling in visitors from among both locals and holiday-makers.

Fire up for an escape to Santander to discover this new art centre – book your Vueling here.

Text by Los Viajes de ISABELYLUIS



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