When it finally closed at the end of the twentieth century, the saltworks at Añana had been working non-stop since the year 822. The plan to upgrade the site entails converting the old canteen, left with only its perimeter wall standing, into a museum and retail outlet for salt.
A large ellipsoid recalling the upturned hull of a ship greets museum visitors as soon as they set foot inside the old stone perimeter. Plans for this came from the Spanish firm of Landa-Ochandiano; inauguration took place in October 2008.
The structure rests on seventeen upright arches of 12 mm-ply laminated larch connected by a double layer of American ash planks; one is fastened directly onto the upper edge of the arches, the other on the lower edge is visible from inside. A layer of rock wool insulation is sandwiched between the two layers which are the result of 8x25 mm strips being dovetailed together.
The wood surface was sanded until dead smooth. American ash is visually attractive with its pronounced veining. It is also easy to work in small strips which lend themselves to curving to the appropriate shape. A third layer of ipé in rectangular strips of 8x25 mm forms the visible outside surface. This material was chosen for its natural toughness and resistance to weathering. The roof of the building in horizontal section is a lamellar larchwood frame and a sheet of phenolic plywood. Rainwater runs off the flat roof and the hull-shaped form by two stainless steel gutters hugging the wall and the ellipsoid.
Choice of wood as the main material depended on the high salinity of the atmosphere and also the shapes called for by the project. Employing woods of different mechanical, technological and aesthetic properties meant that the material could be used for the structure, inner and outer lining, finishings and even the floor in part. The resulting building is a highly original testimonial to the flexibility of this natural sustainable material.
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