The Musical Studies Centre at Santiago de Compostela is part of a study complex set in the lush greenery of the Vista Alegre district near the old centre of Santiago. The complex also includes the House of Europe, an Advanced Studies Centre, the IDEGA
(a university research centre).
The architectural ensemble gives a very different impression depending on the distance of the viewer. From afar, the cluster of buildings seems to have been literally dropped onto its green background. From the middle distance, the lines of demarcation between complex and greenery appear less definite. Then at close quarters, we appreciate the many apertures made in the rough-hewn walls and the varied construction scales.
The granite facades present their rough-hewn side: the line along which the blocks have been split. The stone is first breached with a drill and broken along a fault line, an ancient technique once again put to use. The resultant irregular surface underlines the volumetric solidity of the structure.
Acoustic requirements were key to the design of the Music Centre’s rooms. Where the acoustics had to be particularly good – for large auditoria, electronic sounds and percussion – each spatial volume was constructed over an equally large, underground concrete basement that mirrors the shape and slope of its above-ground counterpart. The upper floors are ordered around a series of “wheel” walkways which narrow with each storey, the top storeys being given over to less public zones like study rooms, teachers’ offices etc.
The salient feature running through the whole project is that of duality and contrast: of scale, timbre and materials. Deliberately distorted shapes in space contrast - and enhance - the harmonious composition, highlighting materials and their use. Although defying conventional architectural concepts, the building has an essential, simple geometry.
It resonates with the specifics of the external environment and culture (the “carballeira” – an oak wood-, the landscape, water and the Galician light) while the rough stone that delimits space harks back to the building traditions of the region. This thoroughly modern project is deeply rooted in Galician architecture, restoring the memory of the place. It seems as if it has always been there.