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San Telmo Museum

Nieto Sobejano Arquitectos

In San Sebastián, Nieto Sobjano have restored and extended the San Telmo Museum, making a linear addition to a 16th-century monastery that faces onto a wide plaza just below the city’s outer fortifications. They doubled the size of the museum, adding a new lobby, cafeteria, and educational areas, all of which are faced in panels of cast aluminum perforated in four random patterns. To soften these hard surfaces they sowed the panels with moss and lichen that are now beginning to emerge from the perforations. By day, these will form a green wall, and by night a lacy skein of light. San Telmo demonstrates a skill that seems to flourish in Spain. Other countries have a rich architectural legacy, but it’s rare to find such bold juxtapositions in which the new and old enhance each other. Nieto Sobejano previously demonstrated their skill in this delicate art while remodeling the monastery of San Gregorio in Valladolid, which serves as a national Museum of Religious Sculpture. There the interventions were subtler, deferring to the extraordinary beauty of the original buildings. Here, the church and cloister are a foil for assertive forms. “We try to achieve complexity with a few simple elements,” says Nieto, “using materials consistently and paying close attention to the details and finishes.”


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