VIAVILITY STUDY: 1995-1996
Cartagena, continuing the steps of already numerous waterfront experiences from the United States, with relevant examples in some Spanish cities such as Barcelona or Vigo, decided a few years ago to colonize the grounds of the quay of Alfonso XII, reserved until then to facilities and work Ports.
The quay of Alfonso XII, stretched and straight, built in 1872 in front of the walls of Carlos III, in lands gained to the sea, constitutes the physical edge of a city characterized by its imposing and beautiful geography.
Industrial buildings linked to old port uses were demolished. Instead, new buildings, such as the National Museum of Underwater Archeology, will contribute to generate a new focus of activity that will revitalize the sea and city. They will give rise to a new territory of civic exchange for all citizens, in that border and privileged space where the city ends and the world begins.
The port landscape is characterized by its incessant mobility. The coming and going of the big freighters or ships of the Navy, container lifts, or the continuous hustle of the cranes draw a landscape in transit, changing, never finished. The architecture proposed for the Museum is not inspired by the forms of the ships, as suggested by the modern tradition, nor in the urban architecture of the city, but responds to the specific conditions of the place. But places transcend their own physical territoriality and the building rooted in its place evokes, at the same time, the world from other places.
Since it is a National Museum, the program of the proposed building is twofold: The National Center for Underwater Archaeological Research, intended for research, restoration, conservation and protection of the submerged archaeological heritage and the National Museum of Underwater Archeology. The design option of building two buildings on the smooth platform of the quay of Alfonso XII could well respond to these program considerations. The limitation of the maximum buildability on the slope of the plot, would make it essential to build under the quota of the quay in order to fill the requested surface demand.
But are, in turn, considerations of another order that finally lead us to raise the idea of the excavated building. On the one hand the theme of the institution: Subaquatic Archeology; That is, the exhibition and dissemination of the underwater heritage referring to all traces of human existence that have a cultural, historical or archaeological character and that have been under water. We therefore consider it pertinent that the visitor of the Museum penetrate into the interior of the earth, in reference to the underwater and underground world, origin of the submerged heritage. It is a building that takes, therefore, from underground the argument of the project. And, secondly, it is a landfill. The platform that constitutes the wharf of Alfonso XII occurs as a consequence of the terriment of the space in front of the maritime walls of the city of Cartagena. It is, therefore, a space where the sea used to be. The materials, object of the exhibition, return thus to its place of origin, now under the heavy layer of stone of the old dock port.
The building emerges to surface with only two elements: the National Center and the great skylight of the excavated Museum. Between them, a wide ramp descends leading the visitor inside the Museum. The experience of entering is perceived, therefore, as the metaphor of an immersion in the sea. The two volumes, one long, prismatic and opaque, are placed next to the traffic track drawn in front of the walls and parallel to the canteen of the pier. The other, broken, angular and more transparent, adopts a geometry that allows it to form between them a sort of square on the quay, lobby of the building, anteroom of the Museum. A public space for outdoor exposure, from where you can see some of the elements exposed inside the skylight.
The position of the building of the Center for Underwater Archaeological Research, parallel to the new traffic route, which segregates the city from the new colonized territories, will allow to preserve for the citizen this space of reception of the Museum. The skylight, broken and random, is advanced towards the sea by tensioning with its angular geometry the straight line of the canteen of the pier.
Due to its condition of excavated building, the volume built on the surface quota is only half of what is allowed by municipal regulations, so we have minimized construction on the dock, thus providing public space for use and enjoyment of the citizen. This new urban space, a result of the way these two pieces are situated.
Guillermo Vázquez Consuegra