The Museu d’Art Contemporani de Barcelona building is the work of North American artist Richard Meier. Designed in 1990 and built between 1991 and 1995, it was conceived as an assemblage of several prisms (with a base of 120 x 35 metres at its base, a height of 23 metres) and takes up 14,300 m2 of floor space in total. The center is a cylindrical volume that cuts through all the floors – from the basement to the roof – and organises the exhibition areas along a longitudinal axis over three floors, starting with the ground floor.
Richard Meier’s architecture is fundamentally a formal reinterpretation of rationalism, with references to the masters of the modern movement, particularly Le Corbusier. The building is shaped by a combination of rectilinear and curved elements, a geometry that is softened by the external light that penetrates into the building through open galleries and large skylights.
The main entrance is located somewhere near the center of the made façade, at the same point that is also the start of a passage connecting to the garden behind the building and splits the ground floor into two areas: on one hand, the private areas, the bookshop and the museum store; on the other, the lobby that leads to the exhibition rooms (with a floor area of 4,980 m2).
The private section of the building, which can be accessed from the west façade, contains the reception area for the museum offices, a loading dock and 1475 m2 of office space distributed over seven levels. The technical installations and reserves area is located in the basement, which takes up 2,250 m2 of the building. There is no public access to level 1, except for the Auditorium.
Natural light enters the building, be it through the apertures in the corners, the curtain walls, or the skylights in the ceilings. Some structural elements are separated from the line of the façade and the building envelope in order to allow continuous overhead lighting. This concept also applies to the atrium, which the building’s quintessential space for interaction. It has been resolved as covered gallery, parallel to the façade, which filters and distributes light throughout the three levels that people move through in the museum. The atrium also links the three floors through a series of access ramps and a passage leading to the exhibition rooms.
The Auditorium is the only MACBA public space located in the basement of the building. It was created in the Museum’s first functional refurbishment in 2004, which was to resolve the increasing demand for a space of this type.
Today’s MACBA Auditorium is located in the area that initially housed the Children’s Gallery and the Educational Service on the first floor. It is accessed through a staircase in the courtyard area behind the main building, or from inside the Museum. The capacity of the main hall is 200 people. Its acoustic absorption qualities are excellent, and the furniture can be dismantled and removed, to allow for a flexible use of the space that is suitable for lectures, films, concerts and various kinds of artistic actions.
Convent dels Àngels
The Convent was built to house a community of Dominican Tertiary Sisters, which had settled in the land adjoining the Verge dels Àngels chapel in 1497. The actual temple was built between 1562 and 1566. The church was designed by the master Bartomeu Roig in Gothic style, at the height of the sixteenth century. The complex has a simple façade, with a Renaissance style portal, and two rooms: a gothic nave, which housed the inner rooms and the adjoining Peu de la Creu chapel from 1568-1569, and is the only chapel built in the Renaissance era remaining in Barcelona.
The Convent dels Àngels complex is currently listed as part of Barcelona’s Architectural, Historic and Artistic Heritage. It includes the sixteenth century church and convent. In the eighties, the convent and its surroundings were extensively renovated as part of an urban renewal process that was part of the project “Del Liceu al Seminari”. The restoration, led by the architects Lluís Clotet, Carles Díaz and Ignacio Paricio, added some new elements to the complex: a buttressed building built onto the chapel to reinforce the church, and the mediating building that faces the façade and completes the Plaça dels Àngels. After considering several proposals to set up various cultural facilities in the space, urban planning authorities decided to house the FAD headquarters in one part of the complex and integrate the rest of the space as part of MACBA.
MACBA Study Centre
Since 2005, the MACBA Study Centre takes up part of the convent complex: specifically, the third floor of the gothic nave and the mediating building that was built in 1992 and rounds off the western facade of Plaça dels Àngels.
The total floor area of the spaces used by the MACBA is 2,733 m2, distributed through the basement, the ground floor and the upper floors. The project to adapt the Study Centre space was also designed by the architects Lluís Clotet and Ignacio Paricio.
The space in this building is structured into an elongated, narrow shape, and four alcoves that organise the building envelope and are reflected in the form of five arches in the façade. The entrance stairs are located at each end of the building. The reception area is on the ground floor, along with a space set aside for activities and exhibition. On the first floor houses classrooms that are fully equipped with audiovisual equipment, and office space for seminars and teachers. The second floor contains office space and an area for the Archive, and the third floor houses the Library, lit by a skylight. This timber and metal structural element is extraordinarily slender, endowing the space with a quality that contrasts with the walls that hold it up. In the gothic nave, which houses the reading room, the ceiling is resolved using the same type of trusses. Part of this third floor is shared with the FAD, the institution that takes up the remainder of the floors in this part of the building.
Capella MACBA, which comprises the church, the Capella del Peu de la Creu chapel and the adjoining spaces, was transferred to the Museu d’Art Contemporani de Barcelona in May 2003, so that it could be used as an exhibition space. This required a further renovation, in order to optimise its conditions. The church covers 350 m2 at ground floor. It consists of a single nave in five sections, with side chapels between buttresses and a polygonal apse. A false transept created in the 1986 refurbishment extends the final section and includes the stairs for accessing the choir on one side, and an auxiliary exit door on the other. The Capella del Peu de la Creu, which has a floor area of 150 m2, is adjacent to the church and was also built in the sixteenth century, although in this case it was built in the Renaissance style. The chapel was expanded and reinforced during restorations in 1992. The refurbishments included adding new building on the side, to buttress the chapel, which currently houses municipal public service offices. A die-shaped lobby was also built, which is linked to the chapel and the buttress. The upper floor, with a 400 m2 floor area, contains the choir, the installations room and the outdoor terraces.
- About the Study Center: Mela Dávila: "¿Es una obra, o es un documento? El Centro de Estudios y Documentación del MACBA" (only available in Spanish)pdf — 111.8K
- Richard Meier and Renny Logan "Medieval streets inspired the MACBA's linear organization" from the publication "Richard Meier. Museu d'Art Contemporani de Barcelona (MACBA)" pdf — 559K