Reader's House. Madrid, 2012

The Reader’s House, developed by Germán Sánchez Ruipérez Foundation and completed in 2012, is a place for education and innovation, a place where reading is understood as an active creative process that can be implemented through an immense variety of supports: the book being just one of them. To give space to such grand project, Madrid’s Old Slaughterhouse –with its 148,300 m2 dedicated to Contemporary Creation and its singular architectural presence- became the perfect site.

 

Within this historic complex, the Reader’s House occupies warehouses 13, 14, 17b and 17c. Office space responsible for the operation and management of the program sits in warehouse 17c, warehouse 17b becomes a multipurpose auditorium, conveniently close but independent from the rest of spaces, and warehouses 13 and 14, the most representative ones, accommodate the main public and educational activities.

 

The protected architectural complex required a surgery of great precision to retain its  appearance and internal structure, while providing the framework for the new use. To provoke this transformation, the consolidation of the pre-existing structure -in precarious state of stability- was followed by the insertion of a new structure and thus a new order, in close conversation with the one of the original buildings.

 

In warehouses 13 and 14, this new order is built by bridges, 40-ton and 23 m long precast concrete beams inserted through the windows of the thick masonry walls, resting on them. They are able to cross the basilica-like space of the twin buildings without intermediate supports and to sew transversally what were –previously- independent units. These architectural elements: symbolically represent the spirit of the project –the act of communication and connection intended by the new program-, spatially resolve the connection between the warehouses, and structurally become aerial streets that offer an additional support for the activity. Two physical, perceptual and functional levels are defined configuring a mutable scenario: the lower level is open, dynamic, social, easily accessible from the street and dedicated to exhibition and academic group activities; the upper level is a space for intimate research and study, visually connected to the larger space of the original building but sheltered by the linear structures.

 

The delicate metal interior structure and the masonry perimeter wall that defined the original containers, today continue to define it, and the confluence and relationship of both architectures –old and new- succeed to preserve the memory of the place while continuing its life with other exciting stories.

 

"READING THE SPACE"

Antón García-Abril in "El cultural"

 

"We know that alphabetical reading starts after decoding a protocol of signs that the retina scans. Then the brain comes to the boil and creates the images, emotions and structures of reason that enable to process the ideas previously hidden behind the complex combination. It is an intellectual construction of high abstraction and a creative act of enormous intimacy. Reading is also an act of communication that connects people’s life, that provokes dialogue with everything around us. This principle of connectivity is what feeds the necessity to read, and constantly expands with new languages, tools, supports, etc. In the past years this principle has been revolutionized by technology, allowing communication, reading, to be the line between the nodes of a human network; and supports and containers reconfigure their form and their function to submit to the main mission which is the transmission of ideas between people. The library, that was the books’ shelter, has recently evolved into a ‘mediatheque’, capable of accepting more formats. And now that it seems that the objects want to be the readers (ipad3 new screen is called the "retina"), it is the time when Reader’s House is being built, the most appropriate space for the individual that reads, where we naturally direct ourselves. Architecture brings together masses in mechanic and thermodynamic equilibrium: solids, liquids and gases; builds perceptive spaces that affect people through their senses. "Reading the space" is understanding the variables that balance all the physical reactions of the architectural system. While alphabetic reading is an abstract creation that interprets the order of coded signs, the architectural space is a concrete creation that structures energies and compensated forces, but that requires interpretation to be read and activity to make sense.

 

Together with the Germán Sánchez Ruipérez Foundation we approached the mission of designing and constructing the space that would represent and realize this idea, rethinking everything from its conceptual origin. From the definition of programmatic needs, to material expression, and semantics. We found the site, Madrid’s Old Slaughterhouse, extraordinarily rich of meanings, strategic not only in terms of location, inside the metropolitan area of Madrid, but also in the time when the project was born. A site almost urban, apparently isolated from the fabric of the city, but suddenly connected to the largest infrastructure and landscape network created on the trace of the Manzanares river: the Madrid Rio linear park. This connection spine made of public space is the most important axis of Madrid’s urban anatomy. And its presence helped us understand that the city is also a construction that links people’s lives. And that buildings should be supported by this linkage, and connectivity should be the basic principle of the system. Our intention was hence to materialize this network of connections and build bridges towards reading. Reader’s House will give life to the bond between people and reading."