Anti-Palace of Plastic: Cultural Centre in Plasencia
Architects: Selgas Cano, José Selgas and Lucía Cano
Location: Plasencia (ES)
Spacecraft, barque, outsize caravan or lump of rock — among its neighbours, the new congress centre in Plasencia calls many different associations to mind. Like a Trojan horse, José Selgas and Lucía Cano have set the new auditorium in the bush-like landscape. "When are you finally going to take off the plastic foil so that we can see the building?" people kept asking, without knowing that the ETFE foil was in fact the outer skin. But the plastic is not the only material that looks improvised and lends this cultural edifice its sense of informality. Balustrade posts and cloakroom rails are made of reinforcement steel, and the bullseyes in the ceilings and walls are the simplest spiral tubes, as might be used in a ventilation plant. The image of the red carpet is something selgascano ironically play out from the orange access bridge to the reddish-orange artificial lawn with which the floor and walls of the auditorium are clad to shoulder height.
Erected in the middle of a financial crisis and with numerous savings behind it, the building cost only €17 million. Yet these measures were implemented not at the cost of an overwhelming spatial feeling. The interlocking levels seem to flow visually into each other, providing a range of visual transitions between inside and outside, translucent and transparent. Large room-height mirrors dissolve solid walls and areas of glass by day; at dusk and dawn, the spaces shimmer through this semi-permeable membrane, and the building withdraws entirely into itself in the pitch-black surroundings of a landscape-protection area. For some visitors, the dim light on the upper peripheral walkways is almost uncanny, while the number of round lamp fittings between the circular mirrors in the artists' dressing rooms are all too evident: most of the settings are empty in order to avoid wasting electricity. Even so — or perhaps precisely for that reason — the building radiates an unbridled energy by making it immediately clear that in art, the most important resource is not money but the creativity of the performers and visitors. To that extent, the Palacio de Congressos in Plasencia is truly a cultural palace.