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Tuñón Arquitectos, Helga de Alvear in Cáceres, Museum

Helga de Alvear Foundation in Cáceres: Art Palace at an Old Quarter’s Edge

In Cáceres in the Extremadura region of Spain, far away from the big art cities, an art collection that knows no equal in Europe has been built up by Helga de Alvear over the years. The 1936-born native of Germany counts 250 works of modern and contemporary artists her own, including by Ai Weiwei, Marcel Duchamp, Santiago Sierra or Jeff Wall. Far too many, in other words, for the mansion where her art foundation is based. Which is why in 2014 she commissioned Emilio Tuñón and his studio Tuñón Arquitectos to place a large extension at the old building’s side, at the edge of Cáceres’ old quarter. The mansion, dating from the early 20th century and previously renovated by Tuñón and his late partner Luís Mansilla (deceased 2012), will contain rooms for temporary exhibitions, the Foundation’s offices, a library and workshops in future. The extension, on the other hand, will accommodate permanent exhibition and the collector’s art storage facilities.

Located on a sloping plot at the margin of the city’s old quarter, the extension mediates between the level of the mansion entrance to the north and a residential street lying a good deal lower to the south. Exhibition rooms on four levels account for most of the new building. Parallel to these sequences of spaces, the architects have created a new public outdoor ramp and stepway system that cuts through the site to connect the old quarter and the adjacent suburb to the south.

As a UNESCO world heritage site, the old town area in Cáceres is an important tourist magnet in the sparsely populated region. Its Renaissance palaces are elegant in an austere and sometimes forbidding way; at the same time, their ochre-hued sandstone facades lend them a certain uniformity.

The extension is similar in character, but here Tuñón Arquitectos has opted for white concrete rather than sandstone. Storey-high pillars form a circumferential colonnade in front of windows and non-punctuated sections of wall. Window frames and fixtures in oakwood as well as interior floors in dark polished concrete also play a role.

Further information:

Team: Carlos Brage, Andrés Regueiro, Ruben Arend, Rosa Bandeirinha, Inés García de Paredes
Engineering: Gogaite, Úrculo

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