Neanderthal Center

Piloña. Spain | 2010

Government of the Principality of Asturias

The transition from cave dwelling to the primitive cabin, during the Mousterian period more than 40,000 years ago, marked the historic origin of Architecture. Taking this event as its reference point, the Neanderthal Center of Piloña aims to be the constructed expression or the architectural representation of that very transcendent moment for Humanity, and not merely a container for contents. The proposed architecture presents itself, therefore, as the synthesis of two ways of understanding construction: a tectonic shell, as if it were a textile cover –a hut–; but materialized with concrete in an effort to achieve a stereotomic or telluric appearance –a cave–. Therefore, the Neanderthal Center aspires to be the very recreation of the inhabited underground space and the primitive hut.

The geometry of the site and the natural surroundings give form to the previous idea. The morphological outcome is a building whose program is primarily below ground level and manifests itself to the exterior as a large rock formed by slanted triangular planes. Multiple imaginative resonances appear: the building not only reflects the concept of cave beneath the mountain, but also a large stone tool made of flint, or the distant but present outline of the Cantabrian Mountains, visible from the place and surroundings.

The programmatic arrangement is versatile and qualifies the cave’s spaces for the uses required by the museum project and complementary necessities. Following a descending entrance, one crosses the threshold of the Center to enter the welcome area. This lobby separates the building into two clearly defined areas. The exhibition area is on the right beneath a multifaceted vault, divided into two rooms for permanent and temporary collections. While both rooms operate independently, at any given time they can join to better accommodate staging or additional exhibits. The remaining utility rooms are located to the left of the lobby.