In 1989, Ian Ritchie Architects were invited to contribute their architectural and glass design engineering skills to the creation of the new Reina Sofia Museum of Modern Art (Centro Arte Reina Sofia – CARS) being undertaken by Madrid’s Ministry of Culture with the architects Castro and Onzono. The specific architectural elements we designed were the three 35m high glass vertical circulation towers, using an established and tested system of glass fixing combined with an innovative method of suspension. It was also the world’s first glass installation which transferred wind load at the corner of the building through the glass edges.
The inspiration behind the design’s composition of flat surfaces and planes was Picasso’s ‘Guernica’, and was driven by three guiding principles:
Minimalism – The reduction of each component to a very simple form, and the juxtaposition of these elements to create a rich and legible composition
Modernity – The visible expression of current and forward-looking attitudes to design and technology
Performance – Ensuring effective movement for thousands of visitors daily, while achieving a degree of transparency that reduced visual impact from outside and allowed uninterrupted views from inside
We felt that the towers should have a didactic role, and chose to hang the glass from the outside and resist horizontal wind loads from within, allowing the public to ‘read’ the design and the forces at play, and give visitors the opportunity to touch key elements of the architecture.
To accommodate the demands of an urgent programme, the design throughout used simple components designed to allow easy monitoring of quality and rapid manufacture in the quantities required, and included the practice’s first use of transferring IRAL information directly to CNC stainless steel component fabrication .
Our work has given the museum its iconic image. It is listed as a national heritage monument.