San Telmo Museum Extension

The Museum of San Telmo was the result of a long process of successive modifications that had partially altered its physical and functional character over the years. Its location on the edge, where the urban structure meets the topography of Mount Urgull is a reflection of an urban problem very characteristic of San Sebastian: the unresolved separation between the natural and artificial landscapes. The manner in which the materialisation of that boundary should occur is not a minor decision, because it reflects a specific stance when addressing the multiple discontinuities of contemporary cities. In few cases are these discontinuities juxtaposed in such a clear and yet harmonious way as in the strip of land where Mount Urgull meets the historic centre of San Sebastian.
The design proposal was represented by the image of a long, inhabited wall whose plan evokes the distorted geometry of the cloister and the nearby military bastions where they meet the mountain. The new building/wall formalised the idea that ended up bringing sense to all of the material and conceptual aspects of the project: its shifts and changes of direction help to address the pedestrian ascent to Mount Urgull through a large staircase and define the museum’s new urban image. As expression of the nature/artifice duality pervading the proposal, the building takes the form of a perforated metallic skin that allows for the growth of local vegetation. This screen, developed with artists Ferrán and Otero, is thus transformed into an unprecedented intervention that acknowledges the role of architecture with regard to public art. The appearance of the museum extension will change throughout the seasons, melding into the vegetation of Mount Urgull or asserting its independence in a long, unfinished wall: a metaphor of the imprecise boundary where architecture and city meet the landscape.