The Water Museum by Juan Domingo Santos

published in: Architecture By Marcia Argyriades, 05 October 2011

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photo © Fernando Alda

With scarce water resources and a water crisis, architect Juan Domingo Santos, was commissioned by the Lanjarón Town Council to create a Water Museum that will act as an ambassador for water, its protection and our children’s future access to clean and ample water. Their purpose was to create a ‘clearinghouse’ for all water related themes and to do it in an entertaining and accessible fashion that engages as wide an audience as possible bringing joy and wonder to peoples’ lives.  With an aim to educate the public about how precious water actually is; this was the purpose of the Water Museum in the Lanjarón municipality of Granada, Spain.

photo © Fernando Alda

Located in a breathtaking spot at the foot of the southern Sierra Nevada range in Granada, the Water Museum had to be completed on a limited budget; Juan Domingo Santos incorporated many of the site's existing natural features, materials and buildings into its exciting design.  The Lanjarón region is renowned for its crafts, its honey and the quality of its medicinal water (including one of Spain’s most famous spas).  Taking advantage of the existing abundant natural features, the chosen area is situated alongside the Lanjarón River and an irrigation ditch that runs around several old buildings that were formerly the municipal abattoir (slaughterhouse).  For this reason, the museum was positioned on this particular site to preserve the natural environment from “property speculation with the design of a pedestrian itinerary that connects the new activity with the water infrastructure and several examples of traditional architecture, including watermills and an old public laundry.”

photo © Fernando Alda

photo © Fernando Alda

photo © Fernando Alda

Limited resources and a tight budget required the reuse, recycling and upcycling of local materials; to be frank, I find this ideal as this is one sustainable and eco-friendly way of construction and development especially for such a project which is utterly eco-friendly both in concept and in reality! For example the former slaughterhouse premises have been adapted for the museum, incorporating the irrigation ditch alignment and the river into the new facilities via a simple system made up of interconnected films of water.  An orange tree square site has been installed in front of the complex,  ''raised slightly above ground level using stacked prefab concrete blocks and eucalyptus tree trunks of different sizes.'' The site is overrun by water from the ditch at different times to form a space that constantly transforms in appearance throughout the day.  The shade and the aromas emitted from the blooming orange trees and the eucalyptus, the trickling sound of the water and the reflecting images when the square is overrun by water, all create a refreshing and inspiring atmosphere. 

Wooden construction on the former site of the old slaughterhouse courtyard generates the new entrance.  This pavilion houses a representative space devoted to water, a reference landmark in the landscape.  ''The building is a reminder of the time when the Capuchina Spring was roofed in the 18th century to form a wooden building that housed Lanjarón’s first official spring.''  The new Water Museum pavilion is a space which has been designed in such a way that it speaks to the senses, inviting the visitor to enjoy the trickling water sounds and experience the effects of darkness and light.  A strip of water undulates along the floor and exaggerates the experience and the feelings created thus formulating a similar experience to that of Islamic bath houses (Hammams).

© Juan Domingo Santos

photo © Fernando Alda

During the course of the renovation works, the architect discovered that the slaughterhouse was originally a watermill, giving this recovery work an added archaeological dimension.  The exhibition areas within the former watermill and slaughterhouse have been arranged using the selective occupation of the interior of the former buildings, leaving the corrals and other zones available for future requirements.  Panels extra-dosed in white have been inserted to frame the location of the new work, thus creating a contrast to the former stone walls and the brickwork.  This element allows for the visitor to distinguish the old from the new.  ''The two main pavilions are used as audiovisual rooms, and a third building is used for the museum and its contents’ thematic exhibitions.  In the oldest pavilion, a glass surface used for projections emerges from the ground flooded with water from the irrigation ditch, generating reflections that dance on the old mill walls.''

In conclusion, this low-budget, limited resource project is a meditative pavilion complete with orange and eucalyptus trees and hydrological features that allow visitors to reflect on just how important it is to take care of the world's residual water sources. Its limited resources and the restricted budget required the reuse, recycling and up-cycling of local materials. Another important element is how it assisted in developing a completely sustainable development both in concept and in reality!

photo © Fernando Alda

© Juan Domingo Santos

Project: WATER MUSEUM
Location: LANJARÓN, GRANADA
Project: July 2008
Completion: January 2009
Architect: Juan Domingo Santos
Collaborators: JULIEN FAJARDO, architect (project & site management), ISABEL DÍAZ RODRÍGUEZ, CARMEN MORENO ÁLVAREZ, MARGARITA MARTÍNEZ BARBERO (architects), JUAN DIEGO GUARDERAS GARCÍA (construction engineer, Surveyor), PATRICIO BAUTISTA CARRASCOSA (industrial engineer, installations), SERAFIM PEREIRA SIMOES Lda. (Wood’s pavilion)
Photography: Fernando Alda & ESTUDIO JDS
Audiovisuals’ production: TRANSVERSAL ARTE Y ESTRATEGIA SL
Client: LANJARÓN’S TOWN COUNCIL

© Juan Domingo Santos

sources:

Juan Domingo Santos

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