Human Evolution Museum

by | 26. Jul 2012

Cultural | Project

Photo: Val Vazquez Sequeiros © estudio Juan Navarro Baldeweg



Photo © Carlos Pesqueira

The museum occupies a central position in the building and also in the project’s origin, setting the goals in the overall building organization.

The project consists of a cluster of three-dimensional pieces – Museum of Human Evolution, Human Evolution Research Centre, Congress Centre and Auditorium – grouped into a compact unitary volume.


Photo: Val Vazquez Sequeiros © estudio Juan  Navarro Baldeweg



Photo: Val Vazquez Sequeiros © estudio Juan  Navarro Baldeweg


Metaphorically speaking, the pieces are: a basket, some boxes, and a cape that covers these objects. Two of the boxes are dark and closed, one is open on one side, the last one is a transparent box. The basket envelops the museum.


Image courtesy estudio Juan  Navarro BaldewegScheme

The dark boxes are the conference halls (large and small), the transparent box is an exhibition hall (for all sorts of objects) and the semi-open box is the research centre. The whole ensemble is covered by a flexible, waving sheet that shelters the various pieces.

Human evolution and its study and dissemination in the museum are interpreted as something that has to be intimately related lo the territory, the land, the geological strata and nature in general, which is the frame of reference for all life and the depositary of information; the container for knowledge that has to be literally dug up.

In other words, the project needs lo include an abstract recreation of fragments of nature, land and vegetation. So the initial idea was to create a large structure which holds sections or fragments of the land, built with architectural tools and resources, in continuity from a large sloping platform that spreads outside the building opposite the river with the aspect of part of a gently sloping hill.

This inclined plane penetrates the museum perimeter that fixes it with an embracing gesture and forces its link lo the architecture. The top part of this platform organises the main entrances to the museum, with a belvedere facing the river and the Cathedral, and also holds the café and an outdoor area for visitors, benefiting likewise from the views and the spectacle generated by the museum and lecturing activities.

/ Juan Navarro Baldeweg

Photo: Val Vazquez Sequeiros © estudio Juan Navarro Baldeweg



Areal photo © estudio Juan Navarro Baldeweg


The museum interior is a large area with abundant top lighting. It houses the prisms or sections of earth that suggest fragments of the landscape at the nearby Atapuerca site. lt is easy to imagine this environment as a greenhouse in which the subsoil also takes on great visual importance.

The corridors or “gorges” boxed in between the prisms are used for educational presentations of the geological or paleontological aspects of the archaeological site. From these corridors one can appreciate the strata that define and contextualize the deposits of human and animal bones and the remains of their technology in the evolutionary process.


Photo: Val Vazquez Sequeiros © estudio Juan Navarro Baldeweg

What they explain is expressed using architectural resources: the walls hold the information and at the same lime recreate the spatial experience of the excavation profiles and the strata of the land.


Photo © Carlos Pesqueira



Photo © Carlos Pesqueira

AI the rear of these large prisms trays or areas are set aside for a more conventional part of the museum, for objects and installations on three floors. These floors are linked by ramps that permit cross-views of them and, hence their exhibition areas, with the possibility of integrating their contents.


Photo © Carlos Pesqueira


The basic ideas of the project can be summarised in the image of a landscape that has been cut into strips, expressed on the basis of a Kitaj painting; gorges like the “double negative” land art, created by artist Michael Heizer, in which the visitor’s steps are accompanied by the strata of the walls. It is all sheltered by a folded, cut out and obliquely diverted roof, generated from a continuous film. The expression of this idea is accompanied by a chair in a cubist perspective, produced by Picasso on paper.
/ Juan Navarro Baldeweg

Image courtesy estudio Juan Navarro Baldeweg



Drawing courtesy estudio Juan  Navarro BaldewegSite Plan


Sketch courtesy estudio Juan Navarro Baldeweg


Sketch courtesy estudio Juan Navarro Baldeweg


Model photo: Alexander Levi, Studio Juan Navarro Baldeweg


Drawing courtesy estudio Juan Navarro BaldewegPlan Level One


Drawing courtesy estudio Juan Navarro BaldewegPlan Level Three


Drawing courtesy estudio Juan Navarro BaldewegLongitudinal Section

The building structure is both concrete and mixed concrete – steel. The siding material is a double screen system that combines transparent and silver glass opaque glazed surfaces, steel panels and amber stone. The roof is also aluminium and glass.