Written by David Cohn
Francisco “Patxi” Mangado, the 54-year-old Spanish architect, compares his bronze-clad Archaeological Museum of Álava in Vitoria, Spain, to a “coffer guarding a treasure.” He has developed this apparently simple conceit at a number of different levels in the work, so that it acquires a sensual resonance that reaches beyond words to convey his poetic intent.
The architect uses the contrast between the building’s bronze and glass skin and its setting within Vitoria’s medieval core to further develop his evocation of archaeological layering. A quiet city of 230,000, Vitoria is the capital of the Basque region, with a rich history dating back to the sixth century AD. The museum, a mixed concrete-and-steel-frame structure, is part of an ongoing effort by local authorities to rehabilitate the medieval center, which has been in decline through most of the 20th century. Located on one of its livelier streets lined with bars, old shops, and a few monumental buildings, the museum adjoins the 16th-century Bendaña Palace. In 1994 the palace was renovated to house the Fournier Museum of Playing Cards as the town’s homage to a well-known local industry. The two museums now share a common entry court.