Architecture to be discovered throughout its own skin
by Mariana Jaramillo
A project that started in 2003 by the renowned Colombian Architect Rogelio Salmona, and soon after his death resumed by his wife and also Architect María Elvira Madriñán through the Rogelio Salmona Foundation, the Rogelio Salmona Cultural Center of Caldas University, located in Manizales, is a beautiful example of how architecture, through its composition and unique language can be a form of cultural expression that also has the capacity of promoting social integration.
This project is the most important cultural project of the central region of Colombia, containing an auditorium, library, science center, conservatory, cafeteria and other complementary uses, all designed towards enriching the university’s life and the life of Manizales.
The project rotates around a central patio that articulates all of its surrounding spaces physically and visually, and at the same time potentiates a relationship with the city and its existing geography.
For Rogelio, architecture was not only a technical and aesthetic representation, but also a search where he innovated within his own compositions through the use of geometry, materials, light and water, to create an architecture that was an emotional discovery as well as a sensorial experience. It was definitely a big task and a lot of responsibility for María Elvira, to resume this project and while respecting his principles, also reflect her own purpose and poetry.
Another crucial characteristic of this project was the fact that to be able to build it with materials that were not native nor widely used in Manizales, a lot of research was done with local companies and its materials, striving for special colors and tonalities. However, the challenge did not end there: they had to teach local builders and workers all of the skills to properly treat and handle materials to successfully arrive to the desired result: a skin made up of bricks and concrete that displays through its textures and layout different rhythms.
“And yet, within concrete and brick, the architecture becomes a discovery, an experience, a path, where the surroundings, the geography, the transparencies, the explorations are done for the sake of architecture. With her we build a language made of spaces, landscapes, water and time, built brick by brick. When looking at the finished work, I dare to say that architecture is not only to be wandered, contemplated, enjoyed, but is also read, as if it was a poem written within its walls”, as described by Maria Elvira.