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Miro admired.

On the island of Majorca, where Joan Miro lived and worked, a new museum commemorates the artist.

The Fundacion Pilar y Joan Miro in Majorca fulfils Miro's desire to build a centre for scholars and artists on the island. The centre was designed by Rafael Moneo in the Son Abrines district of Palma, and shares the site with Miro's house and his studio, designed by his friend and architect Josep Lluis Sert.

Territorio Miro is contained by a stone wall. Its gentle slopes are terraced with almond trees, and set high above the city. Unfortunately views towards the sea have in recent years been blighted by modern development, devoid of any architectural interest.

Partly as a response, Moneo's civilised building turns inwards, embracing the site, and away from its immediate surroundings. Abstraction has the effect of detaching the building from the immediate blight, but Moneo's work is always contextual - it is this that gives his various buildings their separate character - though in so subtle a manner as to be subliminally discernible through the harmonies and rhythms of the architecture. The forms of the National Museum of Roman Art in Merida, for instance, arise out of those of the antique ruins on which the building is founded (AR November 1985); the Thyssen-Bornemisza Museum in Madrid (AR June 1994) asserts the grand scale and order of the eighteenth-century palace into which it was inserted. And so on. Here, in Majorca, references contained in the formal power of the architecture are to Mediterranean Modernism, to Majorcan tradition, and to Miro's surreal works.

The building, stepping down the sloping site into a garden, is in two parts but uniformly composed (inside and out) of gleaming cream-coloured concrete with floors of pale stone slabs. It is emphatically horizontal and veiled towards the south by a brise-soleil, the slats being somewhat reminiscent of the Majorcan tradition of lattices. Internally Moneo uses simple monumental planes, light and dramatic scale.

On the north side, a long pavilion on two floors contains a double-height library, galleried and simply furnished with wooden shelving and furniture, and an auditorium furnished in similar fashion. A basement provides room for storage and services. Accommodation is set back on each level (in a manner common to buildings in hot countries) behind a verandah/corridor running the length of the building and striped by light filtering through the deeply slatted facade. The pavilion is entered from the main west entrance on the uppermost level. From here, you can look over a roof-top pool, a sheet of water that appears to hover over the landscape and the Mediterranean. Lower down, pools of water built into the interstices of the building extend into a small square and garden which has been planted with indigenous plants. When the garden has matured, it will obscure the unwanted views from the ground.

The aqueous roof covers the second part of the centre: a star-shaped gallery housing the collection of Miro's works donated by the artist and his widow, Pilar Juncoso. Its plan resembles one of Miro's creatures and could have been drawn by him. As surreal as his paintings, periscope-like skylights project through the star-shaped sheet of water diffusing light into the space beneath. Internally, the fortress-like exterior of the gallery dissolves into a single serene and luminous space with three levels, defined by simple planes and openings and linked visually and physically by a ramp and open galleries. Entry to the gallery is on the upper third level. From here, you have a commanding view of the interior and of Miro's creatures set out beneath in surreal cavalcade. As well as through skylights, daylight is diffused through windows set at floor level giving oblique glimpses of water and greenery, and through great screens of translucent alabaster which simultaneously recall the luminous translucency of Byzantine churches of the Mediterranean.

Within Moneo's timeless frame, Miro's atavistic figures so eternally expressive, are extraordinarily poignant.
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Title Annotation:Fundacion Pilar y Joan Miro museum building
Author:McGuire, Penny
Publication:The Architectural Review
Date:Feb 1, 1996
Previous Article:Soane's time and space.
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