A triangular mass of dark-blue concrete split in places to reveal reflective glass planes, Museu Blau is a presence hard to ignore.
The volume measures 180 metres on each triangular side and 25 metres in height. It partly floats above ground shadowing some of the accesses and letting natural light enter to the underground level.
In its striking play of surfaces, textures, and patterns, the Museu Blau, formerly Forum Building, alternates between darkness and light, solid and liquid, rough and smooth. It floats and hovers, but also asserts itself.
From a distance, it resembles a blue wedge of cake, but as you get closer you see that the building’s skin is bumpy like a plastered wall from the 70’s, only that at much larger scale.
The rough, blue-colored plaster which coats the facades of the museum, crossed by several deep vertical fissures, creates contrast with the stainless steel cladding of the building bottom side, which also forms the ceiling of the public plaza, and evokes the surface of the sea.
This area of the city was built in the context when, after the Olympic Games in 1992, the Catalan capital presented a cultural Olympiad: Forum Barcelona 2004. Some 200 hectares were made available for this project in the north of the city, and Herzog & de Meuron designed the congress center – the Forum Building, on a 9,000-square-metre surface.
The design was selected as the winner of a competition that was held in 2000. Actual construction started in 2002 and the Edifici Fòrum opened just in time for the Forum of Cultures in 2004.
“When we started in January 2001 with the design for the building to house the Barcelona Forum 2004, the site was a so-called “terrain vague”, urbanistically speaking a “no-man’s land”, with industrial installations, a residual water treatment plant and a petrol station, Herzog & de Meuron say. The aim was to convert the chosen zone into the most important and significant district of 21st century Barcelona.”
“The elevated flat triangular body emerged almost spontaneously, because it maximizes the possible footprint by forming an extensive cover for the plaza and perfectly expresses the specific situation of the land it occupies between the branches of the right-angled Cerda Grid and the Avenida Diagonal.“
The building was the symbol of the controversial 2004 Universal Forum of Cultures and the serious flaws that arose during its construction were widely covered in both the Spanish national and foreign press. The building has become a political bone of contention, with the opposition parties in both Barcelona Council and the Parliament of Catalonia demanding to know why it costed so much (of the order of US $144 m).