Abandoned: Caixa Forum Entry by Laura Weinstein-Berman

Every time I see an abandoned building, I see opportunity. As many have pointed out, “nothing good happens in abandoned buildings,” and preservation provides creative solutions to revitalize and beautify communities. Especially as industrial architecture becomes obsolete in an increasingly technological world, resolutions to adaptively reuse these structures will become diverse and essential.

One of the most impressive projects I have seen is located on the Paseo del Prado in Madrid. Designed by prolific Swiss architects Herzog & deMeuron, the renovation was completed in 2007.

The abandoned electrical station (built in 1899) was purchased by La Caixa, a Spanish financial institution, with the intent to be a catalyst for change in the neighborhood. By providing a cultural space, the structure is now a main attraction for Madrid residents and tourists alike, with proximity to the Prado, the Reina Sofia and the Thyssen-Bornemisza museums.

The original electrical station has been lifted off the ground, providing a new plaza beneath and creates a floating effect of the building. This not only created a unique solution to new programmatic issues within the structure, but also allowed the architects to repurpose the original brick structure. The top floors are encased with oxidized cast-iron to provide a similar color to the original brick and also speak to the industrial past of the site.CaixaForum_2_LUCCrowdsourcing has also become an interesting intersection of technology and community development, to help identify potential abandoned sites to be developed. I recently came across Impossible Living, a technology platform that connects investors and concerned citizens to create value in blighted areas. Another project in Detroit, Motor City Mapping, encourages investment to prevent abandoned structures and lots through open information sources. As technology improves and open-source data becomes more accessible, prospects to celebrate and find new life for currently abandoned buildings should create positive economic and cultural impacts on neighborhoods.

  • Caixa Forum, Paseo del Prado, Madrid, Spain
  • Original building: 1899, electrical station
  • New building: 2007, Herzog & deMeuron, cultural center


  1. Fernando Márquez Cecilia; Richard Levene (Eds.): El Croquis. Herzog & de Meuron 2005-2010. Programme, Monument, Landscape. Programa, Monumento, Paisaje. Vol. No. 152/153, Madrid, El Croquis, 2010.
  2. Jacques Herzog: Caixa Forum. Madrid. Interview with Jacques Herzog. In: Supplement: X Bienal Española de Arquitectura y Urbanismo. 10th Spanish Architecture and Urbanism Biennal. Madrid, StudioBananaTV, 2009. DVD, 3′ 44”.
  3. Gerhard Mack, Herzog & de Meuron: Herzog & de Meuron 1997-2001. The Complete Works. Volume 4. Edited by: Gerhard Mack. Basel / Boston / Berlin, Birkhäuser, 2008. Vol. No. 4.
  4. Nobuyuki Yoshida (Ed.): Architecture and Urbanism. Herzog & de Meuron 2002-2006. Tokyo, A+U Publishing Co., Ltd., 08.2006.
  5. http://www.arcspace.com/features/herzog–de-meuron/caixa-forum/
  6. http://www.fastcoexist.com/1681844/restarting-neighborhoods-by-reactivating-abandoned-buildings
  7. http://opengov.newschallenge.org/open/open-government/submission/crowdsourcing-abandoned-properties-data-and-helping-residents-and-cities-act-on-that-information/