At the end of the last century the Kursaal auditorium was inaugurated in San Sebastián, home to many good hours of good cinema. Do you want to know more about it?
Measuring the impact that a building complex has on a society or culture is not, in general, an easy task, among other things because its contextualization does not always depend on itself, or on its authors. However, on other occasions it is so easy to measure the influence that gives modesty. For example, when talking about the San Sebastián Film Festival, most people think of celluloid stars and imagine them inside the spectacular complex that hosts the meeting: the Kursaal auditorium.
This fateful and complicated year could not leave us without the most important film event in Europe. We have had enough badly and, in particular, the celluloid sector, to give up this fantastic event. Thus, the 68th SSIFF or San Sebastián Festival has brought together many well-known faces, from Johnny Depp himself, through the young Benjamin Voisin, the promising Amaia Aberasturi, the solid Blanca Suarez or the veteran Javier Gutierrez.
The 68th edition of the San Sebastián Film Festival
But talking about cinema is not what this article intends. Here we come to take shelter in the well-found modern architecture, the one that uses the tools of our time to improve our way of understanding the world, at the same time that surrounds us with the wonderful feeling of comfort that we like to experience so much.
In 1973 a building called the Great Kursaal was demolished, which contained a casino, a restaurant, movie theaters and a theater. After several attempts to locate another property in its empty footprint, an architecture studio won a competition in 1990, giving way to the complex that we see today at the mouth of the Urumea River.
The Kursaal auditorium and congress center is the mecca of cinema in San Sebastián
We are talking about the Kursaal auditorium and congress center, whose construction was completed in 1999, by the companies Dragados, Amenabar and Altuna y Uría. The total budget of the complex amounted to 54.09 million euros, which at that time was about 9,000 million pesetas.
This money was used to make two buildings: the auditorium, with capacity for 1,806 spectators and the congress hall, with capacity for 624 people. In numbers this amounts to 60,440 square meters built, 49,908 useful and 13,160 of terraces and outdoor spaces.
The architect decided to break the urban fabric and turn this place into an element of fusion between nature and the city. In other words, converting buildings into geographical features, reflecting the Urgull and Uría mountains. For this he designed two buildings in the shape of cubes, representing two gigantic beached rocks, an exquisite nod to the natural environment and an unpredictable genius.
In addition, to round off he decided that the surrounding material was glass, perfect as an intermediate element between the two worlds.
A building inspired by the Urgull and Uría mountains
The auditorium where the film festival is held is 60 meters long, 48 meters wide and 27 meters high. Its rectangular shape, with a flat roof, slopes slightly giving a sensation of movement which is helped by the translucent and curved glassware on the outside.
Inside, the main room is accessible via ramps and stairs, the latter executed with stainless steel and wood panels. In addition, a fantastic lobby offers views of Zurriola beach.
The congress hall has dimensions of 43 meters long, 32 wide and 20 high. It is also executed with a metallic structure and double wall and arranged in such a way that its back is to the other property. Below the buildings there are two floors of garages and areas for dressing rooms, machinery, an exhibition hall and commercial premises. Of course, you can not miss the restoration in the complex.
In this case, it is represented by the restaurant ni neu, with the shadow of chef Andoni Luis Adúriz, guiding Mikel Gallo’s hands in the kitchen.
A complicated construction due to the proximity of the sea
Building so close to the coast comes with its difficulties. The executed foundation is located below sea level. This made it necessary to place a special welded and watertight sheet under the foundation slab, which was tested for watertightness in each of the welds.
All this while controlling the seawater inlets so that they do not impede the work. According to the contractors, ventilation galleries were left under the lower slab, which can be visited to check their condition regularly.
In this marvel of architecture, concrete of 400 kilos of resistance and prefabricated beams were used, some of 36 meters in length and 54 tons in weight, in which support platforms for the external machinery were located.
The roofs of the terraces were executed on huge V-shaped beams, a very effective and viable way of transmitting loads while leaving large interior spaces. The facades are banked by stone-covered walls, a true connecting material with nature, due to its own idiosyncrasy.
The incredible led screen on the Kursaal façade
The metal structure that maintains the volume of the buildings belongs to the Urssa company, the same company that supplied the curved glass for the façade. The flat glass on the inside is the work of Cricursa, and the carpentry was carried out by the Blasco and Elorza companies.
But, nevertheless, surely what we like the most and / or surprise is the fantastic LED lighting (always Led’s) in the building. It is the largest LED facade in Spain with 1,500 square meters of surface. This allows endless utilities, such as the formation of the festival’s promotional poster.
The Kursaal is a masterpiece of the great Rafael Moneo
The complex has been awarded the Mies Van der Rohe Prize for Contemporary Architecture, the highest architectural honor that can be achieved in Europe. But let’s unveil the secret, the architect who designed the beached rocks is none other than Rafael Moneo, the first Spanish Pritkzer Prize winner and contemporary benchmark for a large number of important buildings inside and outside our borders.
Anyway, our celluloid stars have a good place to go to show their fantastic work, even with the uncomfortable, but necessary measures to prevent the spread of Covid-19.