Kursaal Cultural Centre and Auditorium, San Sebastian
Rafael Moneo 

Kursaal Cultural Centre and Auditorium, San Sebastian

Rafael Moneo 

 ON UNA CONFIGURACIÓN dominada por los ras-gos excepcionales de su enclave geográfico,

San Sebatian has always been dominated by the extraordinary features of its geography, but in many ways owes its current physiognomy to the coast wall that led to the construction of the Zurriola quarter in 1919. An exceptional spot in this new area – the point of encounter among Ensanche, river and sea – was chosen to be the site of the Gran Kursaal, the casino that became a movie theater when Primo de Rivera outlawed gambling. Competitions held in 1965 and 1972 each tried to channel the singular visibility of the site toward more profitable endeavors, and finally in 1990 – the original building by then long gone – it was decided that the city’s auditorium and convention would be built there.

With its geometry inspired by the stone blocks of the coastal wall, the translucent volumes of the convention center look like rocks beached along the river, belonging more to the landscape than to the urban surroundings.

The project presents itself as just another geographical feature of this stretch of coast. Inspired by the stones once used for the seaboard wall, the volumes of the auditorium and convention center rise like two beached rocks at the mouth of the river, belonging not to the city but to the landscape. Their compact masses are clearly defined by a skin of glass that is dense and opaque by day, and translucent and luminous at night. The platform that connects them takes on the function of a landmark, like an incident along the thoroughfare that stretches between mounts Urgull and Ulía. Under the large canopy that is a prolongation of this base, the entrances to the concert and congress halls are flanked by the exhibition facilities, the boutiques and the restaurant that form the Kursaal’s urban front, facing the Zurriola Avenue. Thus the complex handles the meeting between urban fabric and geography through a play of small-scale pieces.

The new Kursaal’s image on Donostia’s bay is much conditioned by the double glass skins that, protect the wooden-clad volumes of the main halls. Curving in a way that distances them from the conventional curtain wall, these pieces made of glass and butiral are sustained by an aluminum structure containing the building services. The auditoriums are placed slightly asymmetrically inside these opalescent prisms, and their dimensions follow acoustic criteria: floor plans of proportions close to the double square, flat ceilings and heights that guarantee ten cubic meters for each spectator. The spaces between the auditoriums and the outer shells are used as foyers that offer views of the sea and bring in the beachwalk, while acting as venues of social life, where one goes to see and be seen.

The concert halls were planned following acoustic requirements, through rectangular floor plans with proportions of two to one, and flat, high ceilings that guarantee ten cubic meters of air space for each spectator.


Cliente Client
Centro Kursaal-Kursaal Elkargunea 

Arquitecto Architect
Rafael Moneo

Colaboradores Collaborators
Luis Rojo, J. Inaba, A. Borges, B. Price, E. Gould, C. Creppell, N. Chen, A. Ho, I. Quemada, E. Belzunce,F. Iznaola, J. Kleihues, L. Díaz Mauriño, A. Zanetti, R. Robinowitz 

Consultores Consultants
Javier Manterola, Jesús Jiménez Cañas (estructura structure); Higini Arnau (acústica acoustics

Contratistas Contractors
Dragados, Amenabar y Urssa, Altuna y Uría

Fotos Photos
Duccio Malagamba