World Design Spotlight: MuVIM
23 May 2022 /

World Design Spotlight: MuVIM

The Valencian Museum of the Enlightenment and Modernity, better known as the MuVIM, is located on a large plot in the centre of Valencia, originally the site of the Hospital de los Inocentes, the first psychiatric centre, as such, in history. It was also the location of the Hospital General and the Faculty of Medicine. With the increase in population, by around 1900 the city had outgrown those healthcare infrastructures and they were relocated to other sites in Valencia.

Of all those constructions the only part left standing was the hospital infirmary which is, today, a very well-used public library. Some archaeological remains were also conserved and these have been maintained, as testimony, dispersed around the gardens.

The demolition of the other buildings, with over 600 years of history, was carried out for speculative purposes to build high-rise housing blocks, but the response by some cultural institutions that objected to this proposal managed to stop this urban development.

In this place, so full of history, it was decided in 1998 to begin building the MuVIM, which would be completed in 2001. A museum built on a plot with an angular and difficult geometry by the architect Guillermo Vázquez Consuegra (Sevilla, 1945) and which is one of the most striking architectural proposals in the city.

Vázquez Consuegra, whose prestige is undeniable, was distinguished with the Gold Medal of Spanish Architecture, the highest award of this profession in Spain, granted by the profession itself every two years.

Honorary professor and director of the international architecture workshop Cátedra Blanca, Vázquez Consuegra has been visiting professor at the universities of Buenos Aires, Lausanne, Navarra, Syracuse New York, Bologna and Visiting Scholar of the Getty Center in Los Angeles.

He has taken part in many exhibitions, including the Venice Biennale in 1980 and 2004; the Milan Triennale in 1988; the Georges Pompidou Centre in Paris, in 1990; The Art Institute of Chicago, 1992 and The Museum of Modern Art of New York in 2006.

His Valencian creation, the MuVIM, is austere in appearance, in a brutalist concrete, with a length of 75 metres, and it has been highly praised for its modern architecture.

It comprises three main areas: the exhibition spaces intended for the permanent display The Adventure of Thought; the temporary exhibition area and the function room; and the internal area, which hosts the library, the study centre and the administration department.

The three areas come together in the most representative and largest space of the museum: the lobby, which is reached from the main façade and from the side entrance. This is a ground level museum and accessibility is present in all its installations, from the moment of their conception.

In the lobby, one can appreciate one of the most important attractions of the museum, a giant model reproducing the plan that Father Tosca, Tomás Vicente Tosca, one of the most important scientists of the Spanish pre-enlightenment, drew up in 1704 and which shows the city of Valencia as it was in the eighteenth century, the Century of Reason. Father Tosca’s plan was considered for years to be the first one of the city until the discovery of that of Antonio Mancelli, made 100 years earlier.

All the buildings of the model displayed in the MuVIM, including 450 blocks of houses, are carved and hand painted by skilled artisans.

The model is built to a 1:500 scale and it occupies an area of 24 square metres. Furthermore, it also incorporates four computer screens and optical fibre to light up the most important buildings of the city.

The garden that surrounds the museum covers an area of 1.7 hectares. It is one of the largest green areas in the city centre and responds to the project designed by the architect himself together with the building.

The museum, which does not have its own collection, is conceived as a museum of ideas, consecrated to preserving and spreading the values that have made the modern world possible.

Its permanent exhibition represents a daring approach to museum practice and communication, setting out to be not only an intellectual experience, but also sensorial and emotional. The MuVIM is a different museum.

Photography: MuVIM and Turismo Valencia.