An acre can be an opened or a close surface, or something in between. The squares around the eastern flank of the Cathedral of Santiago are the result of a set of circunstances: a complex natural slope, the previous presence of a cemetery, the presence of monastic buildings… This makes for a set of spaces enclosed by strong institutions, which have grown in power throught time with a magnificent architecture, whose expresion has sometimes been baroque, and in other moments quite austere, with new proposals in the interiors like the fine project by BMJ for Casa da Conga.
In Berlin, on the other side, the combined surface of both Spanish squares is covered by … well, a square slab, supported on eight steel columns (the building has a larger basement, but it is scarcely visible from the outside, its presence resting on the upper part). The building, by the great master Mies Van der Rohe, is a space whose enclosure is defined first by the large slab itself, and also by a glass curtain on an inner position. There are no obstacles to view the outside and, for instance, Sankt Matthaus church, the Philarmonie or the Sony Plaza. When I visited the Galerie in 2011, it was empty but for a large cylindrical installation. The building is elegant in proportions, but so nude of ornament that any rust mark or any reminder of the complexity of reality is simply too apparent. Opose that to the Santiago squares, all with a granite which has suffered the passage of time. As in the case of the large ships carrying oil derricks, this a matter of a play of spaces and scale relations, in each case with a different result.