GIJÓN – The building that is considered the largest in Spain has an area of 270,000 square metres. It is recognised as a cultural heritage and most areas can be visited.
The building is located just outside Gijón, Asturias and is designed almost like a city. It is currently known as the City of Culture, but in its early years, it was the Labour University of Gijón. Most of the spaces inside also have a function related to education and culture.
Construction on this huge project began in the mid-1940s when the Franco regime was at its worst and mining was one of the main activities of the Spanish economy. It would become an orphanage for children who had lost their parents in the mine accidents.
Until the main initiator, the Minister of Labour José Antonio Girón was removed from his position. By that time, the initial plan to turn it into an orphanage had already been shelved. Instead, it was given the function of an educational centre. At a time when such institutions were flourishing all over the country, it became the Labour University of Gijón.
City of Culture
Today the complex is known as the Labour City of Culture. As a result, it has not lost its role as an educational centre. It houses several faculties, the Centre for Vocational Training, the Professional Conservatory of Music and Dance, and the College of Drama. It also has a modern art museum and a large theatre, one of the most important architectural works for tourists to enjoy.
Architect Luis Moya
Architect Luis Moya Blanco was responsible for the design of this massive project. As a curiosity, it should be noted that the building is not oriented towards Gijón. For example, it does not follow the logical arrangement that the city proposed. This is also the case with other iconic places such as the Parthenon in Athens. The Labour University was placed in such a way that upon arrival from Gijon, the visitor would have to walk all the way around it to take in its size.
The first thing you notice is the immense tower of the complex, with a total height of 129 metres. For its construction, the architect was inspired by the Giralda of the Cathedral of Seville or the Tower of Hercules, the only Roman lighthouse still in use in Spain in A Coruña.
Another highlight is the church. This one is located in the courtyard and has an elliptical floor plan of 807 square feet. This makes it the world’s largest of its kind. The religious building could accommodate a thousand students and teachers. The exterior decoration is so intricate that you can spend hours admiring the small details.
The central courtyard is also remarkable, with dimensions comparable to St. Mark’s Square in Venice. The courtyard of 150 metres long and 50 metres wide forms the heart of the complex.
Another curiosity about the Ciudad de la Cultura in Gijon, Spain, is that the complex was originally designed as a city in its own right. It was intended to have everything the residents needed, including residential areas, shops, and even a hospital. However, due to a lack of money and changes to the original plans, this idea was never fully realised. Nevertheless, the Ciudad de la Cultura remains an impressive example of mid-20th-century Spanish architecture and a cultural centre for the city of Gijon.
See also: Asturias and the Costa Verde, hidden gems in northern Spain