"La Cosa" at the Old Belgian Sawmill

Madrid, Spain

"La Cosa is a light, articulate and illuminated entity, with a certain pre-technological air, that permeates through the building resulting in plenty of scope for transformation." - María Langarita and Víctor Navarro, architects at the Langarita-Navarro agency.

The Project

The Old Belgian Sawmill – Antigua Serrería Belga – is one of those buildings with genuine charm. Built in the 1920s in a street running parallel to the Paseo del Prado, one of the main boulevards in Madrid, and just a stone’s throw from Caixa Fórum art gallery, it remains hidden away and can easily be missed by passers-by who do not know where or what they are looking for. The capital’s city council decided to renovate the building and open it as a multi-discipline and multi-use centre for developing and promoting digital culture. María Langarita and Víctor Navarro were the architects tasked with carrying out the renovation project, which was completed by the end of 2012.

For Langarita and Navarro, the challenge from the start was to create symbiosis between the original space and the building’s renovation project, providing it with personality and functionality but without destroying any of the original structure.

In the words of the architects themselves, "the design was conceived like a dialogue between two different entities: the Sawmill and La Cosa." Almost all of the existing building has been maintained "as it provides solutions and valuable properties that do not need to be duplicated", and has been added to with a new consistent mass in the form of a structure of walkways that hang from trusses located in the roof around the entrance courtyard, what has been called “La Cosa” – literally the thing – to create an intentional and integrated discontinuity within the building.

“La Cosa” is the name given to the iconic solution which unites the two wings of the Old Belgian Sawmill and acts as a connecting link and foyer for the various rooms that now form Medialab-Prado. In order to make the structure stand out and give it an iconic personality, the architects decided to use light to create an effect that people outside the building feel like they are inside it.

Thanks to this solution of using flexible LED RGB iColor Flex MX strips, the appearance of “La Cosa” has been given a lift on two levels: firstly, on the level of exterior decoration, showing a mass of multi-colour light that links the two wings constituting the building, and that in turn acts as a decorative element visible from almost every room in the building, and that, furthermore, creates an aesthetic benchmark as an added value to the activities that may take place within the interior courtyard. On the other hand, it also creates a user experience that submerges visitors in a space that is visually aesthetic and turns them into part of the structure itself by immersing them in the light from the hallway which has a variable ambience in terms of its colours and which can be programmed from a simple DMX control console.

With each of the LED nodes on each iColor Flex strip being independently programmable, the potential of the installation for Langarita and Navarro is enormous: "The chosen system not only enables RGB lighting but, by being made up of independent nodes, can also be converted into a controllable medium on which programmers or digital artists can work. In this regard, with the nodes distributed across every façade, “La Cosa” acts like a three-dimensional screen."

The Solution

An arrangement of LED RGB iColor Flex strips located between a translucent double textile membrane matching the exterior of the structure and the interior cladding of “La Cosa”, controlled using VSM Pro, a device that enables videos and visual effects to be shown, was the solution proposed by Philips and implemented by the architects. This has resulted in optimum energy consumption while retaining the chromatic quality and without diminishing the unique visual experience and wow factor for users.

Philips iColor Flex Mex

Philips Video System Manager Pro

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