One of Madrid’s most innovative works of architecture, the angular exterior of the CaixaForum is so spectacular you might be tempted not to bother going inside. The cultural center and art exhibition space is housed in the former 19th-century ‘Central Eléctrica del Mediodía’ power plant, a restored industrial building that has taken on a new life in the hands of boundary-pushing Swiss architects Herzog and de Meuron. Standing in stark contrast to its surroundings in the historic center of Madrid, the CaixaForum seamlessly blends old and new elements to create its striking brick and cast iron façade. The real highlight though, is the peculiar yet brilliant outdoor vertical garden. A living expanse of greenery climbing up a 460-meter square wall at the front of the building, the garden is an impressive feat of landscaping and gravity, featuring over 250 different plant species.
Inaugurated in 2008, the CaixaForum now hosts a series of art exhibitions, film screenings, concerts and workshops spread over 7 floors. Among the highlights are a permanent collection featuring works by artists like Cindy Sherman, Anselm Kiefer, Roni Horn and Sigmar Polke; a 5-floor spiral staircase winding through the center of the building; a colorful boutique design shop on the first floor; and the quirky ‘underground’ space created by lifting the original building of its base.