The Rioja Alavesa region possesses a vast prehistoric heritage dating back to 3365 BC. The discovery of nine dolmens, three settlements and several necropoleis and hypogeums, which date from the Neolithic to the Iron Age, testify to the archaeological importance of this region. The territory has been radically transformed by human intervention since the first megalithic structures were built, leaving the topography and the mountain chain of Sierra de Cantabria as the only invariable elements throughout history.



The Centre of Interpretation of Prehistory in Rioja Alavesa comprises a museum and research laboratories. Unlike a traditional history museum, CIPRA stands as a device that gathers and articulates the archaeological remains scattered over the territory. Prehistory in Rioja Alavesa cannot be understood without exploring the settlements and their surrounding landscape. For that purpose, the museum was designed in two separate scales: a territorial scale defined by a route and a human scale determined by an architectural intervention. The route was drawn over existing agricultural roads, connecting the archaeological sites to understand them as a part of a whole.



The route crosses the building, integrating it into the landscape and defining a clear spine aligned to the prehistoric settlement of La Olla. As a metaphor of local megalithic architecture, CIPRA stands on the top of a hill, buried as a dolmen that contains our past ready to be discovered.  The local sandstone and soil used in the homes and tombs of prehistory define the materiality of the construction, leaving the interior corridor as the only element standing out in the composition. The white concrete of the central corridor replicates the effect produced by the white limestone mined from the Sierra de Cantabria that was used to cover the dolmens. The megalithic walls that define the corridor emerge in the landscape as the only reminder its prehistorical content: a reminder of the past necessary to build our future.

Laguardia, Spain  03/2015

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