Cultural Space El Tanque
The Cultural Space “El Tanque” is an old oil refinery tank built in the '50s of the XXth century. The preservation of this industrial heritage facility in its original location, in the Cabo Llanos neighborhood of Santa Cruz de Tenerife, was decided in 1997, when the urban growth of the city converted the former industrial area occupied by the CEPSA refinery in a residential neighborhood. It was Fernando Menis himself who promoted the idea of preserving one of those crude deposits by showing the exemplarity of a singular piece of industrial character. Today it is an unusual and unrepeatable framework of culture and has become a vestige of the industrial memory of the city reaching in 2017 twenty years as a cultural space.
El Tanque's design signed by a team of architects led by Fernando Menis was based on keeping the essential and original aspect of the container; it offered an elementary solution to the need for access and sought for achieving the constructive quality of a timeless piece of work. The design used recycled materials retrieved from the dismantled refinery itself and created between the two existing walls (the one of the base of the tank and the one of the safety bucket that surrounds it) a ramp shaped facility which nests the reception area with a small vestibule, an information desk and toilets. The entrance of El Tanque, located four meters below its interior pavement is marked by a five meters width swing door made of unpolished steel (also recycled from a nearby dismantled deposit).
The gentle ramp of the pavement, together with the roof and side walls, compose a space of a marked perspective, which provides a great visual depth to this access path. The low height of the space that starts at the door and continues all the way under the foundation of the old tank produces a heavy pressure effect on the visitor, prior to their actual entrance into the tank, which is done through a second steel ramp (also recycled from other dismantled tanks), and acts as an initiatory stage of preparation for entering into the monumental interior of the industrial space.
As the dismantling of the refinery progressed, materials were being reused: large sheets that gave way to the swing door, lighting towers that illuminate now El Tanque's outside, old drums turned into low cost skylights, and an endless number of small elements that found new uses. Some scrap items were even recycled for the House MM staircase, which Fernando Menis was building at the time.
As a complement, another foreign object is rescued and added to this project, an old passenger finger retrieved from the Port of Santa Cruz de Tenerife, which is here decontextualized and serves as footbridge for access from the street.
Its physical and functional possibilities have made possible its incorporation into the city as a cultural space and exhibition hall, a cylindrical void that can be freely occupied by artistic installations of different nature, offering an unusual multifunctional space of cultural activities.
A celebration ring for El Tanque
On the occasion of the 15th anniversary of the space, the Association of Friends of the Cultural Space El Tanque commissioned Fernando Menis to design a commemorative piece. Based on El Tanque's irregular circle shaped ground floor, the architect decided to make a ring, as a geometric and conceptual abstraction of this space. It was made of reinforced concrete, manually, in a limited edition of 150 units.
For jewelry use, one of the smallest pieces that exist of this combination of materials, generally used in architecture, reinforced concrete has been studied and investigated to behave optimally in the small dimensions of the rings, thought out and produced as a small-scale building. The rings were adapted to the shape of the fingers, after studying the angles, materials, textures and finishes to achieve an attractive, comfortable and unique piece.
The area through which the Tank is accessed, symbolically transferred to the ring, has materialized with Swarovski jewelry that comes out from the concrete, symbolizing the cultural energy that the Tank hides inside, and which springs to the outside thanks to the void which leaves the concrete. The wide variety of colors, brightness and facets that crystals can adopt are intended to reflect the great quantity and variety of shows that have come together in El Tanque in these fifteen years of life as a cultural space.m The inner circular void of the Tank, where all the artistic manifestations take place, have been preserved in the ring in its forms and proportions, using this central vacuum to introduce the finger that carries the ring, suggesting the user is the last artistic manifestation of this cultural space.
El Tanque Environment
Coinciding with the 20th anniversary of this cultural space, currently declared an industrial heritage building, Fernando Menis has been commissioned the next stage concerning the rehabilitation of the environment of the Cultural Space "El Tanque":
Menis's design for the environment proposes to cover the entire perimeter of El Tanque with banana trees plantations as a way to rehabilitate the historical agricultural landscape that existed in these lands prior to the installation of the refinery CEPSA in this area in the 1930s. This design tries to reach something beyond mere conservation and reuse, it aims to enabling the visitor to perceive the traces of history and understand its evolution. This landscape design involves a botanical approach that seeks a magic effect, as if nature invaded the industrial ruins and gained the overwhelming presence of this ancient and huge oil tank. It is meant to provoke the viewer to a kind of romantic worship towards those industrial ruins now reused for the art.
Mostly there will be trees of Musa Paradisiaca, some 700 units. The common names of Musa Paradisiaca are banana, banana trees, and belong to the family of the Musaceae. They grow fast, with a height of up to 7 meters, and usually bloom in the summer. They require a location facing the sun so the chosen place is ideal for its climatology. Inside the perimeter of the original wall of the tank, cypress trees will be planted, which, like the great majority of conifers, are evergreen, reaching a height of 20 m with a diameter of about 60 cm. Pyramid shaped and fast growing the cypresses will allow, since their early life, enjoying a green environment.
In addition, responding to current needs of the space managers and its users, the new project proposes to complement the services of the cultural space with the creation of a storage area, toilets and a cafeteria.