February 25, 2021

Leaks in the Arqua are due to budget cuts | Culture


This chronicle of a wreck announced starts before the inauguration Arqua National Museum of Underwater Archeology, in Cartagena, in November 2008. That day the former Minister of Culture, César Antonio Molina, highlighted the “last generation” museology of the center and for the delegate of the Government of Murcia, Rafael González Tovar, was “the most important museum of the world in your area. ” The Infanta Cristina was there. But while above it was offered by the opening of the center, after seven years of works and 20.3 million euros, in the basement the water had begun its assault on the exhibition hall. The Ministry knew since 2005. And so it has been until today.

Thanks to a technical report from the Ministry of Culture to which EL PAÍS has had access, we now know that the leaks cause moisture problems “shortly after the inauguration”, reaching relative humidity percentages in the environment “very high and harmful for the conservation of the objects”. The water enters through the joints of the screen wall that was to waterproof the museum and those of concreting in the foundation slab, which ends up invading and soaking the floor of the room.

We notify the construction company and the Ministry several times in writing. Culture never answered and FCC went ahead with its plan

Marcos Vázquez Consuegra

The Ministry of Culture was aware that the construction of the Arqua was not meeting the minimum requirements to be impervious to the sea. The construction company FCC was also aware, as Marcos Vázquez Consuegra tells EL PAÍS, brother of the architect Guillermo Vázquez Consuegra, responsible for the idea and design of the building. “We notified several times and in writing to the construction company and the Ministry: we proposed an insulating chamber of 15 centimeters and pave on it to guarantee the tightness of the lower floor. Culture never answered and FCC went ahead with its plan, which was to place a layer of gravel and nothing else, ”recalls the architect.

Culture knew it

On July 21, 2005, three years before the inauguration, the architects write to FCC, to reiterate “the need to place the igloos [sistema constructivo para aislar con cámara de 15 centímetros] in the basement under the floor, given the problem created with the entry of water through the foundation slab ”. Five days later they write to the Ministry of Culture to alert them about the same thing: “Due to the reasonable possibility of water leaks in the basement, this optional address proposes the solution of the placement of the“ igloos ”. And then the architects warn the Ministry that if this is not corrected, they avoid “any responsibility on this issue, being FCC solely responsible for the problems that may arise.” Culture never responded or took care of the warnings and shortly after opening, the building began to wane.

The Infanta Doña Cristina and the former Minister of Culture, César Antonio Molina, at the inauguration of Arqua, in November 2008.


The Infanta Doña Cristina and the former Minister of Culture, César Antonio Molina, at the inauguration of Arqua, in November 2008.

“The work was well posed, but it was a purely economic problem. The existing camera has no capacity to collect water. That’s why from the first week there are leaks, ”he adds. Vázquez Consuegra refers to the situation of “collapse” experienced by the most important underwater archeology center in Europe. Marine water is filtered by irregularities in the construction and causes moisture percentages “very high and harmful to the conservation of objects.” This is the conclusion of the report of the Technical Secretary of Infrastructure of the Ministry of Culture, whose story is similar to that of the architects. Both indicate that the causes that flood the building derive from the “irregular” construction. The FCC company has declined to make statements about the case.

Out of control work

The building is the Trophée Archizinc International Prize in Paris and the Building Award of the Murcia region, as well as a finalist in four more. But in the study of the Vázquez brothers Consuegra the memories of the construction, they recognize eleven years later, they are not sweet. Marcos says that before laying the floor of the lower room there were already leaks, because between the foundation and the slab there is no way to collect the water, which emerges and soaks the space. “And it looked like I could go to more, but FCC said that over time it would cover up. We knew that was not going to happen. Our solution was not expensive, but the company looked very strong. They sent and nobody controlled them, ”he says.

Seeing the seabed was the reason to build below sea level. But FCC didn’t want that window, it seemed expensive

Marcos Vázquez Consuegra

The work required the utmost care to complete the metaphor of Guillermo Vázquez Consuegra: submerge the underwater archeology museum and open a window to the sea. “Seeing the seabed was the reason to build below sea level. But FCC did not want that window, it seemed expensive. And he died when he started cutting money from the project. The construction company did not live up to this complex work, ”says Marcos.

The story of the facts of the architect coincides with that of the Technical Secretary of Infrastructure of Culture from the first problem with which the work was found. It happened at seven meters deep: the geotechnical studies found a compact phyllite rock, which they identified as “highly impermeable”. But they got confused, the report says. The rock on which the foundation rests is anything but compact: “When the material was injected on the rock to lift the screens, the product escaped to the sea because the rock was very cracked,” says the architect. If the rock on which the museum rests had been compact, the water would not pass to the foundation slab and from there to the ground.

Relative solution

Twelve years after its inauguration the building will close from June half a year, they report from the Ministry. They do not clarify what they will do with the treasure of La Mercedes or with the Phoenician ship of the seventh century BC. C., the two jewels of the center. But the solution that is going to be given is not the final, nor the most expensive. They will clean the salt that clogs the drainage pipes that should expel the seawater, but will not end the leaks. The investment does not reach 300,000 euros (VAT included) and the Culture report clarifies that the ideal option is to seal the waterways by means of resin injections on imperfect concrete screens.

Marine water seeps through the floor of the Arqua exhibition hall.


Marine water seeps through the floor of the Arqua exhibition hall.

This is a complex and expensive task, “which would require the basement to be completely dismantled.” Culture confirms that it will not execute this action. In fact, the Ministry prefers to downplay the “collapse” and the warnings that the museum has made for seven years: “The problems detected have not jeopardized the permanent collection in any case or impeded the normal operation of this museum” , they assure from the portfolio of Rodríguez Uribes.

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