Project: Auditorium in the church of Sant Francesc convent
Location: Santpedor (Catalonia)
Area: 950 m2
Client: Santpedor City Council
Author: David Closes (architect)
Collaborators: Dídac Dalmau (construction engineer), BOMA (structures consultants), Toni Vila (industrial engineer), Jordi Surroca (photographer)
Date of project: 2005 (1st phase), 2010 (2nd phase)
Execution: 2006-2008 (1st phase), 2010-2011 (2nd phase)
Builder: Construccions F. Vidal / GrupSoler
Cost: 1.601.553 euros (vat included)
Guest article by Lydia Parafianowicz for Frameweb.com
In Santpedor, Spain, a crippled 18th century church has been restored and rejuvenated with a new purpose and life.
Santpedor is a small, rustic municipality located roughly 75km north of Barcelona. Overlooking a hilly Spanish countryside, it boasts just over 7000 inhabitants. The town’s two sites include the Romanesque-Gothic church of St. Peter and the Hermitage of St. Francis. Here is where our story of revival begins. The hermitage once included the church and convent of a Franciscan congregation, built by priests in the 1700s. In 1835 however, the convent was sacked, and eventually demolished in 2000. What remained of the church itself was largely dilapidated and ruinous – walls had crumbled, window wells had drooped and gaping holes dotted the roof.
In a last attempt to save the church, architect David Closes was called to the scene from his studio in Manresa, about 10km away. His daunting mission – which had an accompanying budget of €1.6 million – was to integrate an auditorium and multi-functional cultural centre into the church while maintaining original dimensions as much as possible so that whatever historical integrity remained was in fact preserved.
‘Rather than reconstructing the church, the intervention has just consolidated the old fabric, clearly distinguishing the new elements that are executed of the original ones,’ Closes says of his clever solution. ‘The intervention has consolidated the church without deleting the process of deterioration and collapse that the building had suffered.’
Ancient brick walls are now dotted with elements of modern glass windows, concrete supports and bright lights and these new aspects somehow work more in harmony with the original space than against it. Partial roof collapses and holes have been filled in with windows, thereby allowing natural light to stream inside. Historic barrel vaulted ceilings are illuminated by sleek and slender lights. Glass walls separate public spaces from crumbling stones which act as an encouragement to visitors examining and appreciating the space’s past.
> The renovation allows visitors to read historical wounds and the building's most important spatial values, without giving up the use of contemporary language in the new elements introduced in the intervention <
Spanning 950-sq-m, the interior program has been largely left open. To preserve and amplify the beauty of the church’s central nave, Closes created new areas – partially outside – for the storage of large technical equipment. Moving through the central lobby, stairs and ramps punctuate the organic space with geometric elements. These passageways provide an unwonted circular route though the building, revealing surprising views as visitors travel the twisting path. ‘The intervention preserves the historical heritage of the building and simultaneously adds new values which highlight and singularize the ancient church in a contemporary way,’ Closes says. Future plans include a final phase which will also add a historical archive on upper levels.