Ancient urban places which have become familiar to the local people and testify to the community?s history slowly give way to the wear and tear of time, being transformed into decadent works of architecture with all the mysterious charm of an old man?s face. Surgical restoration of the building?s original condition is not always an effective solution, for elimination of the veil of wear makes it hard to attribute a time and date to a place and destroys the empathy between the human eye and the artificial construction.
A successful policy for contemporary architecture is recovery of a construction for a different function, often with a social purpose, as in this case of conversion of a market into a cultural centre. The old volume with a single nave and a big façade serving as a landmark in the city has been restored: its surfaces have been covered with vertical wooden strips painted white, set far apart to form an even weave all over the space, including the roof so that the building becomes a neutral space, resetting its relationship to the past and offering itself as a container for new functions. This cladding reflects light from the tall windows on the side and front walls, in accordance with the original design, ensuring that the outside of the building maintains its original appearance, so dear to the neighbourhood?s inhabitants.
While the old market was a horizontal complex on a single level, the new building has a strong vertical orientation, with four floors towering over Plaça Joan Monclús: two simple diagonal steel pillars suspend the monolithic block while lightening its impact and drawing attention to it. Not only the frame but the façades are made of black steel, forming a grid of sunshades over the glass walls starting on the first level. The ground floor is dominated by glass entirely free of barriers, extending from the old to the new building as a connecting element and a sign identifying the entrance. The steel architecture is actually a big gateway to the new cultural centre, housing its office space and service areas: the compositional choice of glass declares the link between interior and exterior, between the cultural activities going on in the centre and the square in front of it, where community events are held.
Design: Josep Camps Povill + Olga Felip Ordis
Project team: Mariel la Agudo, Aitor Horta, Jaume Farrés, Irene Solà
Client: Tortosa Main Hall, GUMTSA
Location: Joan Monclús Square, Tortosa (Catalonia, Spain)
Structural design: Prointec
Total usable floor space: 943.31 m2
Lot size: 2000 mq
Project start date: 2007
Completion of work: 2010
Builder: Grup TAUICESA
Metal pillars and cement slabs
Inside walls made of white painted wooden strips
Photos: © Estudio Pedro Pegenaute