Odyssey: Arts Centre in the old Cros Factory
Julio Picatoste @ ETSA Barcelona
Historically the development of cities on the Galician coast has been linked to the figure of “rías”, both individually and as a group.
The growth and use of the ría is made through building, finantial profit, with the appearence of industries at the border; as well as with its relation with leisure and walking, connecting this way different natural spaces gathering activities along the coast.
The boardwalk, the city
It is in this point of O Burgo, where, leisure, walking, industry and city become together, where the project is born.
In an empty lot, unused, where an old factory with only its reinforced skeleton remaining, empty for years and that because of its volumetric and material qualities many potential different uses are envisioned.
A bad connection with the city is given for various reasons: the railway, lower on this point, is a breach on the ground stopping the pass and a direct relationship between both spaces; the other, the topographic difference of 4 meters from the factories and the boardwalk to the level of the unifamiliar houses at a city level, wrongly solved, or unsolved, with an empty space.
Morevoer, it is detected that this houses that round the plot are looking towards the city instead of turning around and opening towards the coast, leaving the front without activities or views that potentiate the place.
On an urban scale, the project takes the empty lot with the factories as the final step of the way of the boardwalk just before it meeting the old Roman bridge connecting O Burgo with O Temple, two entities that given its closeness and functioning are understood as one.
Following the logic of the boardwalk, in which activity pockets are added along the linear path of the coast dynamizing it (botanical garden, sports fields, playgrounds…) the proposal is to finish it with a cultural, creative, productive, and expositive equipment. Continue the productive use of the factory, with a more society-focused use, filling the void for this type of equipment on a metropolitan scale.
The limit between the houses and the factory is redefined, leaving a more domestic -but public- space in front of the houses, and a large scale U-shaped space gathering all the activity from the boardwalk.
This new limit solves the topographic difference with a ramp to which four new volumes are attaches, creating a new façade towards the water.
The opposite side to the factories and the new public space is a recent development of dwellings and supermarket with no interest and to which the project aligns without giving unnecessary gestures.
The skeleton, already reinforced, is understood not in the romantic attraction for ruin or death, seen from the distance, rather as an reactivated ruin, to which a new use is given, with knowledge and respect, for its intrinsic value as an “existing thing”, its architectonic value as a representation of the industrial patrimony, and its material value as an existing structure to take advantage from.
This way, two strategies are followed: connecting the three skeletons creating a path that puts the entire building functioning and it is possible to understand it as a whole like one machine; and make the most out of the structural capacity of the building, resulting in a system of hanging Fink beams and tubular steel profiles that leave the ground floor free and creates the path above, plus a bridge beam that connects the tower with the intermediate nave.
At the same time, it is about leaving the naves with a void that allows to recognize the original volume, for which the buildings takes different shapes in each nave respecting and adapting itself to the existing structure -both the concrete skeleton and the steel reinforcement- resulting in turns and height changes following the need of leaning on beams or go through porticos.
At a programme level, it is organized form an access point and reception in the intermediate nave, with a walled garden, through exterior stairs that make the access evident from the boardwalk, and from which the exhibition uses are distributed to one side, with a bridge looking on to the ría and two rooms for temporary uses; and the creation area, with workshops and various floors in the larger nave, that works as a big policarbonate box with an inner patio to which workshops are attached and come out of the building showing themselves towards the public space.
The workshops are distributed for their function (sculpture, photography, dark room, software, hardware…) and the orientation and lighting needs or protection that adjust better to each.
The exterior volumes adopt the more independent uses such as video sets, auditorium, cafeteria and project room.
What prompted the project?
The project takes place near my hometown, so I had seen the structures years before starting university and always thought they had potential to become something interesting.
So when the time to decide the topic of the project came, it instantly came to my mind and thought I’d give it a try, since it involved interacting with an unusual existing structure, and also gave me the opportunity to work close to my home. Of course, in the end it became much more complex than what I had in mind in the beginning.
What was your work process in terms of project development and scale at which you resolved and confronted the project itself?
At first, the site was analyzed in relation to the town, the landscape and the infrastructure around and detected the problems to solve in a larger scale, which created a rough sketch of the solution itself.
So there was an initial approach in a more schematic way to which themes the design would take into account and where to set the limits of the intervention.
These first ideas of where the project would go, had to be kept in mind to redirect the project when it was becoming less clear.
As the project gained depth and detail it became essential to think in a constructive and structural way. Getting to know the existing structure made possible to decide on hanging the intervention from the existing porticos, and the detail of how the steel Fink beams double to each side of the existing concrete beam to reduce importantly the diameter of the new structural profiles, and how the new beams would work with the existing; was decisive to the final design.
In the end, it turned out to work back and forth from the bigger to the smaller scale. Decisions like the structure created three new gardens on the ground floor and a large area of public space that were probably not expected in the beginning.
How important was it to think of the project at an urban scale before defining the more formal scale of the building itself?
The way I’ve learnt Architecture, it is basic to think at an urban scale before defining the building.
Buildings that relate to their surroundings work better for the city and its people. Also, it’s much clearer how to intervene in a place when you’ve understood the space around it.
In this case, understanding how the boardwalk worked, and how the city was (un)connected to this empty space brought up new topics to the project that made it much richer and with more layers to manage.
What dictated the selection of drawings through which you reveal the speculation?
The drawings that end up being in the final presentation are actually the ones that served me to work on the project.
When there were any doubts about the relation between the project and the existing, a new plan/section/elevation/3D was made in order to solve it and are the ones that in the end help me explain the project as I’ve conceived it.
Plan views reveal the relation between the different parts of the building and how they connect, while the sections allow for an understanding of the structure and the tension between the public space and the intervention.
Axonometric or perspective views helped to show the character of the project and its spatial three-dimensional qualities.
How do the classic detailed section & plan sit in relation to the more atmosphere montages and views?
They complement each other as they try to explain different layers inside the project.
The perspective views express ideas or concepts about how the space will be lived or how it is imagined without being necessarily accurate with what it would actually look like. They show the main ideas of the project in a kind of simplified way to be more explicit.
It also allows for the use of external references that have appeared throughout the project that make them a synthesis of how the project is.
The section/plan views are probably a translation of the design process and the ideas in the project into a 2D formalization. This formalization, includes both the technical knowledge used to properly “build” the project and in my opinion should include a vision of the future of the building when it is in use, that contains part of the atmospheric character of the design.
What dictated the use of perspectives as the exterior drawing and interior montage? How do these frame the project?
The exterior view was needed to explain the spatial qualities of the public space in relation to the building and to make the geometries of the intervention understandable.
The interior montage explains in a more abstract way the relation between the exposition room and the landscape surrounding.
With the chosen perspectives, the project is explained in the connection between outside and inside in both directions, addressing the notion of limit between built and non built, landspace and building, or building as part of the landscape.
Did you ever think of exploring the spatial qualities of some of the space further?
One of the initial questions of the project was about the extent of the intervention. After analyzing the urban fabric and the landscape the plot came to appear limited by the streets and the houses.
However, the solutions the analysis proposes include a more explicit connection related to the water, the boardwalk and the railway which could for sure be explored further.
What is your take on colour? What role does this play within the representation?
I understand colour as a way to express ideas, feelings or concepts. Either if it’s black and white, or full of different colours, your palette choice will define how the project is understood.
In this case, it became obvious from the beginning that to properly explain the intervention there should be a difference between what was already there and what was new.
Starting from there, the colours to represent each element came from different places that merged together in the final BLACK/existing, BLUE/proposal, RED/detail palette.
The main decision was about the existing-proposal colours. Black, as historic ink maps; matched the idea of the existing. Blue, brought from traditional Galician ceramics, made a reference to the cultural context and brought contrast and visibility to the proposal. Red, in small details, came from the existing steel reinforcements and provided a good tension with the rest of the drawings.
In the end, the Black Blue Red colors seemed to be like the ones used in typical pens during school years. That is, the most natural way of representing.
What tools did you use when developing the project?
During the process of design there were many hand-drawn quick sketches in a project notebook where most of the final solutions appear.
As for the digital tools, all the drawings are vectorial, which means everything was drawn in CAD and appears in the presentation as it was drawn. There was an intention of representing everything the project needed (apart from the collages/perspectives) with lines and hatches, reducing the number of possibilities (textures or realistic images) to enhance the drawing method itself.
Apart from that here was an initial 3D modelling of the existing which served as a working tool with volumetric approaches and finally as a representation object for the perspectives.
What would you say is the architects most important tool?
Common sense. The ability to gather all the information, analysis, inputs, previous knowledge, comments, critics and take from it a proposal that is working with the city, landscape, society, environment, costs, structure and many more outputs requires creativity, ability to communicate, drawing capacities, etc. but on top of all I’d say common sense.