Andujar's town hall dates back to the early seventeenth century. Built incrementally, it was originally a theatre, with a pleasingly symmetrical Italianate colonnaded frontage facing the town's main square. Seriously damaged in the Lisbon earthquake of 1755 (Andujar lies in Spain's southernmost province of Andalucia), it was extended in stages throughout the eighteenth century, with spaces organized around a traditional Mediterranean patio courtyard. By the late 1990s, despite being a prominent urban element, it had become shabby and dilapidated, a scruffy repository of various municipal functions, its handsome colonnaded facade thoughtlessly blocked up to create more rooms inside.
Daniel Gomez-Valcarcel was asked to restore the building's historic fabric and add a new extension. His first act was to unblock the facade, reinstating the form of the original three-storey colonnade. Space that had been appropriated by the building is thus returned to the public realm. The colonnade provides shade and shelter, mediating between public and private domains, its semicircular arches of honey coloured stone rhythmically articulating the facade. Because of the fragility of the colonnade, a new steel structure, like an exoskeleton, has been tactfully added to give it the necessary support. Cleaned and consolidated, the building now forms an appropriately dignified focus of the square, terminating the main axis of the town's historic core.
Behind the existing structure, Gomez-Valcarcel has added a new set of offices and public spaces, organized around an internal street. The street is aligned on an axis from the main entrance, strengthening the public route through the building and replacing the original labyrinthine circulation. From the main entrance you pass through the existing patio courtyard, also sensitively restored, before finally connecting with the new wing. The welcoming promenade of spaces evokes traditional Mediterranean inside/outside types -- colonnades, courtyards and internal streets -- all designed to temper the effects of climate and provide a fitting armature for human activities.
Offices in the new wing are arranged around the double-height internal street, with public areas at ground level. Light floods into the space from a series of sawtooth rooflights. Galleries at first floor level are made of translucent glass to encourage the transmission of light through the space. Here the architectural language is consciously more abstract -- white wall planes, simple geometry and taut, spare detailing. The unremitting whiteness of the walls is anchored by a black marble floor that casts seductive glossy reflections and will age gracefully despite intense use.
Throughout, new and old parts are clearly distinguishable, from the new steel structure inserted into the colonnade to the new office wing, with its minimal, contemporary language. Gomez-Valcarcel has resisted the lure of pastiche -- not an entirely easy option given the historical significance and sensitivity of the existing architecture. But the outcome is worth the effort, endowing his scheme with both logic and rigour, while reinvigorating an important piece of townscape and creating a highly civilized internal public realm.
Daniel Gomez-Valcarcel, Madrid
Daniel Gomez-Valcarcel, Hell Sanchez Berzal, Juan Carols Ruiz Apraiz, Juan Carlos Yague, Manuel Perez Romero, Francisco Sepulveda Molina
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|Title Annotation:||Andujar's town hall|
|Publication:||The Architectural Review|
|Article Type:||Brief Article|
|Date:||May 1, 2001|
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