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Rehabilitation of “Montaner i Simón” printing-house for Fundació Tàpies
Awards: FAD Awards finalist; winner Decada Awards 2001; Presented Congresos Museologia del Ministerio de Cultura; Selected IX Biennale Arquitectura de Venecia (2004)
Removing the dreadful alterations the building had undergone helped us to discover the profound structure of the work of Domènech i Montaner. The three components we isolated guided us throughout the project: wealth of unit space, boosted by the intentional differences in level and holes in the slabs which were suggestive of a more complex, unitary perceptions than that described in the plans, the fact that it was a compositional, subtle, non-redundant proposal involving modulated grading of the iron pillars at a height of six metres; and, lastly, the use of zenith light that had allowed for a glimpse of the climax of the Palau de la Música. We began by dealing with the large space and the more time went by the more convinced we were that we could optimally exploit this comprehensive reality, summing up the three starting points in a unit-based proposal. We sensed that the major development of space called for a culmination on the ceiling, a decisive point in the venue and this gave rise to the design of the new skylight. Moreover, the presence of the existing wood shelf faces, we not only suggestive of a second level of order, they also encouraged us to explore the ingenious idea by Domènech i Montaner of opening windows in the city block courtyard façade that would alternate with the overhangs of these shelves. Accordingly, incredible transparency was achieved in such heavy structures as well as a highly important façade to the courtyard. The design of the central skylight to replace the original to prevent the sun’s rays from affecting the paintings was a major effort. However, things improved once we attained a type of fold that would strengthen the reflections of light and create a tone of shades. The old shelves as a library which for Roser and myself was one of the most heightened points in the project. We tried to eliminate some of them to open up spaces for readers and for the librarian’s desk, leaving the remaining shelves for storage. We assumed that by simply removing parts of horizontal shelves, without taking out vertical ones, we would make way for corridors, set up study carrels and the librarian would even have a comfortable table crossed by struts. W finally saw how important that was: the struts, the forest area of small columns as if shrouded in the holy air of a mosque. In order to create the perfect atmosphere we added the occasional floating lamp, each at the same height. As briefly and objectively as possible, I wish to mention the intervention carried out in 2010 by the architect from Madrid Ábalos. The “renovation” strategy casts a veil over the construction of offices in the city block courtyard which ruin the rear façade designed by Domènech i Montaner, aside from being obtrusive. Inside, the foundation has been painted white as if it were Soho gallery from the 1980s.