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The Old Main Seminars: Comillas,Cantabria


In the last decades of the nineteenth century, thanks to the Comillas Lord, the town became a hub of theincipient Catalan Modernism. The seminary began with some sketches of Jesuit and Engineer Miguel deAlcolado, later on Joan Martorell and Lluis Domenech i Montaner started to work in the project giving thebuilding the monumental and desired style.The building has an academic style plan, with two cloisters with functional rooms and a central body withsignificant institutional spaces.After its abandonment in the 90s, it was in a terrible condition. The most remarkable architectural spaces,the lobby, the main hall and the church facades had minimal alterations, although they presented asignificant deterioration due to time and lack of use. The rest of the spaces had suffered multipleinterventions that trumped the apparent clarity that promises cloistered architectural type. The diseasescaused by an extremely experimental construction at the time demanded swift action.The project proposes two complementary intervention degrees in two different areas of the building.On one hand, the maintenance and conservation of most artistic spaces, located in the central body,with extensive renovation to restore its original splendor. The intervention is enriched with small specificactions intended to qualify and reclaim the spaces. We open holes looking for permeability betweenparts of the building, the church gets greater formal autonomy. We design new walls and floors whichnaturally mixed with the modernist elements and we recreate a magical space in the mansard on theauditorium .On the other hand, it raises a more intensive rehabilitation in the cloisters, trying to transform its oppressivecharacter. We consider there is no need here to keep the same effort restorer we decide to operatemore freely, introducing new programs and technologies as required. We demolish most of the buildingand built in vacuum. The brick walls remaining acquire all its expressiveness. We solve most of the projecttechnical aspects with a new wall, following the traces of the old and obsolete intermediate one.The new wall articulates the relationship between visual and functional halls and cloisters, through thesystematic order of their holes. The wall consists of two canvases where white concrete slabs aresupported and they also brace the restored original facades. The wall section organized the interventionand allows for its hollow interior, breathe and run all the installations. A smooth wall, as a "stucco"concrete reflects light and contrasts with the marked masonry texture of the original walls. The wall isfolded on the top floor creating a large canopy. There, we create a glazed perimeter gallery thatenhances the functionality of the rooms of this floor, qualified by the demolitions of the mansard slab,converting the attics in unexpected skylights.The different floors were arranged according to the new wall and the position of the cores and services,which are arranged precisely at the towers, generating flexible spaces that can be allocated to multipleuses. The new spaces are complemented by the church, which should become the great hall.New uses require a large space for service installations. This new building appears under the old footballpitch, taking advantage of the topography, in a long block with the same length as the Seminar.In the rehabilitation of the central body and the facades, it is worth remark the different structuralinterventions, artisanal glass restorations, paintings, bronzes, plasters ... and the emergence of newmaterials in situ terrazzo, walnut baseboards, Cumella tiles ... In the cloisters, the concrete of the slabsand the wall gain all the attention, contrasting with the whitewashed historic factory. Pavements aremade of Douglas pine and we solve the roof with deep beams of reinforced masonry.In the first phase, it has been rehabilitated the eastern cloister and the central body. We hope that we can continue the works to recover this important building.Architect Team: Alberto Alonso Ortiz, Joaquín Barrientos Barquín, Eduardo Fdez.-Abascal Teira, Floren Muruzábal Sitges, Eduardo Pesquera González, Jesús Ulargui Agurruza

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