Ancient Catalonian Church Keeps Ruins + Gains New Soul


Architects who are asked to restore old or damaged buildings typically decide to bring those buildings back to their former glory. But David Closes decided to take a different path when he was charged with converting the classic Sant Francesc church building into a cultural center and auditorium.

The church was built in the early 1700s and was once part of the Sant Francesc convent. After the convent was sacked in 1835, it was left to deteriorate on its own until 2000, when the rest of the buildings were torn down. Only the run-down church was left standing, and it was this fragile and partially collapsed building that Closes set about transforming.

Rather than bringing the building back to its former state or even simply restoring the shell and giving it a modern interior, Closes did something truly extraordinary. He plunked a new building down inside and outside of the church’s ruined shell. He used collapsed roof sections as skylights and kept some of the building’s original walls as beautiful components of a building that embraces both the past and the present.

One of the most compelling parts of the renovation/conversion is the exterior stairwell. The gorgeous floating glass stairwell was added outside of the boundaries of the original building to avoid having to alter the shape of the nave. Other components were added outside of the building in order to minimize the permanent impact to the shape of the structure while highlighting its new, modern purpose.

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