ESPAI MARAGALL - PERFORMING ARTS CENTRE: GAVÀ
One of the fundamental objectives of this project was to endow the centre with the significance and transcendence that a facility of this kind ought to transmit to the city, through its façade, despite operating within a problematic pre-existing context. The Joan Maragall Auditorium occupies the centre of a consolidated city block, densely packed with blocks of flats, and with a façade that previously went completely unnoticed within the overall monotony of the surrounding buildings.
The building was originally built to function as a cinema, although as the years went by it gradually distanced itself from this original purpose and began to be used as an auditorium or theatre, despite its evident shortcomings and lack of equipment. In the end it was precisely these shortcomings that made it necessary for a project to be drawn up that would allow it to be both refurbished and equipped with additional spaces, to extend what the centre could provide in cultural terms and to more effectively adapt it to the community’s present day needs (providing rooms for dance classes, rehearsal of small format plays, the holding of conferences and various other types of events …).
In this way the fundamental idea of this project focussed on achieving a higher degree of representation on the part of the auditorium within its setting, by providing it with a formal and physical identity that it had previously lacked, while at the same time converting it into a multifunctional space with improved technical quality and a modern functionality.
The work started with the exterior of the building, modifying the geometry of a neighbourhood walkway to establish an entrance down a black stairway that runs the length of the pavement down from street level to the building’s main entrance doors, with the appearance of an immense urban carpet of black tiles, with a jumble of small lights presenting this renovated space to the city.
In this way the street appears to run on into the interior, covered over and crossing the threshold of a mirrored portico and a floor that presents an “infinite universe” of fibre-optical lighting effects that invite spectators to leave the urban chaos behind and slowly introduce themselves to a new virtual reality, of the city within the city.
From this point on you pass along an interior street, or boulevard, exactly the same as the rest of the urban fabric and which presents itself as a suitable space in which a range of actions and activities can be put on, such as exhibitions, presentations, games, children’s shows, dance, etc., a space of transition, before finally arriving at the theatre itself, the project’s true focus.
In this way the main lobby acquires a representative façade, facing this new invented urban space, some 30 metres in length and 6 in height, which thanks to the skylight that covers it appears almost like an exterior space and, in this way, helps to mark out and place emphasis on the auditorium itself, the essential protagonist of this project. The auditorium, which seats 600 spectators, has an immense and dynamic wooden ceiling that undulates from the entrances at the back towards the stage, providing an image that is spectacular and yet cosy, as well as having excellent acoustic qualities that allow for shows of a medium format to be put on with a suitable response.
The rest of the space is laid out around the theatre’s plaza, with a stairway/carpet of black granite tiles leading down to a basement level that shares the full height of the lobby and its skylight. The rehearsal and work rooms for groups and artistic associations are laid out around this stairway with the quality of the natural light ensuring that this space never gives the impression that it is a basement rather, and on the contrary, becoming a kind of virtual ground floor, a prolongation of the main street of the plaza.
The entrance to the new building likewise emerges from this plaza, managing to provide maximum visibility towards the city, along one of the main streets while also demonstrating its aim to integrate along with the city, by means an entrance that allows this new, virtual urban axis, which has been created, to cross the space from one side to the other, connecting two points of the city that had previously been separated, disassociated.
This building houses a rehearsals room that projects out towards the exterior over the roof of the lobby/plaza, as a kind of belvedere, creating a new perspective of the interior space.
The essential nature of the project can be summarised as the invention of an axis that has been used as an argument for creating, around it, a series of activity areas, the result of which represents a complete change in the configuration of a finite and enclosed area, turning it into a space that is dynamic, luminous and effective.