Spiritual symbiosis: Church conversion in Catalonia
Client: Generalitat de Catalunya, Stadt Vilanova de la Barca, Institut Català del Sòl (INCASÒL)
Architect: AleaOlea architecture & landscape
Location: 25690 Vilanova de la Barca, Lleida (ES)
The church is confined to the north and south by adjacent buildings, whereby the single-family home built on the former graveyard at its south has particularly impacted the ancient structure, already badly affected by the loss of some of its substance.
The church was once accessed via its two transepts. A new entrance situation – the main component of the conversion design – has now been created in the space between the church and the neighbouring building to the south. Plants and trees – formerly neglected and left to their own devices – now grow here in more orderly fashion in what has become a quiet courtyard, its tranquil atmosphere underscoring the function of the space as a threshold between the outside and the c converted building's precincts.
Programmatically the building is organised into two naves, with the smaller nave adjoining the parallel and much larger main nave to the north, with arches dividing the two. The treatment of the church's existing fabric – such as the apse towards the east, the opposite west facade and parts of the naves – is particularly striking. Further remnants that appear in a new light include the ribbed vault that arches above the apse and two lateral buttresses that mark the transition between the main nave and apse.
In the course of the rehabilitation of the neglected church, the architects at AleaOlea opted for a light and airy structure formed out of a staggered arrangement of white bricks laid like a delicate veil over the old ashlar walls. The bricks take up the structure of the existing building and in an almost gradual transition continue it on in adapted form, supplementing and complementing the remnants of the church in a striking contrast of rough and smooth, dark and light, heavy and light. The old and the new structures form a harmonious symbiosis that redefines the sacred place and lends it a pleasant atmosphere.
The modern yet respectful conversion of the church has resulted in a multi-purpose hall that preserves the original spirit of the place while providing the Spanish community a new space for coming together in various activities.