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Homage to Catalonia

Part 2 Project 2010
Will Sherlaw
University of Sheffield | UK
The Project is located on the summit of the Turó Rovira hill in the Tres Turons Park, Barcelona. The park is found to the north of IIdefons Cerdà’s Eixample, the gridded masterplan which defines much of the city’s morphology and adjacent to Gaudi’s Parque Güell.

Due to its strategic importance within the city the site has a rich historical narrative, there is extensive archaeological evidence including an Iberian settlement and a medieval farmhouse. During the Civil War the site became occupied by Republican forces and anti-aircraft defences were constructed to defend the city. The concrete turrets remain in a state of dilapidation, surrounded by the debris of demolished mountain huts.

A proposal has been made by the City Council to ‘greenify’ the park, which includes the expropriation of 464 of the park’s dwellings to new homes outside the park, only maintaining and restoring houses of historical relevance. A museum has also been proposed on the site following legislation which requires sites of significance from the war to be maintained.

An initial starting point for the project was Homage to Catalonia, an account of George Orwell’s experiences fighting in the war. This project is an alternative proposal for a traditional craft school and civil war museum which recognises the sensitivity of the site, created by the archaeology, existing buildings and the culturally sensitive issues created by the relatively recent end of Franco’s regime. The building is part of a phased masterplan, integrating the anti-aircraft defences so the craft school and museum have a complimentary relationship and developing the council’s ambitions from a museum to a more sensual place. Through the heat, noises and the smells of the neighbouring craft workshops, museum spaces can be created evocative of Orwell’s descriptions.

The second phase of the project is the craft school specialising in four of Catalonia’s traditional crafts training the students to creatively restore the houses around the park reducing the need for demolition. Each year the school will restore some of the houses as apprentice pieces to create a park with a sculptural quality and constantly changing architecture.

Will Sherlaw

This student has chosen to investigate the studio themes through an intervention that re-uses a derelict anti-aircraft battery built by the Republicans during the Spanish civil war, on a hillside in the outskirts of Barcelona. The project remixes the rich historical layers of the site with the narrative of George Orwell’s ‘Homage to Catalonia’. It proposes that the abandoned ruins become the foundation for a new building that combines two distinct functions: a school for developing craft building skills; and a museum to the civil war. A key intention of the proposal is to explore the interplay that can develop between these two seemingly unconnected functions.

This interplay is developed by exploiting the variety of temperatures, sounds, sparks and smells of the different activities that will take place on a daily basis in the craft school. These qualities are then made apparent in the different spaces of the museum, so that the visitor experiences them disconnected from their source. The museum is therefore imagined, not as a series of exhibits, but as a series of evocative spaces that recall the intense heat, the numbing coldness, the grating noises and the unbearable claustrophobia of war.

The strength of the project lies in the accomplished way that the student has developed the proposal, with subtle and complex interactions being developed between new and old, as well as between the two different functions. The depth of the project is perhaps most clearly seen in the drawings exploring the chimney/viewing tower that forms the heart of the project. Here, the poetic qualities are developed in detail, with the opening in the large new roof providing rainwater for a pool around the furnace in which metal can be cooled and tempered, evoking an alchemy of craftsmanship.

Mr Russell Light
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