Josep Ferrando Architecture and Gallego Arquitectura transformation of a prison in Reus

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Working in existing buildings, and reclaiming buildings with new uses, is the major theme of our time. Always with a view to minimizing the environmental footprint of architecture, this work saves CO2.
This virtuous category brings together the latest works of Josep FerrandoArchitecture in collaboration with Gallego Architecture. He is “the transformation of a transformation” as Josep Ferrando writes in a press note. The El Roser Social Center is located in the old building of the Reus prison, classified BCIL (Cultural Asset of Local Interest) and included in the Inventory of Architectural Heritage of Catalonia. The client’s idea was to create a new social center consisting of a homeless shelter, a soup kitchen and a community space. Essentially, they wanted to concentrate all social services in the city, the first such comprehensive structure in Reus.
The building was originally built as a prison in 1929, before being converted into a school in 1979, and will be used for this purpose until 2013. Hence the desire to develop “a project in which the different temporal strata interact with each other. It was a question of selecting and enhancing the various previous architectural expressions to inscribe architecture in time. As Ferrando says: “The project respects and recovers the original building, revealing its structure and the construction typology of the time, previously hidden, in order to evoke an image of austerity.” In this sense, the choice of materials help, where the contemporary intervention is clearly legible thanks to a greater degree of lightness. First and foremost are the transparent elements, which flood the interior with beautiful natural light, breathing new life into once cramped spaces.
One of the biggest challenges for Josep Ferrando Architecture and Gallego Arquitectura was to open and make permeable a structure that had been created for the exact opposite purpose. Thus, the architects created new transverse openings in the “H” floor plan of the complex, redesigning the paths inside the building and opening it up to dialogue with the urban context.
To achieve this, the designers removed the wall that bordered the prison courtyard, creating a shared public space. The old demarcation line is recalled by a slender steel structure, where the preservation of the old monumental portal represents the link with the almost century-old history of this site, which is once again in the hands of the city. Because thanks to this urban square, citizens can experience a part of the city that was “forbidden” until now and integrate it into their daily lives. It is a very elegant formal solution that removes all inhibitions, because those who now turn to the new El Roser Social Center must be accommodated in the simplest way possible. In total, the center can accommodate 16 people to date, but it is still being developed.
The transformation project of the former prison of Reus, which can be seen very well in this time frame was not only a success with the public and those present, but also with the jury of the FAD Awards, which included it among the finalists in the Architecture category.

Christiane Burklein

Project: Josep Ferrando Architecture, Gallego Arquitectura
Location: Reus, Spain
Year: 2022
Images: Adria Goula

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