In Ruesta, Zarogoza, Spain, the hermitage of San Juan de Ruesta was left to neglect in 2001. A unique piece of the Camino de Santiago Aragonés, the hermitage was known for supporting one of the collections of Romanesque paintings. Stripped of its paintings and function, the architects found only a few walls as blank canvases and an empty volume that was once a powerful and compact feature in its surrounding landscape.
The prime invention of architects Sebastian Arquitector was to recover the strong volume of the hermitage against the surrounding trees that give space and shade to pilgrims stopping on the road to Santiago.
A new volume, comprising approximately 60% of the main nave, sits on the previous nave with an abstract and unitary language, with horizontal lines that follow the pattern of the original masonry, establishing a recognizable language for the new intervention that is subtly slightly set back from the façade of the original facade.
Roof slabs, linked with the vernacular construction, move down the façade. The result is a single representational detail to the eaves that evokes the original detailing. A series of carved stone ashlars continue the horizontal cutting, opening to the interior.
Outside, stones from the demolition remain in situ as a beautiful ordering element that recalls memories of the site and the long history of pilgrims passing by.