It is an undetermined space in an old hospital building; we have a commission to design a new tourist office for the town. We start by searching for the space. We do it bearing in mind the values of the town and its surroundings – landscape, history, culture, identity – that we want to transmit, but also the involvement in the town’s storyline: we understand that a public building is at the same time a public space.
The chosen space is the storage rooms and chambers of the old kitchen: it is a barrel vault hallway with arc-boutants, situated between a pedestrian street and a courtyard with porches that has a great historic and architectural value. The choice of this space gives this project a big excuse to regain the courtyard as a through-passage place, important for the town’s social life. That is the role that the yard lost when one of two entrances was closed in the sixties due to the extension of the hospital. That is why we decide to open two new entrances to the courtyard, from which the office can be accessed. One of the entrances, situated on the corner, goes under the majestic stairs of the hospital, built in 1729, and leads us to the XVI century porch. This entrance, with its marked visual presence in the surroundings, connects the courtyard and the tourist office with the market square.
We understand the layout of the linear space of the tourist office as a sequence of sensations that a visitor experiences: from the self-service information points at the entrance till the rest area or the gift shop going through the inspirational audiovisual installation strategically located just before the heart of the office – personalized customer service desks.
The main materials chosen for this refurbishment are the ones which already existed there: volcanic clay taken from the subsoil and used in three textures of the pavement, the complex structural system of vaults and aches of the ceiling and the volcanic rock of the wall and the pillars... These materials are complemented with the steel and oak of the furniture and with the bulrush and wicker of the chairs and lamps, made by a local craftsman and specially designed for the project. All in all, it is the substance of this land embodied in the project which has to be an entrance door for a special landscape: the landscape that is us.