The architectural intervention in historic buildings has, at least, three unavoidable aspects:
The first one is the inherent value of the building itself.That is its architectual characteristics, its quality. The second is the nature of the new use suggested for the building and the possibilities of adaptation. Its compatibility.How is the new use able to enhance the most interesting aspects of the old buliding. And last, the possible variation of the relationship between the building and its surroundings.
There are more aspects that affect the final result, but they could easily be reported to one of the three pointed out before. For example the historic value of the building not always fits with the architectonic.
There are too many factors involved, so many that it doesn´t seem careful trying to reduce the problems of the proyect to specific codes, to general approach. Each project is a whole world,but some conclusions can be extracted in each case, though.
The Patio Herreriano is one of the three patios preserved from the old monastery of San Benito el Real in the spanish town called Valladolid. It was a catholic monastery with a wide history that goes from the 16th century till today. The religious building along its history suffered from shortage and glory periods like the monks that lived there. That history can be glimpsed in the walls of the building, that reflex precisely each moment.
Three important parts can be recognised: the funerary chapel of the Condes de Fuensaldaña (XV century), the hall designed by Gil de Hontañón (XIV century) and the so called Patio Herreriano from the architect Juan de Rivero Rada also from the XVI century. From them, the chapel was in ruins opencast,while the patio and Gil de Hontañón´s hall where reasonably preserved.
Historicaly, the building was located in the border line of the city next to Pisuerga river, but when the city was developed in the 20th century the area became the centre of the town, in spite of its state of carelessness during the decades of the 70, the 80 and the 90 it generated a space with outskirts appearance in spite of the evidence it was located in a privileged area.
The project wants to be based on the three aspects pointed out before.
First, the systematic study of the building in order to be able to value every single part. As it was a building that did not stop evolving along time, a concrete style could not be stablished.
Second, the specific characteristics of use of an art museum. It has somethig to do with a certain idea of neutrality that do not interfere with the works shown there. With making compatible the restrictive conditions that any museum demands (security,contemplation, air conditioning) and its adaptation to the existing architecture.
Third, the change of use the building experimented from an urbanistic point of view with the agressive presence of a dwelling block beside the site that denied the scale of the Monastery and the try that the proposal give the dignity of the area back.
In a more specific sphere, the program of the museum required a bigger area for exhibitions, more than the available in the old building, so an extension was needed. This extension was architectonicaly used to leave in the background the dwelling block and generate a pedestrian area viculated to the main access to the museum as well as a quiet area adecuated to the use of the building.
A museum of art can always be understood as the dialectic between an static space ( the contemplation of a piece of art requires silence)an a dinamic one ( a museum is a collection, as so an itinerary). We just have to analyze any museum from this point of view to recongnize that the problem can be tackled from many different perspectives.
Frank Lloyd Wright´s Guggenheim in New York identifies statism and dinamism in the same space, unlike more usual guidelines like G.F. Schinkel´s Altes Museum in Berlin, that seems to concentrate all the circulation in the main access and in the rotunda that is in the centre to “liberate” the exhibition rooms from movement.
In a construction already built this dialectic is already determined and there is not much the architect can do about it. In the Patio Herreriano it was the cloister the space chosen to concentrate all that activity that preserved the exhibition rooms of the museum.
If we analyze the different stages of intervention in the building we can see that there are three differenciate parts: the patio was in good condition and the proyect was only about cleaning and restoring. The chapel was in ruins so it had to be “completed”, generating a problem of explicit collation between the old an the new architecture. And last the extension, obviosly new. These three levels run the risk of derivating in three very different parts that denied the interpretation of the building as a whole.
That´s why it was set up as first aim that the “atmosphere” of the museum was understood as a whole, that is, that you could recognize the same building no matter in which part of the museum you were.
The plan do not want to have shrill elements.On the contrary, it wants to remain in the refered silence. Therefore, the extension restricts itself to solve a pure prism of the highest formal moderation.
Finally it must be pointed out the intervention in the chapel of the Condes de Fuensaldaña.As it has been mentioned before it was a ruined building. The plan wants to keep the idea or the ruin ( not the idea of rebuilging it). In a way that would like to remember the intervention over the roman Coliseum, the proyect tries to freeze its shape, as if it wanted to stop the ruin in an specific moment. This leads to understand the new element as a representation of the sky. That´s why is given to ligh the highest importance. It is an abstract white space that lets the ruin be cutted as the horizon cuts off the sky. There´s the intention to value the old architecture not redoing it in a fake way, but respecting the magnificent wound made by time.