Text description provided by the architects. The winning project in the competition for ideas launched for the reform and extension of the present building, the headquarters of the Xamfrà Sant Miquel Foundation, a social initiative that takes the form of a nonprofit organisation devoted to the training, social integration and integration into employment of people with slight mental deficiencies.
The detached building is formed by two constructions: a three-storey building with square, battlemented turret (its south and west faces are listed); and the former stables, lower in height and characterised by large openings on the ground floor, formed by segmental arches, and with a small circular tower at one end.
The building stands on a site that, to the north, meets the limits of the urban fabric that forms the old town and, to the south, adjoins a new urban sector formed by blocks of detached houses, zones for different amenities and large green spaces. The site, which takes the shape of an irregular polygon, covers too small a space to house the large programme required, which entails doubling the area of the existing building.
The project attempts to provide a simple solution to the complex, irregular geometry of the site, conserving and highlighting the existing building. This solution takes the shape of pure geometric forms: an isosceles triangle is inserted into the ground plan on the north side (providing optimal day lighting for study purposes) and the ground plan of the existing building is completed, with removal of the volumetric additions that distorted the overall site, and the extension of a small notch on the west side to form a rectangular ground plan.
Minimising the impact of the new volumetric structure on the environment, this triangular extension features only on the basement and ground floors. The inclusion of a courtyard between the triangular extension and the boundary of the site enhances lighting and visual comfort in the basement. The construction of the old stables is extended on the second floor, its eave prolonged to complete the façade.
To provide bulking between the existing building and the planned extension, a longitudinal skylight is installed to organize communications, both horizontal and vertical, linking the two volumes whilst also providing light longitudinally throughout the ground floor.
The main entrance is through the porch, which is projected onto one of the vertices of the triangle and is located on the corner between the two streets, in consonance with the synergies generated by pedestrian circulation from the city centre. The common routes and spaces in the school (stairs, landings, corridors and lobbies) are designed to be user-friendly, providing spaces for encounter, reunion and generous exchange, light-filled and with the city as the backdrop.
The new materiality reflects the aim of opening up school to the city, relating with it, revealing the flows and activities that take place in it, converging with the work of the Xamfrà Sant Miquel Foundation and making a clear commitment to the social and employment integration of pupils who are at a high risk of social exclusion.
The vertical structure of the extension is achieved in perimetral form through a rhythmic succession of slender ribs to create clear spaces, highly flexible open-plan floors. The organisation of the openings in the former stables on the south façade is maintained, but these are blocked off slightly further back than before, conserving the historic memory of the building. The new, projecting openings that have been created eschew traditional language, framing the landscape from the interior.
Around the perimeter is a galvanised steel net fence, its opacity varies depending on the angle of vision, creating perceptions of different degrees of connection with the street. The fence, the transparency of the façades, the light-filled routes formed by the common spaces, the framed vision provided by the openings… all these features invite the spectator to enjoy a play of interior/exterior relations that is very much in line with the desire to link both the school and its pupils to the immediate environment and to the city as a whole.