Reconversion of Sant Francesc Convent Church
In the small town of Santpedor, Spain, David Closes Architects* converted the 18th century Sant Francesc Convent Church into an auditorium and a multifunctional cultural facility. The intervention in the church without deleting the process of deterioration and collapse that the building had suffered, was meant to convert the building into a cultural facility. The two phases implemented have allowed the building to be put to use as an auditorium and multi-purpose cultural space. It is expected that in the future, a third stage will allow the upper floors of the chapels (on the south side of the church) to be used as a historical archive.
The renovation of the church occurred in 2003. The building had never been isolated, but an inextricable part of the whole convent complex. In fact, the existing upper floors of the side chapels could only be accessed from the first floor of the convent, and not from the church itself. With the demolition of the convent, the church, which originally only had two walls, went on to have four.
The premise of the project intervention was to maintain the size and spatial quality of the nave of the church as well as the important inputs of natural light. The renovation of the building has been developed with the goal of differentiating the new elements constructed (using contemporary construction systems and languages) from the original elements of this historical church. with the aim of maintaining light inputs at different points allow to propose different solutions: a large skylight on the north side of the apse, a skylight with views of the belfry from the inside of the nave, an open main chapel, and a cut in the roof right at the beginning of the nave to ensure light would reach the inside of the entrance wall.
With the aim of preserving all aspects of the building’s past, the intervention has not hidden traces, wounds or scars. Thus, they have remained visible depressions, holes where the altarpieces once were, traces of missing elements. Another challenge was to maintain the unity and dimension of the nave of the church, even with new volumes for uses and requirements the church had never had before: stairs to climb to the upper floors, toilets, and equipment rooms. To preserve the sense of space and unity inside the church, these volumes have been located, in part, outside the building or have been placed inside in a way which maintains the vision of unified space, in both the nave and the main chapel. The set of stairs and ramps built, apart from ensuring access to the upper floors of the church, also define a circular path that runs throughout the whole building, much like a museum’s. This circular route allows you to trace back and revisit the church as a whole, from distinct points of view.
The construction and the building methods used have sought to strengthen the church without deleting the signs of deterioration the building has suffered. The intervention has sought to preserve the building’s historic legacy by adding new values that enhance it and give this ancient convent a unique, contemporary form.