An Old Prison Paroled, Now a Civic Center. YAY!

Originally erected in Palencia, Spain at the turn of the 19th century, this brick building was intended to house criminals from petty crimes to serious offences. Now, over 100 years later, this building — thanks to EXIT Architects — has transformed in a hub of cultural education for the local residents.  What used to be the Palencia Provincial Prison is now rechristened the Palencia Civic Center, a neo-mudejar style building which offers services ranging from music lessons, meeting rooms, a public library, and much more.  

EXIT Architects strongly believed that this rugged building was a prime candidate for renovation, so they completely stripped the structure (except the load-bearing walls).  They eventually installed zinc panelling to replace the roofs, and then infilled the open walls with transparent tiles. Since the main four wings of the prison offered a great form for organization, the architects decided to fill the spaces between with brand new open spaces.  The architects had difficulty lighting the dimmer spaces — for security purposes rather than natural light — and stated that, “it is a project that respects the existing building, which is given a contemporary, lighter appearance, and where the natural light will play a key role.”  In order to save as much as the existing building as they could, EXIT Architects selected a semi-transparent louver to clad the new walls and ceilings, as seen above.

The Palencia Civic Center’s library serves as the building’s centerpiece, and is located within one of the old cell blocks, naturally lit by large circular skylights cut through the existing structure. An additional feature includes a roofscape formed by lights that the visitors can relax on. Even though Spain is a budget-strapped country (and while the EU is closely watching both it and Greece), its budget for cultural and public works projects has shrunk rapidly; noteworthy architect Dame Zaha Hadid previously stated that there’s no room for austerity in architecture (READ HERE). It’s a excellent example of design professionals engaging in green/sustainable architecture (since the most green buildings are buildings that already exist) as architects look at ways to work more with less.

[Thanks Architizer]

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