The theme of renovation in historical centers, not only in Europe, is a widespread practice experienced every day in the architectural culture of different countries, in keeping with different modes and forms of intervention that seek a relationship of interaction and integration, dialogue and transformation, with what already exists.

Work on interiors, their reconfiguration and redesign, becomes the guiding design value of any reform of spaces, and at times – as in this case – offers good examples of methodology, in terms of intentions and results.

The well-known Catalan architecture studio RCR, also operating on projects of a larger scale, comes to grips in this case with a building of modest size on two levels, part of a succession of historical facades aligned on a street in the center of the town of Olot. The fronts are pressed between two lateral walls without openings, with small gardens at the back, in the characteristic European ‘Gothic’ lots.

The conservation of the protected facade, along with that of the profile of the double-pitched roof and the overall volume, finds its compositional counterpart in the radical transformation of the interiors, which taking the structure back to its essence (two lateral stone walls, roof, streetfront) reinvents the internal space, suggesting new ways of living.

The proposed use is that of a substantially unified space that contains suspended and staggered planes, bringing out the perception of the full height of the volume: from the floor of the lower zone to the roof paced by wooden beams and the exposed terracotta blocks on which the roof tiles are placed.

The gutting of the interior offers a ‘white page’ on which to resume the composition, inside a given ‘frame’. The new dwelling, detached from the conserved stone walls, taken as historical ‘wings’ as on a stage, develops its spaces inside two continuous diaphragms composed of vertical steel blades placed parallel, that run through the entire length of the construction, from the facade on the street to the new completely gazed elevation facing the internal garden.

The metal architectural screens are separated from the existing load-bearing walls, creating two long corridors in which to organize the ramp connecting the entrance and the living area towards the garden, on one side, and the bathrooms and staircase leading to the guestroom zone and studio created towards the street, at a higher position, on the other.

The staircase and ramp, like the new, apparently floating floor slabs, the parallelepiped of the fireplace that runs vertical adjacent to the stone wall behind the metal blades of the living area, are in exposed concrete, underlining the contemporary spirit of the project with their essential materic character.

The new domestic spaces detached from the stone walls and set back from the street facade develop on four levels. The lower level contains the master bedroom, facing the garden by means of a swimming pool separated from the bedroom zone by sliding full-height glass.

From the entrance, where the kitchen is arranged on two levels, becoming a hinge between the entrance and the lower level, one can see the central full-height space that leads to the living area placed at a higher level, above the master bedroom. The internal perspective towards the garden and the new pavilion at the back thus opens up.

Above the entrance, the guestroom and studio zone is detached from the conserved facade on the street, and overlooks the daytime zone below, projected towards the garden, as from an open loft.

The elimination of a sector of tiles corresponding to the space between two structural beams creates an interesting opening for light that frames the blue sky, bringing natural light to the living space.

photos by Eugeni Pons – text by Matteo Vercelloni