It’s interesting how architecture, the most normal and common examples of which, still have the ability to surprise us. Within their compactness, dark spaces are hidden and in the expanse of their walls; fragments of life. A mortar door is a renouncing and a creation, a layer of paint, a new intention; a buried pavement, a regret; an indoor balcony, a conquest.
An architect, when confronted with a space in need of reformation, whatever it may be, has to prepare themselves for a journey through time, where from the present to past, layer after layer, the scars reveal themselves, along with the adornment and the secrets of their life experience.
In the same way that when we speak to a weathered elderly person, we’re startled and intrigued by the ‘hustle and bustle’ of an unimaginable past life, unpicking the pathway of withered architecture is a discovery, a story which ends at the start and begins with the end. An end which, within a reform, is nothing but an undetermined point set before a new beginning. The project by the Studio El Tejado Azul (The Blue Roof) for the Valencian bar, Muez Gastro Libreria (Muez Gastro-Bookshop), is the perfect example of the unexpected.
The bar is located on premises which had remained unchanged since the 1970s, thus proving to be host to a whole series of discoveries which the architects did not expect. These hidden pre-existing factors, however, distinctively determined the development of the project from the outset, through tasters and revelations, resulting in a process of surprising demolition.
The premise, in a joint effort with the client, was minimum intervention in the essence of the typology of the original ‘shop & home,’ mainly using 3 materials with distinct personalities: cement, wood and iron; in this way, the difference between the existing and the juxtaposed new layers would be obvious, whilst at the same time, tempered, sober and measured.
The normal walking access zone, used as a shop, would house the kitchen, as requested by the client. The rest of the space used as a house, was divided into two levels: a semi-basement at the same height as the original market place (already underground) and a mezzanine, once presumably belonging to an interior patio, now covered. This creates an interior façade with two balconies which overlook the space at twice the height of the room. This sequence of interconnected spaces, as suggested by El Tejado Azul (The Blue Roof), will function as a dining room, toilets and store room.
The original ‘box like’ space, already rich with dialogues between different historical moments (such as making the dining-patio space obvious with interior balconies), is imbued with meaning through the discovery of individual elements during the operation itself, adding another layer of complexity to the project. Like an accumulation of experiences, like an awakening of a dormant memory, like a liberation, the six levels of the building (floors, roof, walls) shed their garments to speak through their nudity.
“A wonderfully preserved hydraulic tiled, checkerboard floor, a stone arch which separates the first space from the rest, followed by another stone arch, and walled with mixed and concealed work on the dividing right-hand wall.”
The findings reveal the visible signs of the period, and show this type of accumulative or additive construction, in which the material of the times is distinguishable, to which the current developments can be added:
The kitchen almost looks like a piece of furniture, with minimal lines and containing salvaged, reused items as the only decorative elements. Six ornamental ceramic tiles, a few hydraulic ones on the bar and the old doors reused as sliding ones for the new bathroom join with the contemporary elements to form the new, imagined space. A space which transforms the former functions of ‘home and shop’ into new ones: a gastro-bar and bookshop, whilst not covering its tracks in doing so. In fact, the old 1950s hardware shop sign still hangs out front. To the spaces which are inserted like pieces (toilets and kitchen), a set of plasterboard panels and shelves are added, which do not divide the space, but in fact fulfil a useful purpose being used in both the bookshop and exhibition area.
The Muez Project by El Tejado Azul (The Blue Roof) represents the altering of an everyday space, taking advantage of the pre-established without devaluing its origins, and the dignified exposure of nudity of an architecture which for much time was hidden behind a veil. Muez is the embodiment of the saying, “when one door closes (or is covered over), another opens,” and begs of us the question,
“when does the life of architecture begin and end?”
Obra: Muez Gastro librería
Autores: el tejado azul (Cristina Cucinella – Jaime García Mira)
Localización: Barrio del Carmen, Valencia
Superficie: 150 m2
Fotógrafa: Milena Villalba | El Tejado Azul
Redacción: Ana Asensio
Traducción esp-eng: Elyse Lake (Lake Languages)