Located in northwestern Spain, the airy Palencia Civic Center is comprised of four pavilions organized around a giant central hall. Exit Architects transformed the former dingy prison into a bright cultural icon by installing a series of giant cylindrical light wells that bring in an abundance of natural light. Much of the existing structure and materials were left standing and augmented with zinc and semiopaque glass.
The 19th century load-bearing brickwork was left untouched, although the structure’s perimeter is now clad in bright glazing that acts as a segway between the city and interior activities. The building consists of an auditorium, a library, multifunction rooms, and art and music classrooms, all of which are linked together by the new central hall. It is here that the designers used an opportunity to replace defunct materials with the massive skylight tubes that extend to the floor of the interior, where they act as miniature courtyards.
The former cell block has been converted into what is now the civic center’s library that is arranged around a reading area illuminated with an octagonal skylight. Kudos to photographer Fernando Guerra for capturing the immense role that natural light plays in this magnificent sustainable upgrade, and of course to the designers who lent such a gentle touch to revive this beautiful brick building.