The new Cultural Center Casal Balaguer in Spain’s Palma de Mallorca is a wonderful example of how historic buildings can be adapted into today’s society. Barcelona-based Flores & Prats Architects and local Palma firm Duch-Pizá teamed up to convert the privately-owned 14th century palace into a thriving, light-filled community center.
Using the sprawling layout to guide the design, the team created a building plan that would focus on maintaining some of the structure’s original character while injecting some modern-day features. Although the building had undergone various renovations over the years, the architects were determined to maintain as much of its “accumulated” character as possible.
Due to the cramped location of the palace, the architects had to get creative when it came to renovating the space for public use. Specifically, the rooftop had an especially significant role in the design because the structure is surrounded by narrow alleyways, reducing the possibilities of using large exterior windows to let in natural light. This limitation led the architects to use the roof as a principal design feature, interspersing sloping zinc panels into the typical Spanish ceramic tiles. The asymmetrical style of the roof outline comprised a strategic decision to filter in as much daylight as possible.
Keeping in mind the building’s new use as a public space, opening up the interior space and creating clear circulation routes though the building was a priority. Once the rooms were open and spaces defined, various skylights were installed to bring in even more natural light, helping to reduce the building’s energy usage.
Unfortunately, the original ceilings were in very bad shape and had to be replaced with exposed wooden beams. The large inverted wooden ceilings enhance the original arched doorways found throughout the gallery spaces and in the library. Inside, a monolithic concrete staircase leads up to the building’s rooftop terrace, letting visitors experience the building in its entirety.
Photography by Adrià Goula