Santa Eulalia is a church from Gironella, a small city in the northeast part of Spain. Its history begins in the mid-fourteen century, and since then, in its six-century existence, the church has undergone a series of changes of use. The last one, carried out by Charles Enrich Studio, a young Barcelona-based practice, proposes a presentation of the historic layers of the building while using the space for nowadays needs. Besides preserving and reconverting the existing building, another goal of the project is to reconnect the interior space to the urban landscape.
Since 1907, when it was desacralized, the church served many functions, from dwelling and carpentry workshop to even a pasta factory or a bar. During this period, the interior underwent a series of alterations to accommodate these various activities. In 1971, when the church was recovered by the Gironella Council, it was in a rather precarious state of conservation. In 2016, as part of a programme to recover existing buildings promoted by the city council, the church entered into a new phase of reconstructing and reformulating the interior for cultural purposes.
The Santa Eulalia church now functions as a cultural centre that hosts performing arts such as dance, music and poetry. At a functional level, the space required the integration of equipment and services to comply with regulations and standards for public spaces. These functional needs are combining with the need for conservation of the characteristics of the original space and create a minimally invasive intervention.
Charles Enrich Studio's main intervention goal was to offer a clear reading of all the historical layers and moments that have settled in Santa Eulàlia. The aim was to highlight the virtues of each intervention that took place here and to understand them as a sequence of layers.
The central space of the building - the main nave - is a large, flexible room where all the cultural activity takes place, from dancing, drama, and music to even poetry practices. The central space was refurbished with a birch wood floor for dance and theatre rehearsal to guarantee good insulation, while a continuous self-levelling mortar floor was laid around it to avoid the differences in level. The mortar floor is also adapting to the geometries of the surrounding stone walls.
While the ground offers a certain degree of warmth, the bricks from the vaulted high ceiling preserve the memory of the building through rough materials. The whole interior space is bathed in natural light through its big wall opening, which creates a feeling of spaciousness and purity. This scenery offers a great canvass for the cultural activities inside.
At the urban level, the vaulted interior communicates with the urban landscape through a transparent glass facade that is replacing the old translucent facing to provide more natural light. On the interior side, the facing is doubled by a fabric curtain meant for lighting managing and for improving acoustics and insulation on certain events that take place inside. This permeability of the interior space at the street level encourages the public nature of the functions inside the church, while the cultural activities offer a great spectacle in the street.
Photographs: Adrià Goula