Escola Pia Balmes church reform

Promoter: Escola Pia de Catalunya

Area: 210 m2

Location: c/ Balmes 208, Barcelona

Budget: 100.000 €

Date: September 2019

Escola Pia Balmes’ church is an architectural volume contained within the school building itself, but with independent access from the street.

The overall plan reveals the strategic position of the church within the building. It occupies the depth of the party wall of the Balmes-Travesera de Gracia chamfer, showing its own neoclassical façade, looking for a place on the street. The crunch, about 8.50 meters wide, faces the central patio of the entire building, where there are stained glass windows with a modern feel, made of concrete and colored glass. The patio does not reach the ground floor, leaving the church in a kind of semi-basement in darkness with respect to the level of the patio. This fact, added to the party wall position of the other long façade, gives the space a notable thermal inertia, being cool in summer and warm in winter.

The intervention required a multipurpose space that could also maintain its liturgical character for weekend masses for the people of the neighborhood. The school has an ambitious educational project with different curricular itineraries where dance, music and theater need adequate spaces. Having direct access from the street, it also allows to celebrate all kinds of events such as extra-curricular events, yoga, concerts or presentations. The challenge consisted of designing a space capable of transforming and hosting all these activities with solvency, generating diverse environments and atmospheres.

The work had to be done in the two months of summer vacation and with a very reduced budget of 100,000 euros, so it was decided to cover the space with a simple and repetitive element of wood that would reduce costs and the number of industrialists needed. Different lightings would give different scenery that would qualify the space in different ways, and the wood would serve both as a finish and covering the walls, as well as a filter and reflection of light, providing warmth. The rhythm of the wooden planks adapts to the stock. A module was sought that was capable of absorbing the girders hanging from the ceiling, the structure of the stained-glass windows and the vertical elements of loudspeakers and ventilation fan, looking for a multiple that would adapt. On the walls, perspectives were simulated to verify an adequate separation of 18 cm, which allows the inclusion of the speakers and vertical fans. The stained glass windows support a module of 2×18 = 36 cm and the ceiling 4×18 = 72 cm.

The back wall was simply painted white to take advantage of the bounce of light. The raster pattern of the walls supports, at the same time, the LED light strips and the final wood covering. A warm color temperature of 2,800 °K and a power of 14W/m on walls and 21 W/m on the ceiling were chosen to guarantee different lighting needs.