Reflecting on the Archimarathon – Madrid: 1 New in Old

As the end of my bachelor degree is approaching quickly (one more semester to go), I was keen to do something different for the last winter holiday before graduation. Through word of mouth, I got to know about Archimarathon, an architecture tour run by Kevin Hui who has been teaching architecture at Deakin, Melbourne and Monash University at both Bachelor & Masters level.

So I decided to take the opportunity and travel around Spain & Portugal with him and five other participants for 2 1/2 weeks. So far, it’s been amazing as I’m observing, sketching, discussing and learning about architecture as well as having beautiful cuisines & drinks with likeminded gang.

I’m writing this article at the halfway point of the tour (5 July) and I already have visited over 60 buildings. Since I can’t cover everything in one article, I’ll break it down into a few articles.

(***the article is purely based on my own perspective and is not about the historical buildings, so please read as the reflection of my experience rather than a factual or academic article…)

The first article is about – New in Old.

Firstly, it was important to note that many architects in Spain & Portugal were often creating something new within the existing buildings instead of demolishing and starting new. Whether it’s an extension or pure insertion, architects respect the existing heritage of the space and attempt to work with it.

Matadero Madrid by Arturo Franco, Jose Antonio Garcia Roldan, Emilio Esteras and Justo Benito was a striking one.

The site was a former slaughterhouse & meat market which may have certain negative connotation. The insertion of the new programmes such as a children’s playroom and exhibition spaces is a unique brief by itself, but the way architects merged the new elements into the original envelope is magical.

The rawness of the interior is complemented with the glazed doors and windows which are fixed in place without directly touching (as in not having frames in the wall) or disturbing the existing parts.

The design of bathroom area kept the same grungy atmosphere though the selection of materials and the lighting. Afterall, the toilet space is still a part of the building that has capacity to tell a story.

I was also impressed by the dark exhibition space where they kept the remains of the building after fire; the slight burnt smell with black stains on the exposed structure became a narrative that expresses the context of the site.

I found the culture of respecting what already exists and creating new spaces in harmony with the past really intriguing. I believe it’s not about simply exposing existing structure but revealing the essence of the history of the site carefully through understanding the historical and cultural contexts of the site…

I will be slow but hopefully I can get everything in my mind onto the blog in next few weeks.

Thanks for reading!

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