On Saturday 7 September, the installations developed as part of the 23rd edition of the UIC Barcelona School of Architecture’s Vertical Workshop, this year entitled “Silent Walls: Reusing la Capella de la Misericòrdia” were presented. From 3-7 September, Architecture students in years two through five went to the Capella de la Misericòrdia, or Chapel of Mercy, in the Barcelona district of Raval, to design ephemeral architectural projects that highlighted the site’s significance to the district’s residents.
The installation “Llum sobre el Raval”, or Light over Raval, directed by lecturers Eduardo Delgado Orusco and Àlex Martínez, was the project selected by the jury as the winner in this edition of the initiative. The core element in this installation is light, symbolised by steel turnbuckles that, like light, enter the church through a new stained glass window towards the top. The light, as it hits the floor in the chapel’s central nave, also symbolises the urban layout of the Raval district. “Light, as an intangible element, becomes tangible as it enters the new window on the façade. The neighbourhood penetrates the inner space and the urban layout is reflected on the floor like leadwork from a stained glass window. By doing so, the light becomes a point of union between a neighbourhood looking for new spaces to cover new needs and a desacralised space that, with renewed vigour, seeks to fulfil this new public demand”, explained the students from the winning team.
The chapel, under discussion
This new edition of the Vertical Workshop was directed by Ricardo Gómez Val and coordinated by Íñigo Ugalde, both holders of a PhD in Architecture and lecturers in the UIC Barcelona School of Architecture. The main purpose of the workshop was for the students to reflect on the Capella de la Misericòrdia in order to, on the one hand, devise new uses for the site that preserve its historical relevance and, on the other, offer solutions to the multiple challenges currently surrounding it. “In the midst of the discussion regarding the future use of the chapel, we want to offer a new perspective on the site, recovering the site’s historical relevance as a place of gathering and reflection for people from the neighbourhood”, explained Ricardo Gómez Val.
“The silenced chorists sing again” was the project chosen as the winner by the public. It is a sound installation that talks directly to the spectators, urging them to reflect on where they are: a chapel that, in the past, provided a home for the city’s orphan girls. The project consists of two parts: in the first, a group of people in the middle of the nave depict the current dispute between the MACBA, the CAP Raval Nord platform and the residents of Raval. In the second, a group of girls and nuns situated in the choir personify the location’s past. As the spectators approach the installation, the choir begins singing, and children’s voices start to ask who the people arguing over the chapel are and urge them to set aside their differences.
Other submissions in this initiative include “Only unity can heal the community”, which also refers to the need to iron out differences and move past the current conflict surrounding the future use of the chapel; “Casal del Raval: La Taronja”, which proposes converting the chapel into a social centre for residents by planning a series of social and cultural activities; and “Passage”, which considers the need to improve the connection between the Capella de la Misericòrdia and the square in front of the MACBA, modifying the tunnel that leads into the chapel with a view to making it most visible, accessible and welcoming.
This year’s Vertical Workshop was sponsored by the companies URCOTEX and SIKA, as well as the Jordi Capell Architects’ Cooperative. The jury in this edition was made up of Ricardo Flores, founder of the architecture studio Flores&Prats; Kathrin Golda-Pongratz, architect, urban planner and lecturer at UIC Barcelona; and the prestigious sculptor, photographer and designer Javier Viver.