mountain rescue : architecture : ricardo bofill : meritxell sanctuary : andorra

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photos and text : taller ricardo boifill

On the evening of a popular holiday in 1972 the ancient Romanesque Sanctuary caught fire and was destroyed. The building complex was left in blackened ruins, survived only by the original apse and vaulting over the altar and latter-day bell tower. The task of rebuilding the Sanctuary could not be reduced to an archaeological work simply returning the fallen stones to their original position; nor could the strong influence of the local architectural character and landscape be ignored          . The decision to continue along the historical path of Romanesque imagery in theory while applying modern building techniques and designs in practice was also based on the vision that the project had to go further than its program, acting as a counter structure to the environmental degradation inherent in unplanned territories and proposing a way of building in Andorra resulting from its past. The two major elements of this project are the viaduct bridge and the Sanctuary, although other elements on the line are as symbolically important such as (from East to West) the concave amphitheatre, the giant steps, the bridge over the road, the climbing towers, the vaulting arches, the esplanade, the convex theatre, the gushing fountain, the sculpted colonnade and the ride through the forest. The Sanctuary is now built with all its dependencies, manifesting a clear hint of projected continuation in the unfinished arches poised over the valley waiting to connect up with the future bridge. Inspiration grew from the original Romanesque sources through to the Albertian and Palladian neopythagorean use of square roots and circles, including the additions of certain Catalan-Mudejar insinuations. The project drawings relate plan, section, and façade through a harmonic scheme based on symbolic numerology and the relationship of basic measurement on the site and of the program. Outside the building consciously a Romanesque continuation, a form belonging to the black mountain wrapped in mythical vegetation, most evidently a part of a small hamlet in which it rests, capturing the architectural philosophy of such other Andorran temples, but very much aware of its different scale. The entire surroundings of the Sanctuary were designed in a separate and late project. The design involved all paved surfaces, walkways, balustrades, steps, ramps, parking, etc. all landscaping involving the re-planting of the surrounding countryside. Finally the remodelling and modernization of the old and derelict buildings in the area to be used as support dependencies.

click here to read more about ricardo bofill
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1 comment
  1. Delightful! A wonderful example of context being so important to good design.. J

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