Nau Cal Herrera

  • LOCATION Sallent
  • > CLIENT Public
  • YEAR 2010
  • STATUS Built
  • CATEGORY Architecture
  • SCALE Neighbourhood

“On a symbolic scale, it was important not to lose the original image of the building where so many women of the municipality had worked”

Times change and architecture with time. With the refurbishment of Cal Carrera, OUA reforms an old factory in Sallent to turn it into a multi-purpose cultural space. The project honours the industrial past of the area by maintaining the façade of the building and by refurbishing the interior to create new spaces to accommodate the abundant artistic network of the area. Director of the Architecture Department, Oriol Serrat reveals the keys to this project.

What needs does the project start from?
Sallent is a municipality with a lot of cultural activity, and there was a lack of spaces to host this important offering. This is a very long-awaited project. The functional programme was very clear: to create two multi-purpose halls (a main one and a secondary one) with the capacity to function independently, simultaneously and with two different entrances.

In the main hall, it is possible to organise performances for up to 250 seated spectators and concerts for up to 1,000 standing spectators. The hall on the first floor can host activities such as exhibitions, auditions, concerts and shows in a smaller format.

What are some of the key elements of the work? And why?
The preservation of the austere, clear and organized façades which are located at the original building. We have only highlighted them by pealing, cleaning and painting. It is a decision that gives identity to the project while maintaining the image of the factory. The choice of the colour white is important because it creates a contrast with its manufacturing surroundings, and it suggests neutrality and novelty. It also mirrors the white of the salt mine that is just in front of the building. Likewise, it is important to highlight the construction of the square at the main entrance, a new element that connects the space with the historic centre of the municipality.

How do you approach the challenge of intervening in a building with so much history?
With a great deal of respect, which is reflected in an intense dialogue with both the client and the inhabitants of Sallent and future users of the space. Architecture is a reflection of life, and despite the fact of considering the main need to adapt the old building to the new needs of the town, we wanted to keep its history alive by preserving the iconic form and acting on the inside. On a symbolic scale, it was important not to lose the original image of the building where so many women of the municipality had worked sewing fabrics. It is a decision that acts as a tribute to them, a collective that at the time was largely invisible and undervalued.

What was the methodology followed to design the spaces?
During the drafting of the project, we visited several multi-purpose halls and theatres to hear first-hand the needs of different users and to build comfortable spaces both for the audience and for the people who will be working there: actors and actresses, sound and light technicians, maintenance staff, etc.

How do you manage to reduce the ecological footprint of the project?
Less effort, less waste. The decision to use the original façade not only keeps the building’s history alive but also optimises resources. A thermal insulation system has also been integrated in order to reduce the energy demand of the building. Finally, we sought for maximum use of space by subdividing climate control systems, so it is sustainable to open the building for reduced activities.

What reflections does the project raise for the sector?
The possibility of adapting old buildings to new needs without having to build something from scratch, and the desire to generate projects by dialoguing with the people who will end up using them. Values such as the attention to the different needs of the municipality, sustainability and multifunctionality have been taken into account much more than the fact of producing a flagship project that can be recognised within the architectural sector.