raval sports centre, barcelona
The new Poliesportiu El Raval sports centre is in Barcelona's Carrer de Sant Pau, close to the Romanesque church of Sant Pau del Camp. It forms part of the Ciutat Vella Integrated Rehabilitation Sector, and is set in a block for which a Detail Study was drawn up to combine residential use and facilities with new and existing buildings.
The Detail Study earmarked a site for the sports centre on the corner of Carrer de Sant Pau and the extension of Carrer Estel, bordered by the new apartment buildings planned for the extension of Avinguda de les Drassanes and what has ultimately been established as public space in the centre of the block. The future of the former factory, between Carrer Sant 0/eguer and this new central public space, has yet to be decided. The prospects of making better use of some aspects of the sports court described here depend on the decision taken about that complex.
The morphological diversity of what went before, the variety of uses and volumes planned for the block and the functional requirements of the new building led to the main volume being built on the corner of Carrer de Sant Pau and the new street opened up between Estel and Riereta. This freed a space on the opposite edge which could be used as an entrance court between the main volume of the new building and the homes which will, in the future, line the extension of Avinguda de les Drassanes.
This decision provided a satisfactory solution not just to the problem of juxtaposing two buildings which were as different in formal and functional terms as a sports centre and a housing block, but also to the problem of providing access to a public building in a narrow street which has to respect the existing width (6 metres) and cramped pavements (1 metre).
At the far end of this entrance court (which will be closed during sports centre closing times) stands a low volume containing the building's entrance. This noticeably lower auxiliary volume engages with the main part of the building and, once inside, houses all the elements necessary for the smooth running of the centre (changing rooms, storage space, bathrooms...).
A ramp in the entrance court leads up to the top floor of this low volume, which is intended for public use. Spectators cross a terrace above the court before reaching a platform which, once inside, overlooks the sports court. There is also an auxiliary stairway to provide access to this level from the ground-floor foyer on days when there are fewer competitions and consequently far fewer spectators.
The ramp guarantees easy wheelchair access to the viewing level and a more direct exit in the event of an emergency; it also creates a circuit which offers different views of the building as the public enters. From the inside, a glazed wall turns this movement into a backdrop to the activities taking place.
Although these activities mostly centre around sport, the characteristics of the premises mean that they can also be used for local events. Curtains concealed in the ceiling can be lowered to divide the space into three smaller, more flexible areas which can be used for practice sessions.
On three sides, the upper floor of the building's main volume is outwardly closed, impermeable for the most part to the conditions around it. The simplicity of the air-conditioning technologies used (a simple air-circulation system) and the aim of avoiding dazzling sunlight or irregular lighting suggested the adoption of an opaque solution.
Conversely, the narrowness of Carrer de Sant Pau and the need to create a link with the future public space made it advisable to treat the lower part of the building in such a way as to make it more receptive to its surroundings. Chamfered openings are therefore included along its two longest sides to allow visual communication between inside and out without negatively affecting the required indoor lighting conditions.
These three facades are clad with Bateig limestone for the base, topped with an overlapping arrangement of Betonyp plaques. The top part of the facade projects slightly from the bottom, with a 30° inclination, finished off with an aluminium cornice. The space created by the gap between the two parts means that, at night time, the light around the edge of the interior illuminates the lower part of the building on the outside.
The fourth facade, overlooking the entrance court, is practically north-facing and completely glazed. This not only harnesses regular light that does not cast shadows, which, combined with skylights, means that the space can be used without artificial lighting, but also gives the court its own controlled backdrop and heightens the indoor-outdoor relationship.
The materials used for the interior - timber and warm tones - were specially chosen to contrast with the deliberately cold exterior. The purpose was to create a welcoming space, where it is pleasant to go and get away from the surrounding conditions, with dimensions which do not produce the usual cold, indifferent atmosphere.