SOMOS.arquitectos collaborates with Estudio ARANGUREN&GALLEGOS during competition stage and on site supervision for the new Parador at Alcalá de Henares (Madrid). Tasks included partial assistance with execution control, detailing design and on-site supervision, ensuring that works are carried out to specific standards set up by Estudio Aranguren&Gallegos.

Photographer (R) Hisao Suzuki

Paradores de Turismo was looking for an emblematic architectural solution in a difficult and delicate location such as The Old Complex of El Colegio de Santo Tomás. Dating from the 16th century, the Complex was in use (lastly as a female penitentiary) until very recently, when it was destroyed by fire and abandoned. The accomplished work strategically recovers this duality between the Monastery and the garden space linked to it. This premise inspired the proposal slogan presented to the competition: to construct a SCULPTED GARDEN, where the new building required for the Parador would not surpass the height of the ancient perimeter wall, and extends under a vast perforated garden, sculpted by multiple and diverse grid of patios forming an interesting catalogue of spaces to the adjacent rooms.

Our proposal concealed the unavoidable new hotel building under the cultivation garden and behind the walls separating the monastery from the city, while recovering at the same time the footprints of The Old Complex of El Colegio de Santo Tomás. In the presence of an old building, we create a new atmosphere. The Old Architecture must be RE-PRESENTED (brought back once again into the present) with mechanisms and languages of our contemporary background culture. It is not just a matter of restoring or renovating, but of revitalizing.

We have worked in a double timing: old vs. new, in a progressive process of continuous architectural and constructive decisions, completing the discovered remains of the old building. In the building of El Parador de Alcalá, we have operated by layering. In an almost romantic view of restoration, the ruins - a fragment from the past – have been enhanced by the presence of new elements made of contemporary materials. Contrast is once again achieved: OBJECT-BACKGROUND.

There are as well two linear constructions remaining from the late 19th century, when the building was used as military headquarters. These depict big arcades and large windows in the facades, which needed to be preserved due to the protection status of the buildings. Nevertheless, after preserving the supporting front walls and the space between them, the roofs could be replaced to optimize the use of the higher floors. We used L-schemed elements that project from the old walls, working once again the dramatic contrast between the pre-existing brick and the new glass and steel. In the back façade, a new evolving skin is displayed, operating as a filter for the rooms, which are protected from view from the near-by sculpted garden.

The adopted solution of displaying large green garden and patio surfaces, always linked to the hotel rooms, responds to the will to offer a new environmental space both green and horizontal vs. a vertical façade tower building.