Urbanistic development and intervention on the landscape


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Improving accessibility to the Historic Centre of Vitoria-Gasteiz

Fernando Tabuenca González y Jesús Leache Resano, arquitectos

FAD Award 2015  City and landscape
Description Technical file

2015 FAD Award to Architecture and Interior Design. The Jury's appraisal:“This intervention in the historic centre of Vitoria-Gasteiz provides a solution backed by a synthetic view of the problems involving the marked topography of the city’s medieval structure, and specifically the surroundings of the Old Seminary.
In an effective, discreet and sensitive way, the apse of the Seminary has been highlighted, the pedestrian routes have been laid out and accessibility has been improved by means of escalator ramps and a lift, all of it as a result of a determination to create a silent integration that would last over time, as befits the temporal dimension of the urban scale.”

The city of Vitoria possesses an exceptional historic district of medieval origin situated on a hill and with a characteristic almond-shaped ground plan. The concentric main streets follow the topographic contour lines; the cross streets (called “cantones”) are steeply sloping, making access to the centre difficult from the modern city. An accessibility plan is in place that is being undertaken in phases.

A competition was organised in 2012 to improve the accessibility of the north-western zone in order to facilitate access for citizens and visitors to the square of the Old Cathedral, the city’s most important historic building whose opening after long years of restoration is planned for this year 2015. The City Hall accepted the need to install two sections of escalators in the “cantones” or cross streets as well as a lift in the top section. This entailed the partial redevelopment of the whole area.

The project shifts the escalators to the south side of the street in order to retain part of the current stairway and direct the views of the users towards the garden and the facades of the historic buildings situated to the north.

Between the new ramps and the modern south facades a fixed cobblestone ramp has been built whose new gradient accompanies the slope of the escalators; in the north side an incline had to be built to match up with the existing stairway. The goal was to reduce the visual presence of the ramps, embedding them in the paving and only leaving a glimpse of their glass balustrades. A new stairway is planned for the eastern end, the location of a small, quite neglected flowerbed, building a fan shape to take in the pedestrian traffic coming from the Cantón del Seminario and calle Correría, channelling it towards calle Fray Zacarías, which leads to the Cathedral. The enlargement of the street width at the start of the stairway has created a small open space where a linden tree has been planted and a bench has been installed, made from recovered wood, across from the main entrance of the Maturana-Verástegui Palace that is due to be restored for public use.

The new urban lift is situated next to the apse of the old seminary. After several proposals it was finally attached to the stone wall that delimits the stairway, where the guides and mechanisms are anchored. The goal was to minimise the visual presence of the lift’s volume and make it safer for users. All the lift’s profiles and structure, reduced to the bare essentials, is made from stainless steel with a bronze patina. For the new stairway and its retaining walls the same type of calcarenite stone was used as in the city’s historic buildings. The rest of the paving continues the pattern of the adjacent streets of Vitoria’s historic centre.

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Localización Location: Plaza de la Fuente de los Patos, Cantón del Seminario y Calles Correría y Fray Zacarías Martínez, Vitoria - Gasteiz (País Vasco). Spain. Promotor Promotor: Ayuntamiento de Vitoria - Gasteiz. Arquitectos Architects: Tabuenca & Leache, Arquitectos. Fernando González Tabuenca y Jesús Leache Resano.. Arquitectos Técnicos Technical Architects: Arturo Pérez Espinosa. Colaboradores Collaborators: Gustavo Vitores, Sebastián Sánchez, Javier Zalacain, arquitectos. Labensa ( informe geotécnico), Quark (arqueología), Luis Maestu (instalaciones), POA (paisajismo). Contratista General Contractor: Construcciones Amenabar, S.A.. Superficie construida Built area: 1.468 m2. Ejecución Completion: 2013-2014.. Presupuesto Budget: 1.319.812 €. Fotografía Photography: José M. Cutillas y Rubén P. Bescós.
José Manuel Cutillas
Pamplona, Navarra