Antana and the Casa Palacio del Marqués de Riscal in Atocha 34: specialist in rehabilitation of historic buildings

Antana designed and executed the refurbishment of a historic building, overcoming the difficulties arising from the pre-existing wooden structure and the current requirements for the protection of people and heritage.


"Architecture is based on both science and intuition". Jørn Utzon

Utzon designed his house in Mallorca without a previous drawing. He placed the ashlars spontaneously. Then he would sit down, lie down and walk around... he would move the marks as the Genius Loci told him to, and so he would change the position of the cairns again and again until he found the harmony and proportion that both the cliff and the mountain demanded of him.

Antana similarly sensed this protective spirit when she faced the demolitions in early 2017 of the Casa Palacio at Atocha 34 to reposition it as a luxury hotel. As she got to know the building with the pickaxe, she was indicating, through its bare structure, how to conquer its wooden skeleton.

His soul keeper turned out to be the god Hermes, whose effigy is repeated over and over again. God benefactor of travellers and god of eloquence, persuasion, prudence and skill, whose followers founded a sect so secret that they gave rise to the word hermetic. It would seem that as a tribute to this god the building has ended up becoming, after many vicissitudes, a fantastic and very personal hotel benefactor of passengers.

Perhaps also because of the presence of this mythological god and his persuasive qualities, Antana has adapted to the construction peculiarities in the refurbishment of this genuine building and to the demands of the control bodies. She has skilfully brought together the wills and regulations of all the administrations from the outset, drawing up the project and carrying out the works, which have been adapted to the successive modifications brought about as the building was being stripped bare.

The Palace House which is the subject of these works was built in 1857 as the home of the Marquises of Riscal. It has 4,650 m2, divided into a ground floor, a mezzanine, three upper floors and a covered ground floor. The building is accessed through a magnificent carriage passageway, which leads to a 350 m2 landscaped interior courtyard.

During the refurbishment work, Antana was always ready to provide decisions, solutions and answers to every problem that arose and to every requirement that arose, leaving the palace itself to write its own destiny and its own project. To do this, the wooden structure that appeared in some points of the seven-metre-high ground floor without the proper bracing had to be undressed, stripping the partition walls of the "cuajao" that formed them.

This framework was made up of 950 right feet, of which 35 were originally to be replaced, but in the end there were 70 because, although an initial inspection revealed damage to several dozen, the number doubled when the poison was injected against the xylophagous by means of a drill, the pillar was crumbling into sawdust. When it was not essential to replace the pillar, two U-profiles were used, after a damp-proofing and fire-proofing treatment had been applied. Once the structure had been cleaned up and exposed, it was possible to find the way for the installations through the framework, the optimal room layout was achieved and the position of a second lift was defined.

The execution project was evolving in the weekly meetings thanks to the magnificent work of the business development team of the hotel chain "Coolrooms", the interior design team of "Proyecto Singular" and the architecture and construction teams of "Antana". All of them working together with a lot of creativity to overcome the great surprises hidden in the building itself, as well as the innumerable municipal requirements regarding urban planning regulations, Protection of Historical and Artistic Heritage and Civil Protection.

The most relevant issue in terms of the difficulty of coordinating this historical heritage arose when the impossibility of opening a second emergency exit, required by the very high level of heritage protection of the building, was put on the table. To solve this difficulty, the fire rating was lowered by adopting other measures to compensate for this absence, such as the installation of sprinklers and other measures, reducing the fire load, etc., by means of the highly complex calculation method known as Meredicte.

The impositions of the architecture of other eras and the artistic historical elements of the building entail the traditional opposition between the old and the modern, but Antana achieves an amicable compromise in which the encounter goes from impossible to probable and then to very interesting. This agreement can be seen in a special way in the matter of energy efficiency. From the aerothermal air-conditioning, the waste heat is used to heat the water, as solar panels are not allowed in such a protected building. Forced ventilation brings in tempered air by exhausting the stale air, all lighting is LED and the much larger bathrooms are heated by underfloor heating controlled from reception.

Antana has achieved a magical level of airtightness in the huge 35 rooms by meticulous soundproofing of floors, partitions and openings. To even out the undulating floors, battens, arlite between them, a board on top, as well as an anti-impact foil were laid to finish with Hungarian-pointed oak timber. The thickness of the partition walls between rooms is 21 cm, for which two double plasterboard partition walls were installed, enclosing another double Copoprem partition wall.

The highly sophisticated window closure consists of a frame with two rubber sections that produce a gentle suction when closing, so that not even a note from the outside can pass through. Antana has done the work of Luthiers of silence when it comes to soundproofing the hotel. Now that Antarctica has managed to classify 23 different types of silence, we could say that in this refurbishment they have achieved a magical, mythological one. These architects/builders/Luthiers have restored and tuned a magnificent wooden instrument to play the urban score of quiet music.

Everything drawn and realised is marked by a relentless search for solutions of an intelligent intensity; it is endowed with ingenuity and resolute power working under the pressure of what was to be discovered, but without undermining freshness and brilliance. As when it came to the recovery of elements of prestige. The main staircase retains a pine wood tread deformed by use, the ironwork or the Art Deco mouldings that appear throughout the building and more intensely in the entrance/carriage passage, as well as the exclusive use of lime plaster on the interior and exterior façades in the manner required by Heritage.

It is an architecture in balance that does not ignore tradition and does not make an issue of its presence. It is an architecture that is coherent with the times without making it a belligerent attitude and which uses construction as an instrument without exaggerating its impact beyond the precise limits. In the process, applied science has been mixed with resolute intuition until Atocha 34, lost in disoriented adventures in recent years, has achieved, by combining wills, its destiny as a hermetic refuge for travellers and, at the same time, in dialogue with the city.

The rehabilitation of historic buildings is a social benefit as it favours the creation of employment, improves the quality of life of citizens, reactivates the economy and protects the historic and artistic heritage of our cities. There is no doubt that we must support these initiatives and help the people and entities that carry them out and recognise their work.

At Antana, through our activity we help all initiatives that benefit society.

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