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Library in Maple Dress

>Library in Maple Dress

Murado & Elvira Architects transforms an old 17th century hospital into a municipal Library, enveloping the inner structure in maple wood to accommodate readers while offering a sense of coziness and domesticity.

In 2010, when Murado & Elvira Architects won the competition to design the Public Library and Historic Archive of the city of Baiona (Spain), they decided to design a place that would convey a sense of domesticity to its users: they came up with the idea of a warm wooden dress, tailor-made for the ancient building. A dress that covers the interiors of the architectural body, leaving the exterior almost unchanged. The old Sancti Spiritus Hospital thus reconquered its original role, by becoming a new home for scholars and readers. And for tourists too.

The city of Baiona, located on the west coast of Spain, is located along the Camino de Santiago and is visited every year by thousands of pilgrims. In addition, the Baiona Historic Archive is one of the most relevant in the area, preserving documents dating back to the discovery of Americas. Baiona was in fact the port where La Pinta, one of the three caravels led by Christopher Columbus towards the New World, arrived on its way back in 1493.

Accommodated within the former Sancti Spiritus Hospital, an existing structure built in the 17th century behind the ex-collegiate church of Santa María, the Baiona Public Library is a two-level building embedded in the sloped historic city center with a garden and an inner courtyard. 

The building is listed, protected as a Bien de Interés Cultural (BIC). Despite its status, it has suffered major alterations in the course of the centuries, some affecting the patio and garden, that had come to lose their significance; others heavily modifying the interiors, that due to an intervention occured in the 1970s were obliterated and deformed.

The renovation project by Murado & Elvira aimed to restore the desirable role of the outdoor spaces and redefine the historical identity of the building through the careful design of a succession of rooms in which to host its new public functions.

Similarly to the Historic Archive, rooms are completely wrapped in warm maple wood: the architects used curved wooden walls to integrate shelving and some openings to hidden spaces behind, such as a wardrobe and a puppet theatre.

While from the outside the Sancti Spiritus Hospital seems to have apparently remained untouched by their renovation project, when stepping inside one is immersed in an unexpected and surprising environment. This new skin rejuvenates the building, which is for the most part mono-material, without erasing its history, making the Sancti Spiritus Hospital a place where everyone can find his own spot, a pilgrimage center for citizens and tourists.

Murado & Elvira Architects