New access to Gironella’s historic centre – CARLES ENRICH

architect_ Carles Enrich
location_Gironella, Spain
project year_2013-2015
photography_ Adrià Goula

project team_ Adriana Campmany, Àngel Rosales, Ada Sánchez
local architect_ Schwander & Sutter Architekten
promotor_ Servicio de Patrimonio Arquitecónico Local (Diputación de Barcelona) / Ayuntamiento de Gironella
structural engineer_ MA+SAad
constructor_ Construcciones Solà-Cardona
elevator’s instalation_ Inelsa Zener
from the architect_


Gironella is a municipality that has grown, during the last decades, divided by the river Llobregat. Its historic centre is located on top of a 20 metres high hill on the east bank of the river, where the medieval castle was set.

The modern part of Gironella is placed on the other side of the river, next to the road linking Barcelona with Berga, favoured by a more flat topography, which has allowed an expanding urban growth.

The 20 metres vertical break between the historic centre and the new area of the town has generated a social fracture. Over the years, the historic centre has been depopulated due to difficulties in accessibility. The narrow stepped streets that lead to the town main square represent a huge effort to the elderly and the little ones.


The proposal consists of the insertion of a new access to the historic centre in order to enhance the urban connectivity between the two parts of the town, boosting the use of the old town and avoiding social exclusion.

Gironella’s river facade is formed by a series of medieval remains that mean an architectural and historic heritage for the town, such as the stone wall or the industrial colonies of the early twentieth century along the river. Our proposal seeks to be integrated respectfully as a new layer in the historical memory of the place. Moreover, we recognise Cal Metre path’s vegetal layer as a first grade of public space relationship and we look for material continuity with the factories.

We suggest the location of the elevator in a strategic point of Cal Metre path, former access to the textile industries. The elevator will improve the accessibility to the old town but it will also be a trigger to recover the use of this ancient river passage offering new urban continuity with the town square public space.

Description of the intervention

Our intention is to dialog with all pre-existences, enhancing a relation with the textile industries and recognizing the green stratum as a public space. To this end we solve the case of the elevator with 3 materials: steel, ceramic and glass.

The steel structure is done entirely in a local workshop and it is moved to the work area in 4 tranches that are definitely placed in 4 different days. It consists of 4 80.8 tubular columns and 80.8 tubular rings placed every 1.5 metres. Some L 100 profiles welded to the rings allow holding the ceramic lattice sections.

The upper 16 metres of the case are covered with a ceramic lattice, made by holed bricks placed on their side faces. The choice of this enclosure material responds, on the one hand, to its role as a solar filter offering at the same time porosity, light entrance and ventilation to the elevator case. On the other hand, it dematerializes the case by letting the light go across it provoking an appearance of lightness that contrasts with the opacity that it is shown in a farther point of view.

The lower 8 metres of the case have a glass enclosure. Its transparency ensures a close relation with Cal Metre river path and its trees, which create a magnificent shadow area that changes with the seasons.

The lattice closes three of the four sides of the structure. The inner face is left open allowing a visual relation with the stone wall during the entire journey. To favour the relationship between the elevator and the activities that take place in the square, the elevator’s facade towards is also made of glass.

The election and placement of the ceramic material responds to industries texture relationship criteria. There are also some economic reasons, low cost product, easily executed and non maintenance needs, some climate aspects, such as case’s solar protection and ventilation and, at the same time, having the opportunity of letting in filtered light.

Recovered public space

With the elevator insertion, we ease the way to Gironella’s old town so we sew the fractured village. The depopulated historic centre is now linked with the new area and the vertical connection stimulates people to live, stay or visit the ancient part of the town. Gironella’s main square is now easily reachable so the elevator becomes a key dynamizer that stimulates users and activities.

The position of the elevator is determinant to achieve the recovering of a very rich but forgotten space, the Llobregat riverfront and its adjoined path. From now on, both public spaces take profit from the other as each one’s activities will spread to the other one.

Moreover, the ‘reappearance’ of Cal Metre path opens a new way towards the incorporation of other opportunity spaces, such us the industrial buildings next to the river, to the public space of the town.

Courtesy of Carles Enrich.