Square of the Lovers in Teruel
Square of the Lovers in Teruel
JOSÉ IGNACIO LINAZASORO
Fotografías: Filippo Poli Traducción: Ángela O’Driscoll
The Square of the Lovers wasn’t strictly speaking a square, but the void in the fabric as a result of the bombings during the Civil War which struck the city. Nevertheless, there was an attempt during the Postwar, with more or less fortune, to transform that void into a square. They had the advantage of its central location and the dominant presence of the emblematic Tower of Saint Peter which, before the War, the same as the rest of the Mudejar towers in Teruel, had been built between houses and on the street, as a tower-door of the wall. But this situation had changed dramatically after the bombings, since the tower had been left isolated on one of its sides, allowing its vision from the lower part of the void which wanted to become the new square.
In 2008 and after a series of attempts, there was a call for tenders to participate in an architectural competition to develop this square. It was a restricted-access contest where some well-known European architects were invited to take part. The result of this competition determined the project which finally has been developed.
The state in which the square was in at that moment was devastating, due to the deterioration of the intervention which had taken place during the first years of the 70’s decade and the marginal nature this space had developed over the years. It was a sort of cul-de-sac without almost no relation with the top part of the street Matías Abad where the tower and the access to the Mausoleum of the Lovers is located.
Other aspects also enhanced the degradation of this space, such as the fact that, during the time that had gone by ever since the end of the Civil War, some buildings had been built close by. Buildings with a set of characteristics which made it difficult to shape an urban square, and also which had made the Tower of Saint Peter become less important in the context of this urban fabric. This is the reason why the key idea of the winning proposal for the contest consisted of projecting a base for the tower blocking the view of the series of elements, such as the new access to the mausoleum, to eliminate the elements which competed with the tower. It is in this sense that the aim was to make the tower hold the key role, idea-strength which has been maintained all throughout the development of the project.
During the phase of the competition, there was the idea of building a fountain, whose position and shape has varied throughout the development of the project. It seemed to be a vital element to enrich this space and give it its own character. This is why the idea of the fountain was also linked to the idea of polychrome which is very present in the city of Teruel via the Mudejar towers and its ceramic elements, by which there was the intention of reinforcing the link of the new square with its location.
Nevertheless, in the rules of the competition there was no mention to the existence of a Special Interior Reform Plan and a project which had been approved for the “Casa Hinojosa”, which was in ruins ever since the Civil War and whose bottom part didn’t reach the level of the square. This is the reason why these conditioning elements weren’t taken into account in the winning proposal of the competition. Consequently, a terrace at the level of street Matías Abad was projected, oriented towards the square and also, a fountain in the shape of an inclined plane between the aforementioned terrace and the lower level. To access the Mausoleum a staircase was added taking advantage of the new wall-base of the tower.
But these conditioning elements changed dramatically when, once the contest was won, the start of the project was about to take place. Then new unexpected problems arose, such as the existence of the Special Interior Re- form Plan which affected the alignment of the new “Casa Hinojosa”.
The project of the house included as well the presence of a public terrace, but not at the level of the street Matías Abad as was projected in the proposal developed for the contest, but at an intermediate level. As well as this, the new “Casa Hinijosa” had commercial premises at the level where the square was to be set, which made it impossible to place the fountain were it had been designed to go.
It is for all these reasons that the project couldn’t be developed as it had been designed for the contest not as such, and the need to going over these issues again became necessary.
It is in this context that the need of enhancing the presence of an element in particular: the staircase which ascended to the street Matías Abad, which had started off being a discrete element, sheltered by walls, and had ended up in the final project being together with the wall-base of the tower, a crucial element of the project. It acquired this status because it allowed to articulate the three levels of the square (including the terrace at an intermediate level) in a sort of sequence or promenade. This space suddenly becomes much more dynamic than how it was initially conceived, it is enriched and becomes the prelude to the place where the tower lies and the Mausoleum.
To reinforce this path, the terrace which was initially designed for the “Casa Hinijosa” was substantially in- creased in dimension, creating an urban space and a large entrance area underneath. It is also worth mentioning the fact that as the staircase between walls has disappeared, it allows a new disposition for the fountain and a significant broadening of the space close to the Mausoleum at the level of the street Matías Abad.
Elements of the Square
The square is defined by three elements: the fountain, the staircase and the terrace which joins both these elements. The fountain is part of the wall-base of the tower and it is shaped as a layer of falling water which slides down a ceramic wall made of industrial pieces whose colour palette is based on those of the Mudejar ceramic, particu- larly those of the Tower of Saint Peter. The texture of the wall, made of aggregate concrete with a reddish arid is related to the rough texture of the bricks with which the tower is built; this way expressing its condition of being base element or plinth of it. A continuous bench made of solid Travertine marble and a powerful coping made out of the same material are the crowning elements of the wall. Its horizontal character contrasts the verticality of the tower and hides the slope of the street Matías Abad as well as the door accessing the Mausoleum which competes with the tower in importance due to its great presence in the landscape.
The staircase has got a monumental nature to it. It is more a great urban staircase which broadens as it ascends and turns there where it starts off to symbolically embrace the public which ascends from the lower level of the square. To enhance this monumental character of the staircase and at the same time reinforce its contempora- neity, it lays on a concrete slab on a downstand beam which is placed on top of two supporting elements. These two elements are: there where the stairs begins and a V-shaped pillar which at the same time is the supporting element of the terrace slab. This allows one to be able to walk underneath the staircase broadening the space of the square which flows underneath it.
To reinforce the staircase’s unique and urban character, something which would not be possible using a conventional rail, a balustrade is designed for it, a balustrade reinterpreted through the eyes of contemporary architecture.
The quality and expressiveness of the materials used characterizes this public space. It has been considered that a square is a place that requires solidity and a certain kind of timelessness and, on the other hand and because of that it shouldn’t respond to any kind of experimentalism or formal expressions of trends, specially bearing in mind it is an emblematic space set in the heart of the city of Teruel. At the same time, due to the aforementioned facts, the approach to this space requires a certain strength of expression which enhances the importance of the place itself. From this point of view, we understand that the approach to materiality as a way of strengthening the places expression is a demand which can be helped by a more rigid language of a contemporary nature.
Concrete and stone are basic building materials. The first is done using concrete formwork made of planks for the stair slab and the porch, whilst the wall-base is made of aggregate concrete with violet-coloured arid which reminds us of the rodeno stone and whose roughness blends harmonically with the brick finishing of the tower. This roughness contrasts also with the ceramic finishing of the fountain. This contrast also appears in the tower between the bricks and its ceramic elements.
Stone is the most abundant material in the square. We find two types of stone: the grey one from Calatorao which is used for the solid steps of the staircase, for the stone slabs of the terrace floor and for the paving stone of the centre as well as the broadened area of the street Matías Abad. The other type is the Travertine with which the benches are built, particularly the solid bench by the fountain, the coping which is the crowning element of the wall-base and the balustrade of the staircase. These last elements are also related to the fine columns made of the same stone which decorate de tower.
To achieve an adequate illumination has been a relevant aim of the project for the square. Although some old elements which illuminated the square have been maintained, such as two street lamps which have been remod- elled, a large part of the illumination happens without the use of direct light from street lamps via an illumination system discretely placed under the steps and benches, inside the fountain and between the joists of the porch. The aim was to emphasize by themselves the main elements of the square among them, the tower of course, whose illumination has also been thought out and whose figure presides at night the Square of the Lovers.