Faced with the restoration of a tower built in the 13th century by the Arabs of the Nazari kingdom, architects Mercedes Miras Varelas and Luis Castillo Villegas bring a historical building back to life and design a distinctive extension to respect traits of the existing structure. Set on the edge of a cliff in the south of the Iberian Peninsula, the Tower of Huercal-Overa — derelict since the 15th century — was part of a larger fortress that has since disappeared.
“The impetus behind the restoration was that the authorities saw that it had deteriorated and wanted to revitalize it to give the people a more cultural and educational experience,” explains Miras.
The project comprised of a careful renovation of the Nazari structure, cleaning the brick arches and vaults in the interior. To facilitate accessibility to the upper floor, Castillo and Miras designed a simple Corten-steel staircase, differentiated from the original tower and minimally connected to it by a thin bridge. A simple cube of the same material is also placed toward the bottom of the site to house the information office.
“We wanted to recover or restore the original bits of the building as much as possible, but we wanted to make clear that our additions [were] not part of the original building,” explains Castillo.
“We’re recycling the building. We’re bringing it back to life.”
“With the staircase we proposed, we wanted to acknowledge and to promote the idea of creating an independent component,” adds Miras. “The connection with the tower [ … ] is intended to be minimal, with this isolated structure trying not to rival the tower at any stage.”
Throughout the site, the architects maintained the natural vegetation, choosing not to plant any additional or foreign plants. The design utilizes the topography around the site to facilitate an accessible experience for climbing up to the tower.
Using the natural slopes, curves and plateaus of the site and surroundings, the path to the tower takes advantage of flat interim spaces to create spaces for eating, talking or simply contemplating the landscape. Overall, the architects wished to create an experience that would make it more enjoyable for visitors to travel to the tower and see the vestiges of civilizations past and gone.
“For me,” concludes Miras, “architecture is not for architects. It’s for the people. In truth, architecture is necessary as long as people need it.”
Visit the full project page here for more images and information on the restoration of the tower.