Alhambra Entrance Plans Rejected in Surprise Move

Designs for a new entrance and visitor centre for the Alhambra Palace in Granada have been scrapped, in a move that has left architects Álvaro Siza and Juan Domingo Santos "deeply concerned".

Portuguese Siza and Spaniard Santos won a global competition for the project in 2011, and had come up with a full design solution by 2014.

“Invasive” plans

However, the architects have been asked to revise their plans for the UNESCO World Heritage Site.

The plans were described as "invasive" in a recent report by the International Council on Monuments and Sites (ICOMOS), prompting the Alhambra’s board of directors to reject the new design.

“Deeply concerned”

Siza has said that the designs were originally praised for their sensitivity. At the time of winning the project, Siza described it as "the project of their lives".

However, they are "deeply concerned" about the report's conclusions. The study said the architect’s plans for the Alhambra would have a "negative impact on the exceptional universal value of this World Heritage monument".

The architects told Spanish newspaper El Pais: "We are deeply concerned about the unfounded criterion that has been used by the Andalusian Administration to paralyse a project that the monumental complex and Granada need to face the Alhambra of the future."

"How is it possible to argue that the project is not integrated and is invasive in the landscape when the jury remarked that one of its main virtues was its integration in a place so sensitive?"

The pair went on: "We ask ourselves what are the real reasons to paralyse a design that was unanimously approved by all the institutions represented in the Board of the Alhambra."

The centrepiece of the design was a partially submerged entrance, which would replace the current two-step queue system at the Moorish fortress.

Up to 8,000 visitors a day would be able to enter the 1000-year-old building, without the current long waiting periods.

Despite the setback, it is believed the board of directors are reconsidering the proposal, and wish Siza and Domingo Santos to remain architects on the prestigious project.

Unique Challenges of Historic Buildings

Here at Inkpen Downie we understand the unique challenges that working on a historic building can bring. The Alhambra is not only on of the most important historic buildings in Spain, but, as its UNESCO listing demonstrates, the world, too.

The requirements and views of multiple direct stakeholders, alongside all-important public opinion, must be taken into account in order for a successful solution to be found.

A Solution for One of England’s Oldest Religious Houses

At Inkpen Downie we have worked on numerous historic buildings, including Clare Priory in Suffolk, for which we designed a new extension entrance and reworked the interior to meet the current and future needs of the building’s users and the liturgy. As one of England’s oldest religious houses, sensitivity was key in creating plans.

As the Clare Priory project webpage states:

"The new building is unobtrusive without being retiring, it is contemporary without being strident. It respects the scale of its historic setting and provides for modern space requirements."

The Inkpen Downie team has work on numerous other historic buildings, including St Catherines in East Tilbury, Essex and Brompton Square, Knightsbridge, London.

Learn more about our historic projects.

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