The construction of the Reials Drassanes royal shipyard building in Barcelona began in the 13th century, under the Crown of Catalonia-Aragon.
The structure, comprising linear sheds supported by stone-built arches running lengthways and crosswise to compensate each other, creates the interest of this vast building characterized by its isotropic interior space.
The architectural principles are so powerful that they have remained unchanged and established the baseline for subsequent extensions of the building, producing the largest secular Gothic construction in Europe. The complex was declared a National Monument and is home to the Maritime Museum of Barcelona (MMB).
The project to remodel and restore the architectural complex of the Shipyard and refurbish the Maritime Museum was preceded by a body of archaeological research to provide more information about the various constructions. The subsequent project addressed all aspects related to restoration, showcasing built heritage, conversion of the interior spaces and museology.
The interventions in the Barcelona Royal Shipyard started on 1984 in several phases:
Phase 1: Marqués de Comillas room to lodge temporary exhibitions.
Phase 2: Main Façade to the Barcelona Port. Annex sheds to Capmany room. Restaurant, shop.
Phase 3: Main entrance through the Royal Gardens. Administrative rooms, meeting rooms and auditorium in Pere IV Building.
Phase 4: Governor House and Caretaker house lodge laboratories.
Phase 5: remodelling of the large sheds of the Barcelona Royal Shipyard.
The intervention, lasting several years, necessarily observed guidelines that helped to implement the project, establishing points in common to give unity to the restoration project and ensure that the parts were not resolved independently. The four points that served as the project’s criteria for intervention were:
1. Adjacency between the original structure and any new elements constructed.
2. Transparency was the design tool used to revalue the isotropic space of the sheds, moving the restoration of objects, models and ships, and storage space to peripheral areas. The new outer facings are glass framed by steel coated with oxide primer, like the facings that separate different uses, such as the library and the double space of the foyer.
3. Economy of materials: the use of just four materials: a continuous concrete flooring, clad with Prodema throughout the programme where a closed volume is needed, steel coated with oxide primer in the façades and for lightweight elements; and plaster and paint for all masonry partitions tangent to the arches.
4. Concealed installations. This strategy involved building false ceilings and underground installation housing, with inspection covers beside each stone column to guarantee the flexibility that a museum programme requires.
The project also recovers the mediaeval walls, the bastion, the gardens, the roof. The restoration of the enclosing wall involved consolidating it so as not to spoil the patina of the centuries. All the details of roof restoration aimed to ensure suitable climatic conditions in a present-day public building, incorporating sandwich insulation with tiles, and prevent damp that would rot the timber beams, resting them on metal sheet placed on cantilevers instead of embedding them in the stone.