Getafe (pop. 173,000) is typical of the ciudades dormitorios (commuter towns) that form a ring around Madrid. Largely residential in nature, they were developed during the industrial boom to provide housing for those that worked in the capital.
Getafe is more attractive than most in so much that it has an historical centre dating from early 1900s. That said, its old covered market was lying in decay for decades, having lost out to the strategies of the supermarket. In October 2015 it came back to life as a mixed use community centre, structurally enhanced and dressed in a new skin by the Madrid-based studio A-cero.
A-cero is one of Spain's leading architecture firms. With an acknowledged influence of Le Corbusier and Mies van der Rohe, it has created dozens of swoopy-walled, showstopper homes for the country's luxury-inclined, also counting Cruz-Bardem amongst its clients. The Mercado de Getafe signifies a different model for A-Cero. 'Here, have learnt that we are capable of transforming an existing building into something radical and eye-catching,' says Joaquín Torres, one of A-cero's two partners.
The programme presented various challenges; salvage the interesting aspects of the original building and make the interior completely functional and adaptable to uses ranging from exhibitions to debates. Aesthetic interventions were confined to the exterior.
Of the old building, which consists of two volumes, two floors, and a basement, the architects retained and reinforced the exterior walls (now painted black), ceramic ceilings, and interior concrete trusses. The rhythm of the trusses has been echoed in the composition of the facade, a sequence of aluminium 'ribs'.
Smaller black panels are irregularly interjected outwards from the ribs and support the building's exterior lighting. On one side, which faces the town's main square, these ribs are interrupted by the abrupt appearance of the market's original entrance and balcony - a stylised reminder of the building's significance as Getafe's community hub.
'The idea was to make the facade as visually pleasing as possible in order to attract people inside,' continues Torres. 'And to present the idea of an old building wrapped inside a new one.'