Guallart Architects


Valencia, Spain. 1998

The Roman city of Valencia was founded in the year 138 BCE. It was occupied by the Moors more or less continuously from 711 until 1238, when it was definitively reconquered by the Christian King James I. In each of these successive phases the city was surrounded by a new wall as it expanded beyond its previously delimited bounds, until the last wall was demolished in 1858, and there is little trace of their presence in the historic city today. In the case of the Arab wall, what remains are a few towers in the midst of later constructions built in the last five hundred years.

This project set out to valorize a discontinuous element that appears sporadically in the historic city centre. In the 1980s there was a move to demolish all of the later constructions around these Arab remains in order to create squares in which the ruins would stand out as iconic elements. Then the architect Ignasi de Solà-Morales carried out a restoration of the Roman wall in Barcelona in which he proposed that the vision should always be lateral, as it was for the inhabitants of the 19th-century city, who built very close to the wall because of the acute shortage of space. In our case we regarded the intervention as a cultural act, transforming the little that remained of the built heritage into something that could be called the ‘urban edition’ by articulating the various historic remains in itineraries and visits that draw on the logic of the guided tour more than on that of the urban space as such. We also decided that since very little of the wall remained, we should treat the foundations of other stretches of wall or of adjacent buildings as significant remnants of the built heritage, part of the DNA of the wall that deserved to be valorized. We therefore applied geometric logic to estimate the probable position of the missing towers, the foundations of which we felt sure we would find. However, the project was transformed when we discovered an old print of King James I attacking the Arab wall with his Christian troops, who had laid siege to the city for months. The king had tried to destroy the very wall that we were attempting to conserve almost eight centuries later. This led us to conclude that we ought to look at the wall from in front, encamped outside it like the Christian king, and transform it into a place to be in and not just to visit, to create a new wall, a wooden lattice that would act as a filter screening the backs of the neighbouring apartment buildings, and bombard this with images and sound, the media that connect us with contemporary culture.


Project date: 1998
Client: Oficina Riba
Site: Valencia
Architecture: Guallart Architects
Main architect: Vicente Guallart
Model: Adria Maines