Font del Lleó square
Natatium Roman ruins
Redevelopment of the Font del Lleó Square
Plaça Font del Lleó s/n, Caldes de Montbuí
June 2016 – September 2016
February 2018 – December 2018
Caldes de Montbui City Hall
Albert Esteva Monforte – Ar47 Estudi d’arquitectura
The Font del Lleó square, located in the heart of the Old Quarters of Caldes de Montbui, is the evocative centre of the town and also the most representative public open space within the city. The fountain is the town´s archetypal thermal water spring, with water surfacing at 74 º Celsius. Hot water flows out of the spring that lies beneath the square and converges into the various thermal circuits and resorts of the city. This thermal water, key and primary constituent of local heritage, has generated the square as we know it today.
The square is found within a complex historical context. The 16th century Lleó Fountain, along with the roman thermal baths (currently a museum) constitute the primary historical layer that configure the complex geometry of the square. Side by side, we find the thermal circuits and the Thermalia Museum, along with a modern building housing the city council. The resultant heterogeneous architectural assembly is concomitantly imposing and diverse. The square is scene of popular celebrations of the town, such as the Escaldàrium, the Castellers i Bastoners amongst others, as well as fairs and markets such as Olla I la Caldera, the artisan fairs and the Christmas markets. It is a space that the local residents reclaim as personal and familiar and that needs to answer functional requirements of accommodating large gatherings of people and other large events characteristically taking place in town squares.
The project addresses the need to unify the various elements that configure the square, as well as promoting and facilitate daily as well as large scale activities. It organizes public space and answers functional demands without recourse to dramatic effects, generating integrating public space that is clear and compelling.
The redevelopment plan is resolved by a means of a single plane, guaranteeing universal access by means of eliminating architectural barriers, highlighting historical elements while allowing for a flexible and versatile use of the square for the various activities that normally take place. The intervention re-uses the original cobblestone of the square. Old pieces were machine trimmed in order to be flattened and repositioned in the central area, while new granite cobblestones were placed as to conform a perimeter and also in front of the city council, creating an interface between antiquity and modernity.
The paved surface recuperates traces of the distant past and provides a link to the site´s past history. Granite cobblestone surfaces were bush hammered, a technique that slightly alters its texture, redrawing the perimeter of the natatium (located in front of the Thermal Baths) on the new pavement. Thermal water is understood as heritage element, as such its presence is felt by means of bringing thermal water vapour to the surface through pavement slits forming a perimeter, by creating an accessible spring and by facilitating the circulation of water around the Thermal Baths.
Simple urban elements of neutral tonalities are chosen as to adopt a discreet role with respect to their environment. Vegetation is located on the opposite side of elements of interest, creating rest areas with optimum visuals that leave as much unoccupied space in the centre of the square as possible in order to allow for maximum flexibility.
This project was executed in collaboration with Albert Esteve (Volta arquitectura), long term collaborator of the office and neighbour of Caldes. This, along with the participation of the neighbours throughout the process, has given us the ability to understand in depth the place, its needs and its potential.