The Gran Casino building of Vila-real city started its construction in 1910, providing the city with an important social platform where the members of high social status could gather. It was, in this way a silent witness to important events of the city.

Through time, this building has undergone many physical transformations to adapt to the demands of its inhabitants. It has served as a bank, as the headquarters of a bullfighting club, and as a space for community college.

In 2015, the Gran Casino and Tagoba theater were acquired by Vila-real town hall with the intention to bring it back to its former glory, to bring back a space that becomes the epicenter of social and cultural interaction, consequently triggering new activities around it. The renovation aims to piece back together a highly fragmented building, as a result of partial adaptations serving temporary purposes.

A big sense of responsibility comes with having the opportunity to intervene in a building of many layers of historical relevance, built by the people and for the people. A building that citizens have made their own, as descendants of previous generations, as pedestrians in the streets as beholders of the city landscape, and as social beings.

We strongly believe that taking care of old buildings is crucial to the public good, even if that entails demolishing walls and revealing something that wasn’t shown before. Preservation is understood as an always radical act.

We analyzed each space, its original use, what they became, and the transformations they suffered. During the demolition of partitions and drop ceilings the building exposed its secrets, amongst those, one of the most interesting is the use of the “revoltón valenciano” or valentian vault ceiling, a construction system that with the use of a mortar lays flat terracotta bricks forming a small vault resting lengthwise over parallel wood or metal beams.

This construction technique was developed around the 15th century in the region of Valencia and Catalonia, especially used in civil construction. The series of vaults and beams form a shell lightweight structure, thus both the floor above (usually tiled) and the ceiling itself distribute loads equally to the whole slab allowing the reduction of load-bearing walls particularly important in multistory buildings, in addition to providing strength
and durability.

The moment of maximum popularity of this type of vault was from the middle of the 18th century to the middle of the 20th century, driven by the rapid growth of cities and industrialization. It was made popular due to the ease and low cost of construction since it works with inexpensive materials and can be erected very quickly and with little labor.

The “revoltón valenciano” is a symbol of an era, of its current social and economic moment in time. Its mere existence and use throughout time is a reflection of a phenomenon that becomes common knowledge “open source” to be taken, used, and interpreted freely as a prototype, and as a predecessor to other systems and typologies. Thus is the case of Antonio Gaudi´s interpretation of the vault in the school of the Sagrada Familia. A true amalgamation of art, technology, and craftsmanship.

During this project, we became aware of the value and importance of having a multidisciplinary team, including local historical preservation architects, with a vast knowledge of traditional construction systems and an expert approach to repair the damages of time and recover the constructive memory of this region. Careful probing and cataloging were executed in order to take proper actions. We made it our priority to understand the building to its core, in order to adapt it to the current time, finding a way to trigger its evolution for a renewed and more resilient life with profound respect for its previous one. It made us question the foundations of the way we build, demolish and remember.