Cabra, in the south of Spain, is a historical city famous for its nature reserves and architecture from the Middle Ages, however, the city’s history goes as far back as the Romans and there is even evidence of Paleolithic settlements in the region. Part of the Córdoba province, the municipality and the surrounding region primarily use industry and manufacturing to make up a third of their economy, the rest of the population is active in a variety of services, especially tourism.
In Cabra, the touristic value of the fortification wall from the Middle Ages, along with the historical importance of the Iberian, Roman, and Middle Ages defensive structures were important to preserve. These factors were also taken into account during the planning stages of the restoration while carefully considering the social and cultural impact of any changes made to this site would have on the inhabitants of the Barrio de la Villa (Old Quarter) and the egabrenses (someone from Cabra).
The task to oversee this mammoth task was undertaken by Sevilla-based EYAC Arquitec, Born out of the close collaboration between Spanish architects Alejandro A. Cobo Fernández and Carlos J. Blazquez Nunez, the architecture and engineering studio was founded in 2018. The two have worked on various projects of diverse nature which includes experience working with a multitude of corrective measures to address problems related to building pathologies, land engineering, soil instability, and much more. This background made them an ideal choice to carry out this architectural restoration and preservation project.
During an analysis of the current environment of the Barrio de la Villa, which lies adjacent to the ruins of the fortification certain concerns were raised. Found to be in a state of deterioration and degradation the Cabra Town Hall decided to run an intervention project on the remains of the southern section of the site to eliminate the risk of further damage to the site and the surrounding area. This is also when they choose to incorporate specific enhancements to the structure.
Land studies found that the area is prone to various geological-geotechnical phenomena such as the risk of landslides that could affect not only the conservation of the heritage but also the houses that sit on the highly degraded edge of the Villa on Ana de la Rosa and Tinte streets. Moreover, problems linked to the area, such as the instability of the ground by the edge of the slope where the site is located could potentially cause permanent damage to these walls. The need to act and conserve was not only necessary but crucial.
As this project was both an architectural intervention and an archaeological restoration, EYAC Arquitec used archaeological research to lay the foundation for their scientific approach. This ensured that the restoration was both culturally and historically sound, making the attempts to restore and consolidate existing wall structures more relevant to the city itself.
One of the first steps was to carry out the restoration and recovery of the wall in the section that runs parallel to Ana de la Rosa Street followed by the recovery of the slope that descends towards the back of Tinte Street. Targeted action was taken to eliminate the risk of slipping in the most dangerous section of the wall’s edge. The focus of this intervention was not only the restoration of the wall but also its integration into the urban fabric.
From an aesthetical point of view, the addition of monochrome black metal is humble yet mesmerising. This modern element has embraced the walls in a way that the juxtaposition seems almost natural. It also acts as a contour, further enhancing the form of the walls and making them look sharper and almost like an art installation. The smooth manufacturing of the added material juxtaposed with the callous edges of the ancient stone gives the site a sense of sturdiness. The lighting design also has a great impact on the allure of the walls. The minimal but crucial lighting illuminates the site in a manner that highlights the details of the architecture during the night as well. It provides mystery, safety and sheer modest beauty.
From a constructive perspective, a collaborative venture of innovative methodologies in the heritage and preservation sector combined with local and traditional rehabilitation and reconstruction techniques of stone factories defines the character of this intervention. The project has been successful in reducing the risk of landslides and restoring the damaged sections of the wall. Moreover, new walls have been built where sections of the medieval site were lost, and new routes have been created to ensure a smooth transition between the site and the area of the city.
Architecture Studio: EYAC Arquitec
Location: CABRA (Córdoba)
Year of construction: 2022
Area of operation: 1,275 m2
DO: Alejandro A. Cobo Fernández | Architect
D.E.O.: Carlos J. Blazquez Nunez | Technical architect
Collaboration: Pilar Gimena Córdoba | Dr. Architect
Promoter: Hon. Cabra Town Hall