Town Hall Extension, Murcia
Rafael Moneo 

Town Hall Extension, Murcia

Rafael Moneo 

In dialogue with the cathedral and the palace of Cardinal Belluga, the new town hall closes the remaining side of the plaza and recuperates the celebratory character the setting had in times gone by.

Facing plaza Belluga, besides the palace of the cardinal of the same name and the monumental front of the cathedral, are buildings which the local bourgeoisie built in times gone by to benefit from such a choice location. The razing of one of these houses upset the sense of seclusion that characterized the place. This new town hall building closes the square once again and revives its celebratory Baroque spirit. Aware of the importance the Church had in the 18th century, the institition that seeks to represent civil power inserts itself into the city’s principal urban space as a privileged spectator.

With no access from the plaza, the new building has its entrance at one side, closing the street which joins it to the old quarter. The lower stories open onto an English courtyard which gives on to the cathedral plaza.

To comply with the requirements for such an an insertion, the facade that looks to the cathedral is conceived as an altarpiece. Being a mere spectator, and deferring to preexisting constructions, the town hall has no doors to the square. Access into the municipal premises is through one of the sides, so the street that links the town hall to the old quarter is closed. The altarpiece facade neither desires nor is able to compete with the classical orders of its neighbors, and it is designed like a musical score, numerical, and on a staff-like system of horizontal levels created by the floor slabs. Without marking any symmetries, its key feature is the gallery balcony, which engages in a dialogue with the main story of Cardinal Belluga Palace. The geometry of the floor plan is the result of converging several autonomous orthogonal schemes, each of which houses a particular set of activities. Those which involve contact with the public occupy the ground floor and the basement, which leads out to an English courtyard with direct access from the square. The higher stories repeat a structure of offices arranged in accordance with the directrices of the streets and the facade, behind which, are the more representative spaces.

Conceived as an altarpiece, the facade does not wish to compete with its neighbors. The face of the building is organized like a musical score with sandstone pillars which mark the horizontal rhythm of the floor slabs without overt symmetry. The areas most representative of civil power spill over onto a gallery, which opens onto the large balcony placed at the same height as the noble floor of the Belluga Palace.

The paving of the plaza underlines the building’s integration into the setting. Concentric circles of basalt cobble stones describe the concavity of the space, while a radial band of travertine manifests the diagonal relationship between the centers of civil and ecclesiastical power. This dark carpet frames the sandstone facade of the town hall, whose texture captures the vibrant Murcian sun and emphasizes the solidness of the pillars that structure the facade. The self-restraint is imposed on the interior areas where stone, wood and plaster disclose the public use of the premises hidden behind the tectonic tapestry of the celebratory altarpiece.

The concave form of the plaza’s paving is underlined by the concentric circles of the basalt cobblestones and the focused travertine bands demonstrate the relationship between the buildings.

Cliente Client
Ayuntamiento de Murcia

Arquitecto Architect
Rafael Moneo

Colaboradores Collaborators
Belén Hermida, Javier Revillo, Michael Bischoff, Valeria Koukoutsi (arquitectos architects); Francisco Álvarez Peiró (aparejador quantity surveyor)

Consultores Consultants
Mariano Moneo (estructura structure); JG Asociados (instalaciones mechanical engineering)

Contratista Contractor
Dragados, ACS

Fotos Photos
Roland Halbe /CONTUR, Duccio Malagamba