Soriano-Manzanet family vault, Villareal, Spain

Vaulted Valediction

Soriano-Manzanet family vault, Villareal, Spain
Soriano-Manzanet family vault, Villareal, Spain

The vaulted Mortuary Chapel for the Soriano-Manzanet family in Villareal was designed by architects Fernando Vegas and Camilla Mileto, and executed by Salvador Gomis under the supervision of Salvador Tomás.  It references the Spanish region’s rich ceramic-making tradition and the characteristic tile vault technique, historically widespread throughout the East of Spain.

Soriano-Manzanet family vault, Villareal, Spain
Soriano-Manzanet family vault, Villareal, Spain

This technique was disseminated by Valencian architect Rafael Guastavino (see earlier posts on Diary of a Tile Addict) among modernist architects, notably Gaudí, and in the USA’s transport infrastructure, where the technique came to be synonymous with him and his place of origin.

Soriano-Manzanet family vault, Villareal, Spain
Soriano-Manzanet family vault, Villareal, Spain

Special 3D programs were required to design the pantheon and the final solution was only agreed on after working through 23 variations; all aiming for optimum aesthetic and structural results.  All the curves in the pantheon were produced using catenary profiles.

 

Close to 20,000 hand-made ceramic tiles were used during the construction once tests had been carried out to determine the appropriate type of clay and firing regime.  Texture, durability and aging tests were also undertaken.  The size and thickness of the tiles, which are dependent on the curves, were carefully specified; and detailed calculations undertaken to determine the required weight of the three ceramic layers to compensate for the effect of wind suction.

Soriano-Manzanet family vault, Villareal, Spain
Soriano-Manzanet family vault, Villareal, Spain

The vault comprises four interlinked hyperbolic paraboloids and is very light yet incredibly strong.  Formwork was not required and only some metal guides were used to ensure curvature was guaranteed at all times.

 

The structure was carefully studied so that entire bricks could be used, avoiding trimmings or patching up joints.  It was built using only brick, plaster and white cement; with no need for steelwork or reinforced concrete.  Nevertheless, the pantheon vault has been designed to withstand earthquakes; with fibreglass rods installed to absorb shear force.

Soriano-Manzanet family vault, Villareal, Spain
Soriano-Manzanet family vault, Villareal, Spain

The total constructed weight of the vault is approximately 12.5 tonnes, considerably less than a traditional pantheon with brick walls and concrete floors and ceilings, which could weigh between 15 and 20 times as much (between 190 and 250 tonnes) for the same volume.  These figures reveal the savings in both energy and material, as well as the versatility of the tile vault compared to other more common constructions.

Soriano-Manzanet family vault, Villareal, Spain
Soriano-Manzanet family vault, Villareal, Spain

The floor comprises around 50 different shapes of Cenia Stone tiles designed and placed to form an isotropic puzzle that is repeated in all four modules.  The external lighting of the vault is provided by fittings embedded in the paving at the foot of each of the vault.

Soriano-Manzanet family vault, Villareal, Spain
Soriano-Manzanet family vault, Villareal, Spain

The benches are solid blocks of Cenia stone specifically sculpted to incorporate the ventilation of the niches and sockets. Plant holders are also individual Cenia stone blocks which have been hollowed out and incorporate imperceptible perforated drainage on the base.

Soriano-Manzanet family vault, Villareal, Spain
Soriano-Manzanet family vault, Villareal, Spain

The central paving uses double slip-coated ceramic tiles, playing with curves and counter-curves in dialogue with the vault. These tiles were designed and manufactured for the occasion by ceramist Enric Mestre, who also designed the monolith and the ceramic panel at the top of the pantheon.

Soriano-Manzanet family vault, Villareal, Spain
Soriano-Manzanet family vault, Villareal, Spain

The slab used in the crypt, a single piece of Cenia stone weighing about a tonne, was extremely difficult to extract and produce, but can be slid effortlessly thanks to the rails and wheels attached to the back and installed by Unisystem.  Inside, in a long space that highlights the smooth finish of Porcelanosa’s Butech panels, there is room for 24 niches and 12 columbaria, lit with simple linear LED fittings on the ceiling.

Location: Municipal Cemetery, Villareal, Spain     Client: Soriano – Manzanet Family
Design: Camilla Mileto & Fernando Vegas    Construction Company: Construcciones Angose S.A.
Vault builder: Salvador Gomis Avíñó     Pottery artist: Enric Mestre Estellés
Restorer: Noema Restauradores     Bricks: Anticfang
Locksmith: Unisystems Porcelanosa Grupo     Natural Stone: Inmar Stone Group

A new post by Joe Simpson, Diary of a Tile Addict, January 2018

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