THE UNIVERSITY OF ALCALA DE HENARES (MADRID, SPAIN), AS A DYNAMIC EXAMPLE AND LABORATORY OF THE RECOVERY, REHABILITATION, AND CONSERVATION OF THE CULTURAL HERITAGE
Keywords: Architecture, Cultural Heritage, Representation, University of Alcala, Cartography, GPS
Abstract. Cardinal Cisneros launched in 1499 a major universitary project, that was located in Alcala de Henares (Madrid, Spain). It bestowed recently the recognition of the Council of Europe as a World Heritage Site in 1998 by UNESCO.
Cisneros created the new university in the vicinity of the Roman town of Complutum. This site had two qualities which were particularly important: it was placed at a safe distance from the power of the Crown at Toledo, and it was well connected with other main Spanish cities, through the Roman road or calzada that crossed the Iberian peninsula from South to North going along some important settlements as Mérida, Toledo, Zaragoza, and Barcelona.
Thus the old town of Alcala de Henares still keeps the remains of the Visigothic, Roman, Muslim and Hebrew cultures. Since the end of the fifteenth century the built Renaissance complex has gone through three clear stages, where lots of relevant architects developed their work. Among them, Pedro Gumiel and Rodrigo Gil de Hontañón can be cited for their first drawings, but other anonymous architects have also contributed to build such an interesting project.
In a second stage some repairs were needed on the former structures, in order to adapt them to their new functions due to deterioration or even to changes in ownership or uses (as happened to the Colegio Mayor de San Ildefonso). Finally, at the latest stage at the end of the 20th and the early 21st centuries a new regeneration project took place in order to introduce the modern technologies and energy-efficient standards the old universitary buildings.
An interesting example of this modern practices on dynamic conservation of the historical heritage is the new Learning and Research Center (LRC) on the ruins of San Diego headquarter built in 1859 on the site of the Franciscan convent of Santa Maria de Jesus, founded in 1445 by Archbishop Alonso Carrillo (which in turn it replaced an earlier one).
The aims of the new LRC are to, preserve and document the archaeological remains from each one of the previous cultures, thus becoming an international research center on the cultural heritage documentation and preservation which heads the Spanish and European universities.
In short, it intends to add value to the existing Heritage through a new project which involves not only an intensive use but a transdisciplinary complex including urban, architectural and functional changes which have been solved through a comprehensive rehabilitation project, a special urban development and a master action plans with focus in energy–efficient researches.
Since the creation of the Schools of Architecture and Civil Engineery, the study of Built Heritage at the University of Alcala has been introduced as an essential educational tool, who can currently learn and apply both the traditional measurements and the digital invasive and non-invasive technologies (Such as X-Ray, radar or infrared methodologies) to study the old buildings, their constructive pathologies, and their evolution.
Teachers also show to the students the possibility of including new and changing uses the old buildings, and they explore new proposals on this heritage.