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After 25 years lying derelict on one of the city’s busiest streets, Barcelona’s old bullring has been transformed into a media and arts centre.

Standing with RSHP architect Laurie Abbot in the middle of the old weed-infested arena, two key ideas emerged: one was to delicately support the wobbling 100-year-old brick walls on new open arches to give free access from all sides to the shops, bars and cinema inside; the other to float a new 3000 seat performance space over the top to cover the interior without touching the walls.

Now complete, this performance space is covered by one of the largest timber shells ever built. In this way, the once fortress-like bullring is now accessible and welcoming, breathing renewed life into the old shell. The construction operation itself was quite an event, using hundreds of tonnes of temporary steelwork to shore up the walls while the new interior was being built. Only when all the bolts were tightened was the command given to take down the shoring – the old walls are now five metres above the new entrance level as a reminder of a former age, with the 21st Century all around.

We are pleased to say that Las Arenas scooped the IStructE Award for Arts or Entertainment Structures 2011.

Structural engineers: Expedition & BOMA
Environmental engineers: BDSP

Image Copyright – completed building David Cardelus (RSHP)

Chris Wise
Seán Walsh
Bruce Martin
Tom Hull

This project features in our piece on Transforming Buildings.


Client: Metrovacesa (originally Sacresa)

Architect: Rogers Strik Harbour + Partners

Contractor: Dragados

Project Value: £90m

Status: Completed 2011

Las Arenas Bullring, Barcelona