Restoration of the Number 2 Blast Furnace in Sagunto

Carmel Gradolí

Restoration of the Number 2 Blast Furnace in Sagunto

C/ Alegret, 10, 46020 Valencia

Valencia, Spain
EU Prize for Cultural Heritage/Europa Nostra Award 2012 winner - Conservation (Grand Prix)

Restoration of the Number 2 Blast Furnace in Sagunto

The Restoration of the Number 2 Blast Furnace in Sagunto has been the recovery of the most significant remains of what was the major iron and steelwork industry of the Mediterranean basin, which worked from 1917 to 1984. It's located in Puerto de Sagunto, the town near the sea that grew with the iron industry. Besides its powerful imagery and commemorative nature, its educational potential was a determining factor in preventing its demolition when the iron industry of Sagunto was definitively closed.

The industry and the city

The singularity of the blast furnace as an industrial relic derives from two aspects. Firstly, its specificity as an element which makes the iron and steel industry possible, in which human ingenuity shows its ability to master nature. Also, its own values which make its conservation desirable: its commemorative nature of what is now a historic industrial era, its educational potential and, of course, its powerful image.

Furthermore, the Number 2 Blast Furnace is the most interesting element that has been conserved of an industry which led to the creation of a complete population centre, a city in which the social and urban fabric completely depended on the Mediterranean Blast Furnace factory complex. Its closure in 1984, after more than sixty years' operation, and the demolition of practically the whole complex, was a traumatic rupture with the past, and gave rise to a human and urban crisis in which the most important reference for the population disappeared. Its conserved remains are scarcely able to transmit their true significance offering a decrepit if not ruinous aspect.

Consequently, this restoration has a responsibility to give back to Puerto de Sagunto an element of identification and memory of its origins and its industrial past: a symbol that provides to this town a unifying and recognition element, which has got interest from the historical, cultural, educational and social point of views.

The restoration

The characteristics of the blast furnace determine intervention possibilities: that is not a container for which a more or less new use that suits its spatial characteristics and its original purpose can be found. Instead, it is a huge machine, an artefact which was built and modified for specific resources, a purpose and, above all, with a very different attitude from that which encourages us to conserve it.

In this situation, the work has been focused on three aspects:

•    Structural consolidation of the furnace, a 64 m-high metal tower which has been abandoned and not maintained for more than fourteen years, located in an aggressive marine environment.

•    Restoring its image by undertaking an optimistic intervention which helps the furnace to recover the aspect it had after one of the periodical reconstruction works it underwent when it would have been ready for a new operation campaign.

•    Fitting it out functionally, this being of an essentially educational nature, by making its interior visitable and by creating a route that offers access to the high levels. To improve this educational aspect, we have constructed a reception pavilion equipped with audiovisual media where, before the visit, and by the virtual restoration of the parts that no longer exist, the position of a blast furnace in the iron and steelwork process may be appreciated and its correct operation as a machine for producing cast iron can be understood.

This is a project in which we have been working for over fifteen years and, after having designed the project in 1996, it has been completed in three phases: 1998-2000 (intervention on furnace and pavilion, not finished), 2007 (urbanization of the surrounding area) and 2009-2011 (finishing the work on furnace, pavilion and access area).

Diverse institutions have participated in the long process of the restoration of the Number 2 Blast Furnace and it had a total cost of approximately 2.830.000,00 euro;

We consider that the work carried out in the Number 2 Blast Furnace of Sagunto is especially interesting from an European point of view because of its singularity: neither the scales nor the type of interventions of other European works are similar to our intervention in Sagunto and this is, by the present, the only example in Europe of a blast furnace reconstructed in an educational way and made it visitable.