Oratory and Auditorium at the Retamar School

Title: Oratory and Auditorium at the Retamar School
Location: Pozuelo de Alarcón, Madrid, Spain
Studio: Hermoso & Heimannsfeld arquitectos S.L.P.
Author: Enrique Hermoso Lera & Karin Heimannsfeld
Category: Collective Place
Video: Lisa Hermoso Heimannsfeld
Photos: Javier Orive, Cortesia de Artytech2

Our design aims for integration with the existing brick buildings, maintaining at the same time its unique character for the school, highlighted on the exterior by a prominent green zinc roof.
This church is designed inside out: The inside space of the oratory is the most important element of the project, giving it both its character and “soul”. This was achieved within the larger volume by the use of natural light, an asymmetry in the overall composition and by the selection of materials.
The material used for the nave and ceiling is bamboo cladding, changing to thin layers of titan in fish scale patter at the presbytery, while the golden granite is replaced by green granite around the altar to mark the significance and importance of this area.
An intermediate space between the new and the old building is opened up with a concrete staircase inserted beneath a large skylight, acting as second entrance space leading visitors to the auditorium. On the same floor are three more multipurpose classrooms, rest rooms and technical rooms.
The interior of the auditorium is formalized by contrasting two very different materials – galvanized expanded metal mesh and bamboo panels.
Outside, a concrete staircase is acting as an amphitheatre. Next to the auditorium, the huge cantilever of the oratory choir gives shelter to the outside scenery.
This interplay between the two main spaces is expressed on the exterior by the dialog between the brick and the zinc reflecting solidity and movement, earth and heaven…


Designing and building the new Oratory and Auditorium for the Retamar School, the client asked for a high quality building and with the same dignity as the “Temple of King Salomon”, done with the best materials….
In those days, this meant marble, cedar wood and gold, which we translated for nowadays in: Granite, bamboo panels for acoustic reasons and high flexibility and titanium, used in space technology, with certain flair of eternity, which hints to the connection to God.
Quality is for us mainly an open space without any columns or anything disturbing the views of the priest to the people or vice versa.
The open space is structured by natural light, the grandstand in front of the choir and the main space before the slightly elevated presbytery, to be in community with everybody, but as well to give the possibility to each individual to withdraw into ones inner space to communicate with God.
The quality is as well achieved by the utility and flexibility of the building to serve a variety of activities: From special events to day by day school functions, to work for a single class (not feeling “lost in space”) up to communions and celebrations of several hundred pupils aged from five to seventeen as well for over five hundred families.
The building was designed first of all for pupils and their special and different needs at this school and make children feel comfortable with the inside and outside of the building…