Medieval royal shipyards in Seville rehabilitated as a cultural centre

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reales atarazanas

SEVILLE – Spain’s largest medieval shipyard is located in Seville. Almost 800 years ago, Alfonso X El Sabio (the Wise) commissioned to build it. However, after years of abandonment, the doors of the Reales Atarazanas will open again in 2024.

The royal shipyard from 1252 is an emblematic heritage. It is one of the largest and oldest preserved ‘atarazanas’ of its kind in Spain and one of the most important in the world. In and around the buildings shipbuilders constructed galleys to fight the North African Muslims – ‘the heathen people’.

Architect Guillermo Vázquez Consuegra designed the multifunctional cultural centre to be built. No less than €20 million has been made available by the La Caixa Foundation and the regional Ministry of Culture for the rehabilitation work of the old shipyards.

The building has 17 naves and is located in the Arenal district, perpendicular to the river Guadalquivir and between the river and the monumental complex of the Cathedral, the Alcazar, and the Archivo de Indias (where all documents related to the trade from the New World).

Thereafter, the shipyards and their functions changed several times over the years. The building served as a royal warehouse and customs house, factory and artillery depot, and even as an army residence. When architect Guillermo Vázquez Consuegro finishes his renovation project, the Reales Atarazanas will once again be accessible for the Sevillanos and other visitors. People from the world of art and culture will meet there and exchange their knowledge and ideas with all citizens. 

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Red list

The Reales Atarazanas were included on the Red List of Heritage because a large cafeteria with a spacious terrace was built in it with the approval of the municipality. Consequently, the construction works changed the structure of the monument substantially. These changes were absolutely inappropriate and not allowed in a monument of this category. Now, with the approval of the Andalucian Heritage Preservation Association (ADEPA) of the project, the new works will repair the caused damage.

From shipyard to exhibition space

The Reales Atarazanas is home to three concatenated historic buildings. On one side is the Arab Walls section, the seven shipyards themselves, and the Maestranza de Artillería (artillery workshop) building. The medieval space on the ground floor with seven naves will in the future serve as an exhibition space. The medieval arcades will also undergo extensive restoration. The same goes for all the 18th-century vaults and their metal roofs.

Reales Atarazanas is ‘exceptional Heritage’

Work on Las Reales Atarazanas started at the end of December. This week the Andalucian president, Juanma Moreno, inaugurated the works. During his speech, he emphasised that it is an “emblematic project” that is the result of a public-private partnership.

According to Moreno, with the rehabilitation of the shipyards, the city gains “an exceptional heritage and a key in its history”. Once the works are complete, the Fundación Cajasol, as concession holder, will take over the start-up of the cultural centre.

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