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CollaboratorPEP ANGLÈS






PhotographJOSÉ HEVIA

Cal Massó

How to bring new life into a building while not destroying but intensifying its patina and memories? This former distillery, built by Pere Caselles in 1920, has proved resilient enough to shelter a hundred years of such diverse human activities as a distillery, a carpenter’s workshop, and now a public arts center. Its robust masonry walls and catalan brick vaults, and its clear and high structure have allowed this. Our intervention focused on transforming into a public forum while bringing it back to its initial condition without loosing its memory, and simultaneously preparing it for the next hundred years.


41°09’29.8″N 1°06’07.8″E
Massó Distillery was one of the many companies that produced and exported liquor in Reus. It was founded in 1910 by Josep Massó, some years after the phylloxera plague caused havoc in most of European vines. Before that, Reus was one of the main trading centers for alcohol in Europe. Herein the beloved local saying ‘Reus, Paris and London’. From those ashes, a new generation of companies rose. Some still exist today.

The place was known by the locals as Cal Massó.


The comission by the Insititut Municipal de Museus was to bring the Massó Distillery building back to use so it could become an arts production center for Reus. In the first phase, we had to develop a program, for there was none. The  transient nature, the extraordinary conditions of the existing place and the low budget available guided us all the way.

So the initial question was something like: We have this empty, old space, and we want to turn it into an arts center, but first we´d like to figure out what an arts center is today?


This project was developed in two phases. In 2003, we were asked to refurbish an old carpenter workshop that occupied almost half of the building and that had been abandoned for several years. Its atmosphere was magic, loaded with past carpentry actions and a sawdust patina.The public client could not afford to buy the place, only to rent it. So the transformation had to be temporary and easily removed.

The second phase is located next door, in the former Massó abandoned distillery. Again, the place was full of a life that was long gone, and materials that could be reused and upcycled.

The architect Pere Caselles built this place in 1920.

First phase. Former Persianas Cort workshop.

First phase. Former Persianas Cort workshop.

A lot of old rhum barrels were kept on the abandoned distillery next door.

Massó rhum.

Second phase. Former Destilerias Massó distillery.

Second phase. Misteriously, most old barrels had disappeared.

Coñac Adalid poster that was upcycled as the new bar ceiling.

Second phase. Small existing patio.

Second phase. Small patio. Found stones.

Second phase. Small patio. Found stones.


In order to turn this empty, magic built atmosphere into a public arts center, we need to:

1. Clean and heal its structure and physiology, a little damaged from so many years of a derelict life.

2. Update its services. Bring light, electricity, ventilation, and comply with all current regulations without damaging its character, its patina. How much dust and rust can we keep?


The project respects and intensifies the memory of the former activities, their scars and atmosphere, that conform the qualities of this place.

Proposals / What?

1. Project economy; to invest in the program.

2. Temporality of the proposal. When the project started, the space was rented, so it had to last long and be easily dismantled, transported. A campsite adapted to its environment. From temporality to reversibility.

3. To clean and adapt. The building has enough architectural qualities, it is only necessary to install new technologies and services. To keep and respect its atmosphere, a result of the biography of the building.

4. Cal Massó is not a museum, it is a production space where creativity is intensified by direct interaction of people. The project builds this idea.

At the same time, it allows a diversity of uses, working with a system that enriches the program. The new intervention must collaborate with the place:

Prioritary interventions / How?

1. To intensify the existing atmosphere. Sediments are not eliminated, they are worked with. To use the patina, a print of its former uses (the architect Pere Caselles, distillery, carpentry…).

2. Climatization. To get the different necessary airs to work, relate or contemplate in it.

During the first phase, a light enclosing system had to be developed, so that it could be easily assembled and removed. An assembling system that adapts to the particularities of the building (including its history) turning into doors, windows, floor, toilets, walls… It is thought to be as easy, fast and tireless as possible. We used larch three-layers boards and polycarbonate for its lightness and flexibility. We set out a workshop space, where artists in residence could develop the works that they would present at the end of their stay.

The arts center became quite popular among locals, and in 2007 we were commissioned a second phase. The municipality was now the owner of the whole Cal Massó building. By that time, the needs were clearer. A bar, an office, a storage, a bigger performance and gathering hall, and a patio that would become the core of the building’s life. A first floor was needed within the existing structure. In order to comply with legal regulations, we used a steel structure instead of wood. It was totally made off-site. We could reuse many of the objects and materials found in the distillery, giving them a totally different function.


The first phase site works were supposed to be fast, easy and simple. We encountered unexpected, hidden surprises in the structure and infrastructure of the existing building, which slowed the process down. We reused the leftover sawdust from the fabrication of the wooden frames as infills for walls. By detailing less labour, we designed an assembling process that was indeed fast and simple. Easy does it.

In the second phase, as we knew the building’s physiology and anatomy much better, everything went smooth, with no unexpected issues.


José Hevia. February 10th 2010.


This old space proved all its resilient qualities allowing many diverse activities inside it: from circus to rock concerts, from suppers to yoga, from high school exhibitions to the most sophisticated performances.

The GFC massive theft and the lack of interest of our politicians kept this space closed for some time. The vines in the patio kept growing, blossoming in spring and loosing its leaves in autumn. Since 2013 it is open again under private management.


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