It is always a dilemma for designers retrofitting old buildings to decide what to keep and what to get rid of. This decision makes the difference between keeping the spirit of the old and giving it a new lease of life, or a falling into theme-park folly. Spanish architects Churtichanga+Quandra-Salcedo Arquitectos have gotten the mix right in their conversion of a slaughterhouse into a Public Cinema Center in Matadero de Lagazpi, Madrid.

The cinema consists of a huge complex of buildings and now includes a film archive, a television and film studio, offices, two cinemas, a canteen and also an summer outdoor movie theater. The designers took inspiration from projected film, basket weaving and geometry in their reworking of the slaughterhouse. Long strips of pine, stained dark gray, were used to create a human scale in the often cavernous spaces within the complex. The original brickwork sticks out above the wooden cladding and becomes the backdrop for all the activity within. Probably the most impressive new additions are the huge “baskets” in the main spaces. The baskets were made by weaving irrigation hoses, a massive scale up from the usual rattan or wicker and necessary to fit into the expanses within. In the archive, the basket defines staircases and becomes a huge lamp shedding warm golden light. The main movie theater is also encased in a black basket, giving viewers an ant-in-a-picnic-basket perspective, emphasized even more by the giant humans on the screen.

The mix of the visually busy brickwork and the calming pine cladding, combined with the architectural weaving creates a link between the slaughterhouse and its new incarnation. The perfect mesh of new and old.