Proposal for intervention in the House of Mercy in Cartagena

Published by Basilio on

The Mercy House of Cartagena it was a charity dedicated to caring for homeless children. Currently the building is the headquarters of the Rector of the Polytechnic University of Cartagena. In this post I will talk about a proposal that I made as a work of intervention in heritage.

Situation of the house of Mercy in Cartagena

History of the House of Mercy

The property in question was a charity institution of the city council dedicated to the care of homeless children. He settled in the disentailed convent of San Diego around 1839.

In 1929 the architect was commissioned Victor Beltrí the rehabilitation of the building and the construction of a pavilion for Gota de leche that housed 320 boys and 315 girls. In addition to the elderly and disabled, in the care of the daughters of Saint Vincent de Paul, better known as the Sisters of Charity.

Beltrí's intervention in the rehabilitation of the building.

The House of Mercy it closed its doors at the beginning of the 21st century to dedicate the property to other uses. Now, the rectorship of the Polytechnic University occupies the center and the east wing, while the rest, that is, the left wing, will continue to be occupied by the Department of Social Services and also that of Women.

Building context. Modernism in Cartagena

The historic center of Cartagena was seriously destroyed by the bombardment of centralist troops during the cantonal revolution 1873. This caused the need to rebuild the city and tackle a new urban planning outside the walls. This end of the 19th century coincides with an extraordinary boom in the exploitation of the mining Sierra de Cartagena-La Unión. Causing as a result of this activity, a powerful wealthy bourgeoisie eager to show its strength and economic power through architecture.

The city is going to undergo a profound change according to the new urban and architectural ideas in vogue. The current configuration of the old town of Cartagena owes its appearance to this time.

The main characteristics of Modernism in Cartagena they usually allude to structural and ornamental elements inspired by organic plant elements: Rounded, interlaced shapes (arabesques).

Intervention at the House of Mercy in Cartagena

The building of the House of Mercy It is divided into two uses. The central module and the east wing they are occupied by the dependencies of the Rectorate of the Polytechnic University of Cartagena. Meanwhile he west wing belongs to the Department of Social Affairs. This is the reason why the central module and the east wing are restored and the west wing is not.

Area to intervene


The arcaded gallery of the west wing of the building is a structure of reinforced concrete and artificial stone built in 1929. It is propped up and with areas with detachments of construction elements. It can be seen from the cracks that differential movements have occurred between the building's façade and the group of columns. Which has detached the slab and has caused parts of the upper balustrade to crumble. This led to the infiltration of water in the concrete arches, degrading it and producing corrosion of the reinforcements in exposed areas.

Cracks in the porch

The independence of the intercolumnium from the rest of the building has also caused some cracks in the arches. The largest coinciding with an area in which the upper balustrade has detached

These cracks are caused by differential movements between the columns amplified by the corrosion of the reinforcement and humidity.

In the image we can see the meeting between the unrestored arcaded gallery and the restored one. A crack is formed with a 3 cm offset outward.

cracks house of mercy

Condition of the slab of the covered gallery roof. Most concrete joists are cracked due to the combined action of moisture and the weight of the floor. This is why said slab is propped up.

fissure house mercy

In the image above you can see one of the joists with a total detachment of the concrete, leaving the steel core exposed in a state of corrosion.


Cracking produced in the facade and in the portico produced by changes in humidity in the material of the walls. It should be noted on the facade

fissure house mercy


damp mercy house
Moisture by capillarity produced by the lack of perspiration of the pavement, causing chipping of the white paint.

Intervention in the House of Mercy

  • Bending and propping of the arches of the portico.
  • Elimination of the slab.
  • Disassembly of the balustrade.
  • Disassembly of the downpipe.
  • Chopped of the humidity of the facade.
  • Pitted porch cracks.
  • Realignment of out of date arches.
  • Insert reinforcing bars replacing corroded armor.
  • Concrete application replacing degraded parts of the arches of the portico emphasizing the keys of the arches. The use of a flexible mortar is recommended to avoid new cracks as much as possible.
  • Installation of a tie band that supports the movement of the building with the movement of the portico. To avoid new cracks caused by bending moments, this strap will be supported on the portico and embedded in the building. So an expansion joint, hidden by the stone cornice, will separate the band from the new slab and the balustrade from the portico. This will prevent a crack in the future from breaking the seal of the facade and degrading the concrete again.

horizontal elements

  • Assembly of the new slab. Since the original floor was on the verge of collapse and was unable to support a new waterproof cover without cracking it. The construction of a self-resistant unidirectional slab supported on the band is proposed.
  • Construction of a new flat and walkable roof on the slab. The roof system is chosen "Catalan" since it is the system used originally.
  • Recomposition of the cornice. Since the cornice is formed with blocks of carved stone and that we found some biodeterioration on the surface. The blocks are cleaned and a herbicidal treatment is applied to kill the moss that grows on their surface. Later, each of the blocks will be anchored with hidden bolts to the hoop in its original position. In the detached and degraded areas, new stones will be installed, differing from the original ones by the cut and the patina. This new cornice will cover the new slab.
  • Recomposition of the balustrade. When disassembling the original balustrade, the condition of the pieces is checked by discarding those with corroded reinforcements and replacing them with new elements.
  • Renovation of the downspout connecting the sinks of the new roof.
  • Plastering of the previously chopped facade to remove moisture.
  • Renovated the pavement.
  • Renovated carpentry.
  • Treatment of damp by capillarity at the base of the podium of the stairs and areas surrounding the garden. The construction of a drainage grid parallel to the affected wall is proposed to separate the face from the asphalt pavement. Likewise, the elimination of palm trees that have grown flush with the wall is also proposed. The areas affected by humidity should be chopped and the waterproof cement and paint removed. Replacing them with a lime mortar.
  • Crush crack treatment in artificial stone column. For this, it is proposed to install a steel cladding in the shape of a ring in the cracked area that will withstand the excessive compression forces, in addition, the cracks will be treated by grouting with a flexible mortar, ensuring the protection of the interior of the column against moisture.
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