A small town at the foot of a Spanish citadel has embraced the modern with architect Paredes Pedrosa's congress centre. And in so doing, it has added to Valencia's illustrious architectural heritage
The Spanish public authorities have good reason to be proud of their architectural heritage. As is gloriously evident in Barcelona, though, they are not overawed by it when it comes to developing museums, galleries and concert halls. The same goes for Peñíscola, a tiny town clustered around an ancient citadel overlooking the sea between Barcelona and Valencia.

To enhance the value of the town as a tourist attraction, the government of Valencia province has commissioned the "Cultural Castellon" project, which includes an art museum, modern art gallery and theatre. The centrepiece, though, is an £8.5m congress centre with a 700-seat auditorium, which was built to a competition-winning design by one of the country's most promising young practices, Paredes Pedrosa.

With its geometric forms and wide, unadorned expanses of fairface concrete, Paredes Pedrosa's building is resolutely modern. And although it makes no stylistic concessions to the historic town, it cleverly exploits its site between the sea and the citadel.

For a start, the view down from the castle is dominated by a rolling wave of zinc-faced roof.

This is composed of reinforced concrete that is exposed on its underside, where it has the practical function of acting as an acoustic baffle.

Second, the main entrance of the centre is preceded by a semi-enclosed loggia that serves as a public meeting place and as a buffer zone between the building's interiors and the wide plaza directly in front, overlooking the sea. The loggia is open at ground level and above that is bounded on three sides by distinctive latticed screens in which large rectangular panels of honey-coloured terracotta alternate with gaps of thin air. The perforated screen provides views of the sea from the cafe on the upper floor and shelters the loggia from the rain while allowing cross breezes to waft through.

The main entrance leads into a wide concourse, where a floor of dark-grey marble slabs and creamy-white walls of fairface concrete combine to give it a spare, functional and elegant character. On either side, open staircases sweep up to the upper floor containing three congress rooms, a press hall and a cafe.

The main auditorium has a warmer, more sculptural character dominated by the rollercoaster roof in smoothly curving creamy-white concrete. This is counterpointed by natural timber boarding in a rich chestnut colour that lines both the side walls and the end wall behind the stage. And, unusually for a hall intended to stage musical performances, film shows and congresses, it is enlivened by daylight that streams through glazing across the rear wall.

As in the best of contemporary Spanish architecture, Peñíscola's congress hall borrows next to nothing from the architectural heritage surrounding it. But its elegant, beautifully executed form adds considerably to that heritage.