A Spanish haven

Nick Myall
Wednesday 17 Aug 2016

This building is conceived as a shelter for the life that transcends it, a serene, unpretentious space and one which will endure within measured and ordered spaces

Spanish architect Elsa Urquijo has unveiled the new headquarters of social charity institution Padre Rubinos which won the WAN Healthcare Award for 2016.

The unique architectural complex unifies a wide range of services (shelter, nursery, nursing home, etc). The charity began in La Coruña nearly a century ago with a dedication to give shelter and asylum to the needy. Since then it has continued growing and expanding its scope to nursery schools and the elderly. 

The building is conceived as a shelter for the life that transcends in it, a serene space, unpretentious and one which will endure. The use of horizontal lines arises from the search for peace and relaxation creating a sequence of measured and ordered spaces.

It is an architectural space that revolves around those individuals in need, the academic composition of the façade and featuring a portico at the entrance that surrounds and defines a square which opens to the city. They re-assume the concept of cloister attuned to the religious character and social work of the institution.

Patios are repeated throughout the architectural complex as a focal point for the different spaces seeking to strengthen the clarity, light and visual continuity between the interior and exterior. 

The nursing home for the elderly occupies the most extensive use of the complex. On the ground floor there are the common areas like living rooms, professional offices, therapy rooms, etc. while on the upper two floors private areas are located linked to bedrooms. 

Special care has been taken in the use of materials that meet the requirements for a building of these characteristics: high quality, strength, durability, ecology (a unique kind of floor that catalyses carbon dioxide has been employed).

The nursery school is set on a single floor. The clarity and spatial continuity between the classrooms allow for a versatile use of the same. A visual and symbolic relationship to the common areas of the nursing home is also sought after so that both generations can relate and bond.

The homeless shelter is divided into three different uses: accommodation, dining and a centre of ongoing social care to be carried out mainly on the ground floor with the upper floor reserved for bedrooms. The access to the homeless shelter goes back to the concept of an open space whose portico gives a human scale and protects the visitor.

Besides these basic uses, the complex also includes a residence for the sisters. They manage the homeless shelter, headquarters for the institution and area representative with an assembly hall and a chapel which is a symbol and an attraction within the complex.

Their presence is evidenced by clearly recognisable elements such as the bell tower and the entrance with orderly and serene architecture. 

Nick Myall

News editor

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