Spanish inspiration

Nick Myall
Monday 12 Sep 2016

This extension to a Madrid university pays attention to providing teachers and students with the services they need while remaining environmentally friendly

The building “Carmen Martín Gaite”, designed by estudio Beldarrain, is the first phase of the Getafe Campus extension of the Madrid Carlos III University in Spain. The architects won an urban planning contest, laying out the buildings on both sides of a linear park that organizes the pedestrian traffic of the campus. This first building settles the front of Madrid Street, connecting itself by means of a walkway to the building already standing on the plot and making it possible to cross the building in its central part through a big foyer that connects the new park with the rest of the campus. Two storeys are organized on each side of this foyer, the Humanities library on one side and the lecture rooms on the side that is closer to the pre-existing lecture hall building. Over these, the departmental zone is organised on one storey. 

The building design is sustained by the architects engagement with innovation and sustainability, and their conviction that the two go hand in hand.

On the one hand, as opposed to an educational architecture that is traditionally rigid, systematic and repetitive, the architects created a flexible, diverse and humanised architecture. An architecture tending less to be a reflection of the institution’s authority and more attentive to provide services to teachers and students, creating spaces for diverse encounters where a great number of new models of learning and research can be accommodated.

On the other hand, the whole building responds to the growing commitment of all the parties towards the environmental sustainability. During the project and construction phases, countless sustainability measures have been incorporated, with the result that a degree of excellence has been achieved that had not been reached in Spain until now by an educational centre. It will be the first one of its kind to obtain a LEED Certificate and it will be in the highest grade: PLATINE LEED.

The structure is systematically translated to the façade so as to provide flexibility to the bays. Concrete pillars are placed at a distance of 2.20m from each other and the 11.40 span is solved by means of posttensioned slabs, nevertheless, the pillars disappear behind the folds of the ventilated ceramic façade, to the point that in some places, such as in the principal access, the plates seem to float weightless.

The façade, which is extraordinarily systematic, repeats the same plates, ceramic pieces and windows throughout the building. However, the windows are scattered in an apparently disorderly manner solving with efficacy and the illumination of the different uses and enhancing the desire to show the diversity proposed by the design.  

The use of a few key materials in all the building is explored up to their last possibilities, requiring qualities that will allow them to respond in an attractive and effective manner to very different situations. 

Nick Myall

News Editor

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