The building is located in a 19th century hospital complex, embedded in an environment with a certain landscape interest. To meet the requisites established by the contest, the whole rectangular lot had to be occupied, so that the overall scheme should be similar to the existing wards in the complex.


The building is devoted to biomedical research, so state-of-the-art technology and equipment was demanded. It is planned that the first floor will provide spaces for collective uses and center management facilities. Higher floors are devoted to researching: laboratories, platforms and technical areas; the cellar harbors an animal facility of great functional complexity as well as the general warehouse.

The program is organized according to maximum flexibility criteria: multifunctional formal schemes and repetition in main spaces (laboratories and research platforms) and the establishment of a service ―servant spaces― axis, as a real backbone that feeds the rest of limbs.

To that end, research standard floors resort to a grid arrangement created from a laboratory room module, who acts as a pattern and provides supple, interstitial spaces between technical areas, as well as a soft daylight in the core of the building while it generates friendly relationship spaces in flow crossings.

First and cover floors, which include those items in the program with higher functional disparity, generate as well in their external shape, some singular nuances thanks to several openings, hollows or bumps in the roof to harbor the high amount of facilities that this building is meant to supply.


Opposite to a neat, rectangular and extremely neutral plan, some singular aspects in the program have been volumetrically highlighted, so that they shape an uneven silhouette that explains its own functionality: The main access is shaped by a fold in the whole structural lattice that generates a covered entrance porch.

Uneven spaces on the roof originate specialized areas for every kind of installation. Big long-façade openings cause large hollows that make it possible to organize multi-story spaces for bulk loading and unloading or to light underground work spaces through an inner garden.

A large opening opposite the main entrance makes the difference between the technical part of tanks and cryogenics and the rest of the building. At the same time, it provides a secondary access.


Given that the aim of the project is biomedicine, it seemed appropriate to look for similar references to establish the project concept basis: the project turns into a source of inspiration for the project itself. Therefore, the way of biomimicry as a reference frame for project development might be an interesting starting point. Biotypes were searched to link with the needs and requisites set out by the project:

The camel as the paradigm of functional cross-section
The polar bear skin as a vivid example of multifunctional coat
The leaves fold that integrates structural solution and flexibility

The camel and the bear are shown as animals whose design must make extreme weather conditions affordable. In the first case, endurance is fostered by the means of protuberances for storage of reserves for the desert (water, food, fat…); in the other case, the skin must keep the bear body temperature steady despite permanent cold outdoors, and makes it possible thanks to a black, thick skin, covered with transparent hollow hairs that keep warm air inside them: the appearance they show is a white fur, but this is only caused by quantity. Furthermore, it conceals the animal in the midst of an iced, snowed landscape.

The CIB revives these biotypes to illustrate formal, functional development; in the same manner that the anatomy of the camel is expanded where function requires it (in other kind of animals, it would derive in distortion, malformation, lack-of-function…), in this building, some protuberances and cavities are generated where required by sheer function: widely differing sizes of backpacks are conceived on the roof (to harbor a wide range of mechanical equipment a technological building like this one needs) and some hollows in the cellar and first floor (warehouse entrance, bulk loading and unloading, access to indoor courtyard, underground light openings, etc.) so the whole building is adapted to shape a silhouette that will function effectively, and it will be capable to look ahead to future needs keeping its own nature.

To design perforated aluminum sheet side façades, a third biotype comes into action: like tree leaves, these huge dimensions (4500 x 800 mm) but thin (3 mm) metal plates had to be light, supple and self-supporting… Like a high-scale origami, diverse plans, folds and ribs are generated, so that the whole ensemble is stiffened and shelter from the sun is provided while sights are allowed.


Location induces an uneven tension: on the one side, a response to the local landscape and ward complex ―brick, 19th century wards, trees…― must be provided; on the other side, the technical façade faces the most urban view in the surroundings. Furthermore, the high technical complexity had to be integrated. Precisely, this variety of program technical requirements was the main reason to propose an external design that reflects a flexible, unitary appearance.

Structural lattice

Such requirements leaded to a flexible, interchangeable façade-structure-multifunctional envelope. The final solution sets up a deep steel ribs structural system ―1.2 m and “H” shaped section, 1.2 m apart from each other―. This system generates an urban lattice with several qualities: it can face the overall scale and satisfy multiple needs, such as natural lighting, ventilation, etc. under a unitary image. As well, particular elements can be changed with no alteration of external appearance.

Multi-functional lattice

The building is furnished with lengthwise triple-sheet technical façades: acoustic and thermal dark glass, intermediate air cavity that acts as a climate buffer and lattice for solar control. Lattice design is highly important to achieve the building intended image, as it must address the internal needs and the closeness of adjoining buildings.

To give a satisfying response to this double requirement, a self-supporting perforated anodized aluminum has been designed. A folding system allows to discard the envelope support structure and makes thin aluminum sheet highly tough (4.5 m in height, 3mm thick). This strategy provides a neater design with minimum costs. Geometry in the folds generates a triangulated, non-deformable surface, slender with minimum thickness, so that the employment of a resilient material ―yet weakened by perforation― is optimized.
The fold scale of the lattice has been conceived to act differently depending on the distance to the point of view: from afar, the silhouette is highlighted by filling it with a soft pattern; as we approach, we can appreciate the enormous folds causing a rhythm of lights and darks in high contrast. From a tangential point of view, we will obtain the vision of a soft mist as a result of consecutive overlapping of perforated patterns.

Perforation in the lattice has been studied to vanish from indoors but, nevertheless, to shelter from the sun according to solar exposure. Anodized bronze finish intends to interact with the surrounding environment and consequently, with the incidence of light, solar rays or sky atmosphere depending on the seasons. All these aspects set up a dynamic effect throughout the day or year, so that the building image is constantly redrawn according to weather conditions: offering a golden, vital image in summer mornings or sober, toast-colored in winter afternoons.” Text description by the architects.

Source: www.vailloirigaray.com
Photography by: Rubén P. Bescós + Pedro Pegenaute + José Manuel Cutillas