Picos de Europa / Capilla-Vallejos Arquitectos

Spanish practice Capilla-Vallejos Arquitectos sent us this great project, with an amazing wood and mix. Great transparency.

You can see more photographs, drawings and the architect’s description after the break.

The Picos de Europa (Peaks of Europe) forms an enormous karstic complex. Through the years, the action of water and ice on the limestone has generated spectacular canyons, glacial cirques, lakes and moraines.

La Liébana is a region surrounded and protected by the three massifs of the Picos de Europa. However, the region is located at a low altitude, and the capital of the province, Potes, is only 300 m above the level of the Cantabrian coast. Therefore, it has a Mediterranean climate, which is different from the rest of Cantabria.

site plan

The only route that connects the region with the coast is a highway that crosses the Hermida pass, created by the Deva River as it flows towards the sea. When coming out of the pass, the valley opens onto meadows and forests that ascend to the continually snow-capped peaks.

It is in these lowlands where the interpretation center is located, fixed in the old “Sotama” estate in the province of Cantabria. It is immediately surrounded by a small industrial area which houses maintenance facilities of public works machinery, an orujo distillery, a sawmill and the soccer field with its facilities.

Therefore, it was necessary to carefully situate the building in its environs in order to dilute the presence of the nearby industrial facilities, leaving them almost unnoticeable.

Its function is to welcome and educate the growing number of visitors to the National park and to announce park activities. It was required that the care of the ecosystem be made compatible with the large number of tourists.

In our understanding of these design conditions, the facility had to define its own position, with a combination of restraint and aloofness, of austerity and prominence.

It seemed important to express the architecture by means of volume without avoiding the debate between the abstractness of modern architecture and the naturalness of regional craft.

detailed axo

In this sense, the form of the building manifests itself as the overlapping of two simple elements.

A platform with a trapezoidal footprint lies on the land to house and protect the large exposition halls. Constructed of reinforced concrete, the elevations, platform top, and the long access ramp are rendered in fieldstone from the region.

We created a vertical rectangular volume by overlapping successive wood planks, positioned much like they are positioned in the dryers of regional sawmill. This ventilated volume protects the projection room and the administrative offices of the park and also houses the perimeter circulation ramps.

Cite: "Picos de Europa / Capilla-Vallejos Arquitectos" 27 Apr 2009. ArchDaily. Accessed 22 Nov 2014. <http://www.archdaily.com/?p=20578>
  • http://www.talkitect.com Lucas Gray

    Wow. Yet another stunning building. Fantastic material palate and simple and elegant form.

  • Terry Glenn Phipps

    This building is an antidote to the calibre of architecture and discussion of late. Likewise, someone has taken the time and trouble to make excellent professional photographs.

    It strikes me that this building falls into a tradition of parks architecture which has a pretty terrific history. I still remember fondly the visitors center at the Great Meteor Crater in Winslow Arizona (Philip Johnson) from when I was six-years old. The idea, I think, to this kind of architecture is sensitive siting and providing both a juxtaposition to and transition into a natural landscape. Somehow, it just seems that the school of thought that says to make this kind of building disappear is less satisfying.

    Here the minimal amount of transparency and the materials palette are absolutely spot on. Seeing this does make one want to go there.

    Back to the photography for a moment. Notice that these architects have taken the time and trouble to use a professional photographer an proper equipment to document their work. As a result the photographs, by definition very wide angle, are absolutely linear and without distortion. The result gives the appearance of an architectural elevation.

    This is what great photographers like Marvin Rand and Julius Schulman always did, and what photographers these days don’t bother to do anymore. Even I can (and do) take architectural snapshots with a 12mm lens. However, I don’t confuse these with real architectural documentation. This is a tradition that I don’t think we can afford to lose.

    Terry Glenn Phipps

  • waxman

    OK this is a love-in. Not only do I agree with the comments of lucas and glenn above, but look at the quality of the drawings – legible, crisp clean + elegant. This is the kind of work you should show architecture students, not the whiz bang starchitect *&!@.

  • francis

    It is easy to be drawn to the “box” architecture because the architectural vocabulary and grammar used are easy to understand. For everything, once the language used is understood we can fully appreciate and justify our opinion of it. Credit to Arch Daily and the architects for publishing such a comprehensive set of photographs and drawings.

    Thankfully we live in a world of diversity, in “god’s rich tapestry”. I cannot live in a world that is predominantly one form.

  • Marcus

    A great design and great presentation. I like the contrast of the feild stone and the wood planks on the face of the building. I can see this structure in any part of the world and thats what makes it great architecture. I agree with Waxman, I’m an Architecture student and this is a prime example of the work that schools should show students. I’m tired of the blob design. We should master the fundementals before we explore complexity.

  • vibenade

    excellent!! but it’s feel like very japanese huhu

  • sullka

    Nice to see some Capilla Vallejos in here.

    This building is form the late 90s, and yet it looks like recently designed, that’s good architecture, ageless.

  • Ringo

    for students like me, details like that on how to make architecture like this is a preoccupation and generosity to be thankful..

  • L dog

    very nice lighting inside

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  • alex

    this is a beautiful project.

  • zilong

    Terry Glenn Phipps 就是个傻逼