Architects: Capilla-Vallejos Arquitectos
Location: Cantabria, Spain
From the architect. Spanish practice Capilla-Vallejos Arquitectos sent us this great project, with an amazing wood and stone mix. Great transparency. 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.
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.
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.