Institute of Neurosciences of Castilla y León / Canvas Arquitectos

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Architects: Canvas Arquitectos - Juan Vicente and Pablo Núñez.
Location: Salamanca,
Built Area: 5,750 sqm
Completion: 2007
Collaborators architects: José Riesco Urrejola, Francisca Rivera Palma, Marta González Antón, Íñigo Pericacho Sánchez, Jesús Domínguez Miñambres, Carmen Figueiras Lorenzo, Claudia Henao Ocampo, Luís Ferreira Villar and Eduardo Dorado Díaz.
Collaborators Surveyors: Tomás Martín Luengo, Domingo Infante Chozas and Andrés García Pinto.
Clients: University of Salamanca / Government of Castilla y León
Prize: First Prize on Open Competition for project design and site supervision.
Photographs: Luis Asín, Pedro Ivan Ramos Martín, Fotografia Nodal

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This building is meant for laboratories and animal facilities for carrying out basic neuroscience research. It also counts on a  small area for international conferences.

The building relies on a clear idea to respond simultaneously to a complex urban situation and the different technical needs of a research center. The environment has emerged on the urgency of real estate and is unrelated to any reflection on architecture or landscape.

Facing this situation we propose a building different to the adjacent dull occupation, which becomes a reference and helps to articulate and position this urban edge. The building finds also its way by emerging over the entrance to Salamanca from the west, showing as a visible sign of a city that has built its identity based on the study and research.

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The strategy followed has been to develop a significant gap, hide the main program under a raised garden that with its folds stitches the fabric to the original topography. This garden-platform provides a framework for a glass prism which stands on the highest part of the plot and is the recognizable image of the whole. This is a research building hosting mostly laboratories, the rest of the program is intended for  teaching and administration purposes.

Under the roof garden is located the laboratory program: the groups ones are placed in the ring along the building’s facade and in the interior, like islands, are located those for common use. In the basement stands the animal facility and its attached elements that require insulation and protection of the natural light.

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On the deck is located the resting area, especially significant in a center where the activity can not be interrupted in several days. The glass box is occupied by an auditorium and postgraduate classrooms.

We intended to challenge the professional dynamic limiting any technical or formal investigation. In this sense has to be understood the decision of involving topography and building or the will to explore the generative capacity implicit in the structural and infrastructural elements.

The strong slope and the concavity of the resulting plot have made possible to gather most of the program under a big platform. On top of it a covered space, with a small glazed recreational area, allows access to the garden and plays a clear articulation role of the neat box that houses the teaching program.

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The access to the building is performed in a natural way, under the concrete slab is the entrance to the big hall and, through a ramp, we get into the garden level.

This hall is lit by two large courtyards that provide natural light throughout the whole area and allow to notice the folding of the concrete slab on top of the laboratories. The treatment of light, both natural and artificial, gives character and sets up a complex interior landscape in which the vegetation coexist with the color game of the coatings.

The final design of the glass of the educational volume has been treated with care, its optical variety gives intensity without coming up to big gestures. The closing of this volume is composed of two layers, the inside is carried out by a laminated glass with an in-between fiberglass veil that provides to the interior an image comparable to neuronal tissue and diffuses at the same time the light inside; the outer side is a fluted glass which deflect the direct sunlight, these grooves are oriented differently along the front, resulting in a optical effect, which distinguishes the curtain wall from the observation point.

1st floor plan

The proposed building materials are intended to simplify to the maximum the formal complexity, seeking for clear technical solutions to allow a simple execution phase. On a main structure of light cladding systems or curtain walls, with a precise modulation to ease a quick assembly. The large roof garden is solved with an ecological system, using seasonal resistant species and drip irrigation for a low consumption and maintenance.

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* Location to be used only as a reference. It could indicate city/country but not exact address.
Cite: "Institute of Neurosciences of Castilla y León / Canvas Arquitectos" 19 Apr 2012. ArchDaily. Accessed 25 May 2015. <>