Sant Mateu Social Centre / Inès Vidal Farré

© Pep Toni Roig Roselló

Architect: Inès Vidal Farré
Location: Sant Antoni de Portmany, Ibiza,
Builder: FCC, Fomento de Construcciones y Contratas
Technical Architect: José Ignacio Jorquera Hervás
Engineer: Javier Colomar Riera
Developer: Consorcio de Recursos Sociosanitarios de Ibiza
Project Year: 2006-2009
Photographs: Pep Toni Roig Roselló

The building is set on terraces, like those built by local farmers to prevent earth from being washed down the hillsides. An important priority has been to design a public building with the same materials used by islanders over the centuries for their farmhouses, and in adapting the local landscape for agricultural purposes.

The traditional Ibizan house is often set partly into the ground in close contact with the soil. This is an architectural tradition that has grown out of relative poverty, and at times even hunger. Until the 1960s the island was one of the poorest parts of Spain.

floor plan

For this reason, the entrance on the north side is little more than a gap in the surface of the wall, with flat roofs on which grass or vegetables may be grown by the parish priest (the owner, so to speak). The main intention is to let the building blend in with the surrounding fields.

On this side two courtyards are set into the rock, bringing light and fresh air into the building.

© Pep Toni Roig Roselló

Following common sense the building faces south to receive plenty of sunlight. A possible excess of this is regulated by sliding shutters and porches. The west-facing sun, an inconvenience in these latitudes during the summer, is deflected thanks to white walls, which also divide the outside terraces into various spaces.

The Social Centre has a distribution area in the middle that serves as a hall, and where the reception desk, post office and waiting room for medical attention is found. This hall leads directly to several other rooms, namely classrooms, a canteen and an assembly/function hall, which is provided with two large sliding doors that when open enlarge the space as far as the south terrace, where a large amphitheatre provides sufficient room for special meetings in which the whole village can take part.

© Pep Toni Roig Roselló

With regard to ecological construction, there are two main areas of interest in this project: energy efficiency and ecological materials

Energy efficiency:

This is based on a level of thermic insulation much higher than that found in a normal building:

Exterior walls: thermoclay 24-29 cm, air 2cm, oak cork 2.5cm, ceramic brick 6cm, gaps.

Roofs: oak cork 2.5cm as thermic isolation, cellular concrete, rubber as water insulation, water (approx. 15cm) as thermic stabilizer, air, clay, paving slabs and soil on which plants can grow

Almost every room in the building is illuminated with natural light.

Cross ventilation is guaranteed from the courtyards.

Artificial illumination with ceiling downlights.

The boiler (gas-based) is of the condensing type.

In the canteen, the washing-up unit is bithermic.

Rainwater is collected in a roof cistern, and topped up whenever it rains.

© Pep Toni Roig Roselló

Non-aggressive materials:

PVC plastics have been avoided, being a product of the chloride industry.

Pipes and all other fittings which require plastic are of polyethylene and polypropylene, easily-recycled plastics.

Asphalt has been avoided in water insulation.

Water insulation is either layers of polypropylene or natural rubber in the flooded roofs.

For thermic isolation natural cork has been used. Its efficiency is higher than other petroleum-derived insulation materials, and is also recyclable and biodegradable.

Doors, window-frames and other pieces of carpentry are made out wood. We have stipulated that these carry Forest Stewardship Council certification.

Paints are mineral-based and non-acrylic.

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* Location to be used only as a reference. It could indicate city/country but not exact address.
Cite: "Sant Mateu Social Centre / Inès Vidal Farré" 07 May 2010. ArchDaily. Accessed 27 May 2015. <>
  • up_today_arch

    Nice solution for Ibiza, I’v been there, and not enough new building on the island, especialy good style. Nonsymmetric plan and one floor level are most clouse to Ibiza landscapes…

  • shetu

    I used to draw plans like this one in my second year classes.
    Solving the plan only hardly make a good architecture.

  • shetu

    I used to draw plans like this one in my second year.
    Solving the plan only hardly makes good architecture.
    Consideration behind the selection of materials is praiseworthy.

  • Nicholas Patten

    Nicely Designed: Sant Mateu Social Centre.

  • Xavier

    The building looks well solved but I believe the siting is specially well done. Sinking the architecture into the slope and opening its public spaces into the exterior is a very sublte and accurate answer. In general, the project’s intentions can be read clearly.

    Nevertheless, I got the impression that in materializing the project, the cunningness of the ideas are lost. I speak for the way rocks are handled in the access from the street. I believe using more horizontal rocks would have been more apt to the project. Furthermore, tiling the roof gives the idea of an accesibility that doesn’t exist. I think earth would have been a more aestheically apealing solution to regulate the heat from the sun.

    Good project anyways.