Text description provided by the architects. Do you remember that Bill Murray’s movie from the nineties called “groundhog day”? In the film, each day was the same day and from 7am it started all over again, one time after another. Going seriously, it has been crazy at times but mostly rewarding to have the chance of building three times the exact floor plan. It all started with an unusual competition for doing two centres for the same client (Madrid’s city council), with the same budget and the same functional program but only two different sites. Sites were in both cases quite irrelevant environments with anonymous social housing surroundings.
Our answer to those initial conditions was to work with the idea of a “placeless building”. A great sense of formal+functional+conceptual autonomy was required to allow the building develop no matter where. To emphasize the spatial value of the interior, we resorted to the LeCorbusierian idea of “reconciliation of opposites”. The hermetic and heavy image of the exterior precedes the open and light space of the interior.
The program for the healthcare centre is implemented extensively on a single ground floor. The different rooms of the program are organized on a loose irregular orthogonal grid, where thirteen patios are arranged in a zigzag pattern between the public and private rooms along three parallel (non)-corridors. There is a non stop visual continuity across interiors and courtyards that provides space enlargement.
In opposition to this light system, split up by the patios, the solid and heavy façade is conceived as a continuous windowless mass. The absence of hollows in the vertical walls of the exterior enclosure causes the relationship between the interior and exterior of the building to occur vertically, almost with the sky above. The glass panels do not define patios, but hollows in the horizontal façade of the exterior shell of the building, creating a vertical relationship that allows an isotropic interior space to be generated. The transparency and mirroring qualities of the glass creates multiple visions by reflected symmetry.
The corridor vanishes, it ceases to exist as the traditional linear connecting structure, because the alternating arrangement of the empty spaces and public areas allows a weak relationship to exist between the “x” and “y” coordinates of space.
San Blas’s centre has been the first one to be built. The idea of heaviness is reinforced by the rough texture formed by the horizontal wood planks of the concrete formwork. Put into contrast, the reflective qualities of the vertical walls of blue tile laid in a fish scale pattern help to create a spacious and luminous interior, almost as if the sky were brought inside the building.
Usera’s centre follows, completing the work chances that materials such as concrete, glass and tiles had to offer in search of identity. But something along the way went wrong with the construction company and a change of company was needed. A golden metal skin is the moving forward strategy needed to accomplish a positive direction in the construction process and also the reason for changing ceramic tiles colour to white. In the end, it is possible to read interior space as a more horizontal and abstract one in comparison to San Blas.
The third of the row, Villaverde’s centre, is the result of wining another competition in which luck played a big role. The site was smaller and had a stronger urban character but the floor plan we had fitted just perfectly and the client decided to make us winners again. Some old ideas from the original project appeared again; what if we tried to build the same spatial scheme with a lighter construction system narrowing the distance between opposites. It was possible to soften the scar between exterior and interior by using a tectonic structure covered with panels, opaque but polished, translucent or transparent. New materials needed new rules and the result is more atmospheric. The hole process has been a challenging investigation between use, sensation and geometry; it is now your turn to make an opinion.