A place for the exchange of experiences was the construct for the new language centre at the University of Valencia. Facilities for the teaching and learning of a language were taken as a given. This was the challenge set for the architectural team.
The concept of an open and dynamic way of teaching required a solution that, without dispensing with the usual functionality of modern and technological facilities, allowed teachers and students to enjoy open spaces and relationship building in a compact efficient building. The finished building that attempts to fulfill its clients aspirations consists of two rectangular volumes separated by a connecting corridor. Both sections of the building are of similar size and run in parallel on a north south axis. Contrasting materials have been used to finish the two blocks in part to signify the varied climatic conditions that the facades will contend with and their uses.
The west block houses classrooms and open meeting spaces to encourage integration. Protection from the harsh afternoon sun, is afforded to the elevation by wrapping it in an insulating frame of slats made of Canadian Red Cedar. This varies from being positioned as an open mesh to forming solid panels in relation to the spaces that they protect and the light modulation that is required; open lattice for classrooms and panels for open spaces.
A pBy contrast, the eastern block predominantly houses service areas and administrative functions. This block has been clad using a skin made from microperforated galvanized sheet steel that undulates, as if blown by the wind. This filters early morning light giving it a softer texture and creates a brooding atmosphere in the evening with unexpected rays of light that manage to penetrate the perforations.
Galvanized steel was used through out the project for aesthetic and technical reasons. It’s most important function is to serve as a network of support steel for the timber and steel facades. It has also been used for interior finishes, ironmongery and for some of the doors and windows. Galvanizing adds its own character aesthetically as well as providing a toughness and durability in hard to access areas of the building.
As it turns out, the environment has been of special concern in the project. In addition to the passive solutions (compact building, material choice, and sun screens), an air conditioning system has been incorporated by means of chilled beams arranged within the roof.