Héctor Fernández Elorza

Laboratories, University of Alcalá

The almost brutal design for the new laboratory building on the University campus of Alcalá serves a dual purpose: that of hiding and creating a mystical space.

Héctor Fernández Elorza Architects were given a difficult design conundrum: to group a series of laboratories that would include the storage and use of hazardous chemical products and still keep a link with other faculties of the Campus and teaching areas.

For this reason, due to the needs, the use and the context of the project, the building was designed to fight against the character of its facades. The building is a hermetic volume without fissures or windows that, at the same time, remains open to the sky through the deep courtyards from where light penetrates. This light is collected, filtered and evenly distributed internally. This manipulated light separates the labs and the control rooms while ventilating the available areas.

The new laboratory building marks itself out as being unique both in its design and use of materials. The focal point of the building are its huge doors that not only represent the way in and out, they also open and close the entire space. When closed, the whole building is orientated within itself facing the open courtyards. When opened, the horizon enters breaking the solid verticality and opening up the building to its landscape.

The surrounding buildings are finished with uniform concrete and brick however, the new laboratory building responds through the latent character of its facades: large 5mm thick galvanized sheets. These create an almost shimmering effect in the summer sun that help to form different patterns of light and colour.

The purpose of the laboratory is to take in waste residues that are ordered and classified. The designers have responded to this opportunity by playing on the building‘s context to hide the handling of undesired waste but at the same time creating a structure that demands enquiry and inspection.

Images © Héctor Fernández Elorza

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