The composition of the building reflects the need for rationality which has been growing increasingly prominent in Spain over the last few years. The financial crisis and the bankruptcy of a number of flamboyant, extravagant projects have brought about a reflective mood regarding the form of architecture. The architects at MSM have always shown a preference for designing clear, regular volumes, but in this case the result is also an unmistakeable reflection of the spirit of the age in Spain. The reserved execution ensures that the complex forms a visible unit even when seen from a great distance. Three blocks of comparable proportions are linked together by means of a two-storey plinth opened at several points and connected with the surrounding park.
Three large two-storey areas have been created within the building’s 16,000 square metres of floor space, immediately making clear that this building is a space for meeting with others. It is an open area where everyone, from businesspeople to artists to engineers can hold workshops, think tanks, and training sessions and develop and share ideas. It is also a platform for start-up businesses and emerging entrepreneurs. To this end a series of rooms have been created for the use of new businesses, located around the entrance hall and auditorium, where the character gradually shifts from publicly accessible to more private. This flexibility and informality are intended to stimulate cross pollination among entrepreneurs and to increase the ease of contact with possible clients. In this way it is hoped that the social climate will have a positive effect on the economic climate.
This was not the first time that the grounds of a long-past expo originally presented a depressing appearance. The municipality of Zaragoza impressed on Etopia the need to make this location into a buzzing hub of activity. It’s clear that the project is a focal point for the local population as well as for those who take the high speed train into Zaragoza. The combination of economics and art, of research and openness, and of industry and creativity may seem contradictory on the surface; but it’s precisely this contrast which will give this project its strength. The building’s architectonic expression certainly opens up that possibility.
There are subtle contrasts among the various façades. Two of the blocks alternate glass elements with aluminium façade panels, while the third block is surrounded by a matt glass curtain wall. This modular delineation is the primary reason for the industrial technological feel of the complex. It is an expression of the rational, rapid execution of the construction; but at the same time, this demarcation of the glass surfaces is not easy to achieve using standard solutions.
Ascénder seats were installed in the auditorium: a bespoke version of the Perseo model for the particular dimensions of the venue. This space follows the classic design of those auditoriums you may find in any old university building – high steps, curved rows and superb acoustics. So, we developed a particularly high back that protrudes the risers to create a safety barrier. When seats are seen from the front, only the high back with integrated headrest is appreciated; however, a close look to their back reveals the curved lumbar support as well as their particular adaptation to the curve. Chairs were upholstered in different colours within the same shade and all wooden standards were produced in beech – stained to walnut colour to match the colour pattern of the hall.