How the recession forced a great design…
Born during the recession – the scheme gets down-sized
Back in 2008 the commission for the Headquarters Building for Banc Sabadell was received among the design team as a mixture of feelings, sounds strange, but a sweet and sour flavour surrounded us.
We had been working for two years designing a building that we all felt was our baby. The 6-storey hole for the car park levels was already dug. We were about to pour the concrete for the foundations when the fears of recession made Banc Sabadell reconsider their ambitious plans of constructing a 100000 sqm building and turn it into a more modest project.
The client considered a more sensible approach to halt the original scheme and go for a more contained development. So the new commission consisted of a 30000 sqm development, two thirds smaller than that which our baby was meant to be. This inclued office space for the directors and facilities for the employees such as a conference room, cafeteria, gym and break out spaces. It still was a challenging and a thought-provoking brief.
The life of an architect is full of ups and downs and the love of what we do – that pleasure/joy of bringing something to life where there was nothing before is what makes an architect look ahead with optimism, it’s all about the next challenge.
They were difficult times, and still are, for the Spanish economy. Architects and other professionals involved in the construction industry were struggling to remain afloat, and we were lucky enough to be able to tackle a very interesting project.
The design team had to create a contemporary and sophisticated image for the client that could be achieved using moderate budget solutions. Here is where the creativity and ability of the architects in combining different technologies in a meaningful way has to come to into play. It enables them to offer the client the most for the least.
Asking the right design questions
It can be hard to believe for those who are not familiar with the building design process but the term design team in this project included from 20 to 40 odd designers from all disciplines. The team varied in size during the duration of the project depending on the stage we were at. Structure engineers; Mechanical, Electrical and Environmental engineers; Landscape architects; Lighting Consultants; Transport Consultants; Fire Consultants; Security consultants; all have to work under the direction of the Architect in order to bring to reality an idea.
We understood design as a sequence of questions and answers, and our task was to find the most appropriate answers to these questions with a holistic approach. These separate answers have to work in conjunction so they can become something beautiful and meaningful when put together. You have to zoom in into the detail and zoom out to contemplate the big picture alternatively and continuously while designing a building.
Finding the right questions can be as hard as finding the right answers. How to express the values of a banking corporation during the most difficult times of modern economy? How to be elegant using affordable construction techniques? How to make 1000 cars come synchronously into the building every morning? How to bring light to underground spaces? What kind of spaces encourage people to gather? What’s the right room height for each function within the building? And many, many more…
Getting returns on the design investments
Budget restrictions meant for us that we had to choose our materials carefully and use them in the right places into the building. This became the tricky game of “what do you invest your money in” – expressed in banking terms; or “where to put what” – expressed in architecture terms.
A not so expensive expanded metal mesh, in the right colour and installed in a smart way will give the visible part of the building that elegance and singularity that we were after whilst a quincunx arrangement of the windows will make the new building and the existing one in the back belong to the same whole. Some wood in the right place in the interior and exterior of the building will bring that luxurious feel to the most representing spaces like the lobby or the auditorium. The rest was about dimensions and proportions, that aspect of design that doesn’t imply an extra cost, because air is still free.
Architecture Design Team:
Anna Bach, Joana Balló, Antonio Moll, Bianca Lins, Mireia Secall, Francesc
￼Vargas, Marcos Vilaseca, Kenneth Von Freyhold.
BOMA- structural engineering; PGI Grup- HVAC engineering; LKS Studio- project
manager; Construcció i Control- security control; Espinàs i Tarrasó- Landscape and urbanization; SBS- access engineering.