Offices For The Castilla León Government In Zamora

by | 18. Nov 2013

Offices | Project

Exterior view. Photo: Javier Callejas

By Pol Martin

Madrid-based architect Alberto Campo Baeza has created the new headquarters for the Castilla León region’s government, located in the ancient heart of the city facing Zamora’s old cathedral. The design offers a successful mix of glass minimalism and smart site-location strategy. Like a Babushka doll the building’s first layer is an enclosing stone wall, then a garden of air and finally a completely transparent glass house.

Frozen Music

Architecture is often compared to frozen music- and indeed, like any music composition, or even a simple chord, many notes combine together in harmony to form one final entity. This means, of course, the more you reduce, the more perfect the notes must be.

One way of describing Campo Baeza’s work is turning to the Japanese expression “wabi”. Wabi roughly translates into “rustic simplicity, freshness or quietness” and is also related to the Buddhist thought of traveling lightly through life, the value of having very few possessions.

Using only three elements: a wall, a garden and a glass house, Campo Baeza creates a building that goes beyond its physical facade. It’s an architectural composition that unites the interior with the exterior as a necessary part of the building. The emptiness – or empty space – in architecture is not empty, but full. To be aware of this fullness, the best skills and discipline are required from the architect.


Location view. Photo: Javier Callejas


Location view. Photo: Javier Callejas


A Wall and a Secret Garden in the City

Right in the middle of the ancient city center, Campo Baeza encloses the whole site with a wall, running along the old perimeter of the former convent’s kitchen garden. Using the very same stone of Zamora’s Cathedral for this wall and the exterior floors, an empty space is created. This emptiness is filled as a secret garden with trees and scented plants. Only a few scattered windows are strategically placed to allow for specific views towards the cathedral, the buildings and the exterior landscape of Zamora.


Wall facade. Photo: Javier Callejas


Wall facade. Photo: Javier Callejas 


A Garden and a Glass House

A glass facade house – consisting only of glass – is placed inside the empty space inside the wall and its box of air. Avoiding any kind of structural elements, the facade is purely transparent. It is the ultimate expression of the desire to make the facades disappear completely. From inside the building, the visual limit becomes the surrounding wall and the interior melts into the garden space. The glass house itself seems to be entirely made of air.


Glass facade. Photo: Javier Callejas


Glass facade. Photo: Javier Callejas

Glass Facade Construction

This exceptional facade construction is reduced to the simplest system. Each single glass sheet measures 600x300x2.4 cm and are joined together with structural silicone and little else. It’s finally a double facade similar to a Trombe wall. All the angles of the box are completely solved with glass, enhancing even more the effect of transparency. Not by chance, Alberto Campo Baeza points out:

[This is] precisely what Mies was looking for in his Friedrichstrasse tower.

A glass facade in central Spain might, or even should, raise a few eyebrows considering the absence of any sun protection at all. However, in the winter the glass facades are actively used to produce the heat that any standard greenhouse would provide. In the summer, the facades ventilate enough to liberate and reject all the heat.  It is like there is no facade – something Mies also dreamed of.


Exterior view. Photo: Javier Callejas


Exterior view. Photo: Javier Callejas

Building With Air

Talking about dreams, when referring to this building Alberto Campo Baeza writes: “To build with air, the abiding dream of every architect”. Within the open stone box, there is a closed glass box. If “box” stands as a metaphor for building, one certainly would like to dream that the building would extend until the stone wall, even if there is no roof over the garden.

It is in this space between facades or between boxes, where one might wonder if a building necessarily needs a roof to be a building. This duality of the facades creates an interesting, unclear definition of the building’s limits. It is a simple project concept that uses relatively few elements to create quite complex architectural spaces. And magically, it’s all built with one material at a time: stone, glass and air… maybe.


Exterior view. Photo: Javier Callejas


Exterior view. Photo: Javier Callejas


Interior view. Photo: Javier Callejas


Interior view. Photo: Javier Callejas


Facade Model. Photo courtesy of Campo Baeza


Concept sketch. Drawing courtesy of Campo Baeza


Concept sketch. Drawing courtesy of Campo Baeza


CITYCastilla y León