Villaverde Municipal Health Care Center
By Pol Martin
Villaverde’s Health Care Center by Madrid-based architectural office estudio.entresitio is the third building in a set of “triplet” healthcare centers built and repeated almost identically. Breaking with the standard single-building commission, the Healthcare Center has now been recreated three times with small variations. Villaverde’s Center is certainly one fine result.
A local competition was held to build two independent healthcare centers in two different locations on the outskirts of Madrid: Usera and San Blas. However, the budget, the client, and the program were exactly the same for both locations.
Madrid-based architectural office estudio.entresitio analyzed the two sites and found out that what they shared in common was the appearance of a quite irrelevant context with anonymous social housing surroundings. Therefore, they proposed one entry for the competition that could work both in function and form at both sites while theoretically remaining independent from the final site.
This first step taken by the architects: to consider the building’s form, regardless of its location. This might run contrary to any architectural common sense. Many architects consider site and context to be a necessary and very helpful starting point that is almost impossible to avoid.
About prototypes and typologies
Far from creating the average prefab prototype implemented without regard to its surroundings, estudio.entresitio first created a kind of archetype that would respond to that very specific healthcare center architectural program and that very specific suburban characteristic that both areas shared. It is the different relationship that each building has with its final, immediate location that constitutes the distinguishing feature between the two buildings. In fact, there is nothing more plausible in architecture than the adaptation of archetypes to their final sites. The model established by the architects turned out to work very well when it was implemented in both locations.
Following the two successful implementations of the model, the estudio.entresitio architects decided to recycle their design and entered a second competition to build a new healthcare center in Villaverde, another Madrid suburb. The third project turned out to be a charm as well.
This site was tighter than in the previous cases. As a result, the building came closer to the street alignment. The architects handled the more compressed site with the use of landscaping and paving to make the building fit in its plot. The difference in height due to the existing topography was solved with the use of a concrete podium, allowing for an underground garage.
Courts instead of windows: Denying the exterior
In this single-story building, thirteen courts provide the light required to operate a functional healthcare program. In order to ensure the quality of light and to avoid possible inconveniences of misplaced windows, the horizontal window interior-exterior visual relationship was replaced by the vertical alternative. Thus, even though the exterior façade is very closed and hermetic, the different courts give place to an unexpectedly light interior atmosphere.
The façade consists of a metal structure with white glass and polycarbonate surfaces that allow for different grades of opacity. Unlike the previous two healthcare centers built by estudio.entresitio, the choice of materials for the façade of this third project in Villaverde provides an added complement to the building’s surroundings. This helps to solve the deep contrast generated by such an abstract starting point and the risk of potentially causing the building to become misplaced or autistic.
Melting down the original image of a blind, continuous façade enclosure, the white glass reflects back its surroundings but also lets in some light. The shadows of trees, pedestrians, and the rest of the surrounding street-l–life reality finally make their way into the building as well, even if just in the form of shadows.
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