The new Fundación Metal corporate headquarters in Avilés in Spain’s ore-rich Asturias region, famous for its steel industry, is a bold architectural statement. The transfer of the steel plant from the old town centre to a new industrial zone near the port makes a site designated for heavy industry take a quantum leap. The new complex gives an urban quality to the area, all the more so since Fundación Metal is also a vocational training centre with a statutory commitment to development and innovation. [baragaño]’s programme is a weave of many threads. It pays tribute to the local industrial fabric, transposing some of its characteristically urban features to the new industrial district. At the same time, it makes experimental use of industrial materials, creating a functional complex that is also an urban entity. [baragaño]’s approach is that of the sculptor. There are clear references to the monumental works of Eduardo Chillida and Richard Serra and the way they shape their landscape. The corporate headquarters is made of the material it produces: steel. Vast expanses of large, matt-finish modular steel slabs manufactured in the region are set alongside stretches of slabs with discreet horizontal slits. Glazed sections add dynamism to the façades. As well daylighting the interiors, they create a highly effective play of solids and voids, subtly muted by the almost transparent filigree-like pattern of the perforations. Window- and doorframes are also steel, as is the furniture in both the public reception areas and training laboratories. The unconcealed structural frame is again steel. Girders and pillars have been turned into architectural features and stand like an open-air lesson on the use of civil engineering materials. On another level, steel also blends memory and the future: the structural elements have all been manufactured locally, 70% from recycled material, and in turn are completely recyclable. The construction system makes the complex resemble a piece of structural metalwork, a precision engineering feat that affords great construction rapidity. The sharp-angled severity of the geometry has been given interesting variations. The parallelepiped volumes partly overlap one another, the projections and intersections created forming accessible terraces that give many different views over the urban landscape. The segmented appearance of the “comb”-shaped site plan accentuates the sense of volume, each black steel frontage rising imposingly. The signature red colour on the façades and along the entrance canopy is continued on the interior as a continuous red strip signalling vertical and other distribution paths. The interiors have been laid out so that the different functions intermingle. The double-height ground floor houses the training workshops and laboratories alongside the administrative office while the upper floor has further laboratories, study and meeting rooms.
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