Ibiza’s multipurpose Convention, Exhibition and Cultural Centre is a huge architectural commitment for completion in two stages: the great Auditorium seating 1243, divisible when required into two independent halls, is scheduled for the second phase. The first phase has created the overall spatial distribution making available smaller multi-purpose (meeting and teaching) rooms, a hall-cum-theatre with 400 seats set in front of a stage, an ample ground-floor exhibition space, and, on the first floor, catering and other multi-purpose facilities.
Already, however, the project by architects Pesquera and Ulargui stands out for its striking architectural features: forms that allow the buildings to blend with the natural environment, and the use of local stone for elevations and flooring. The cultural centre is a symbol, a modern construction project that has adopted and modernised several popular traditional features: building in stages and an ingenious use of low-cost local materials.
The complex does more than blend with its surrounds. It has embraced local customs to resonate with the natural landscape and its climate, offering views that provide new references to the horizon beyond. In the words of Luis Martinez Santa-Maria, lecturer at Madrid Escuela Técnica Superior, “it is a technical lesson in how a natural setting can be transformed without being destroyed, how finding a solution to a problem can generate invention: by cladding the façades with “typical stone”, the new building is made to sit naturally amidst its surrounds”.
The immediate impression is of a series of stratified elevations. Horizontal stone bands separated by concrete strips form a motif linking the separate volumes. The unrendered concrete of the top band is widely used also in the interiors. The external cladding motif does not project from the wall surface rather is embedded in it, resembling the low retaining stone walls characteristic of the island’s countryside. Irregular shaped, seemingly unfinished stones are aligned using the opus incertum or grid method. The same laying method is used for the outdoor paved walkways that lead to the main entrance ramp and then to the first floor, as well as to the glazed openings giving onto the exhibition hall. A large, neutral, column-free space and one of the building’s focal points, the exhibition hall is also paved with local stone laid in the same way. This tactile, free form flooring creates a perceptible continuum between exterior and interior.
The interiors are defused with natural light that streams in from ample glazed openings with herring-bone shaped panes. An upper strip on the front elevation allows daylight into the double-height meeting rooms located in the volumes that jut out around the exhibition space. The long strip window above the stage in the small theatre becomes a sort of stage extension offering abstract views of the treetops outside. Another source of light is the inner court - part patio, part garden: full-height glazed façades on both levels provide natural light to the surrounding meeting rooms and catering facilities.
A central crossroads for the whole complex, the exhibition area is a highly flexible space, almost to the point of being indeterminate. The projecting vertical wood panelling is echoed on the upper level where the strips are laid horizontally along the parapet of the large corridor overlooking the areas below. This exhibition hall is the core of the whole building from which the other volumes depart.
The structures’ reinforced concrete frame leaves huge beams open to view in some of the rooms. Soffits and vast areas of the walls are unrendered. Such deliberate simplicity of contemporary spaces resonates with the simplicity of traditional wood and stone.
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