With his renovation concept for the Faculty of Cell Biology and Genetics at the Universidad de Alcalá northeast of Madrid, architect Héctor Fernández Elorza has performed to a high standard. His response to the task of changing the building’s original structure and appearance as little as possible was to take a few steps that manage to double the usable space.
Client: Universidad de Alcalá - UAH
Architect: Héctor Fernández Elorza
Location: E–28805 Alcalá de Henares, Madrid
Two factors predominate in the design: on the one hand, the renovation and adaptation to modern standards. On the other, the existing building has been expanded. The result is a square structure of exposed concrete whose grey look appears monumental. At first glance, it is the straight lines that stand out. Sleek, clearly accentuated surfaces give the university an unmistakable touch. The plot of land is characterized by two roads that lead past to the north and south and enclose the building, as well as a large garden on the west side. The east-facing part of the structure is home to lecture theatres and laboratories, which have been newly distributed throughout the space. Administrative areas, stairways and corridors are in the north and south parts. The central main corridor completes the design and joins onto the distribution hallways, which lead to a new, west-facing extension. This offers sufficient room for offices, seminar rooms and discussion rooms. In addition to the restructuring of the three-storey faculty and its expansion, the building has been heightened by one floor. The exposed-concrete surface of the existing building has been preserved by means of a metal structure which reinforces all the columns, joists and screeds. The hollow spaces in between are now used as installation levels. The same metal structure is used in the constructive elements of the added storey, which are clad in sheet metal. The new addition has been built entirely of concrete and thus fits discreetly into the overall picture. Except for the west façade, which is now covered in white polycarbonate, all the views of the building are the same as before. Only a few windows – unnecessary now – had to make way. The expanded storey has been done in black plaster and has no windows; the light enters from above. The other rooms are optimally lit through generous glazing. Despite the rather cool effect of the exposed concrete, the interior has a welcoming atmosphere. The true highlight of this renovation is the addition. Set on piles, it overlooks the green area to the west. Inside and out meld thanks to the large windows. There is now a link between the Faculty of Biology and the natural environment.