Spanish architectural studio CrystalZoo's Administrative Extension of Bello Horizonte, in the municipality of La Nucía (Alicante, Spain), is laid out with the locals in mind, the culture in tone, and the hillsides in shape and color. Featuring an open and inviting reception area with a flamboyant green exterior, the building draws attention for its melding of man-made and natural aspects, as much as reflect the national character.
The color scheme of the entire structure condenses both tonally and geometrically as its artistry collapses onto the building itself. The blaring white of the recently poured concrete of the sidewalk is contrasted with the dark green of the recently laid lawn. The two colors align (and contrast) along straight lines that macrocosmically parallel the exterior walls of the structure. As for the structure itself, concrete walls 8-12 inches thick are covered with a stucco upon which verdant shades of hexagonal ceramic tiles, manufactured by Cumella, are arranged in a pattern encompassing the entire exterior, both walls and roof. The tiles’ ribbed underside fully grips the building and secures against landslides by temperature variations. The choice of green shades for the exterior pattern is “a parameterization game, assimilating the building to an integrated hill in the plot, which has plenty of vegetation and is able to be lived.” No real distinction exists between the periphery and the building, simply a subtle, centripetal accumulation of the same overall color scheme that is eventually fully fabricated into the building itself, which gains a character all its own that is reinforced by such surrounding features as the mediterranean shrubbery or the tree-lined hills, and even the green tennis courts adjacent.
The bright, sparse concrete floors and ceilings, which guests are confronted with upon entering, keep things literally cool while the white walls keep things figuratively cool, and photographer David Frutos’ captures a shimmering glean that appropriately reflects the aesthetic of urbanity (inside) married to culture (outside). A passing glance at the topographical blueprint of the grounds emphasizes this harmony, as it shows quite blatantly the placement of the almost digital layout of hexagons (that formulate the grounds) within the more natural contours of the roads between which (and under which) it is confined, and among the distinct demarcation of shrubbery. Of course, it’s a practical blueprint, simple and without any special magnificence, but nevertheless it reinforces the essential idea of harmony between the expectations placed on modern architects to create a functional interior, and our human inability to completely divorce ourselves from the natural world. “Culture” as an aesthetic device–one touted by CrystalZoo for this project in particular–lies somewhere between the two, after all.
The below-ground star-shaped structure is a lesser behemoth that grips the landscape with its five fingers and induces a fair amount of curiosity in passerby. Extending the verdant design of the walls up and over the full surface of the roof is important for this, given that the building lies below ground. Although the new image of the city council is a star-shaped insignia, this particular “stellar” design CrystalZoo has chosen has just as much to do with “the socio-political reality of the country that makes [CrystalZoo] flee from the characterization of the official architecture with a rough language, looking for a more friendly political interoperation as a social space of confluence.” And inside, each of those fingers also allow for cubbies, most of which are filled with tables or desks, the entire layout responding to “the program itself, whose use diagram is formalized in each arm of the piece, always looking for exterior views.”
The openness that results from this design choice physically realizes a kind of hospitality appropriate for both governmental administration and culture, facilitating each via a mood of optimism. While the structure does indeed impress an air of smallness and quaintness upon passerby, this is merely a perceptual illusion, though an intentional one, for “the interior is surprisingly flexible for its spatiality, which is caused by the different slopes of the roof and its arm twists, playing with real visual perception of space, pretending to be wider than it really is.” And when they are necessary, interior demarcations are benign, not to mention up to date: glass panels that reflect the lightness and brightness that gleans the white surfaces, an aspect that is captured quite well in David Frutos’ shots.
Interestingly, most of the color inside (save the “i” for information [green as always, hexagonal as always]) is in fact located in the book bindings along one wall, the shelves upon which they are placed being properly spaced apart to allow for the white walls to show through in a way that sets off the multicolors of the binded volumes. These colors inversely remind viewers of two facts: the relatively sparse white shades permeating the entire interior; and the taste of the designer in choosing this scheme of bright bareness to contrast so nicely with the invigorating exterior. This is all not to mention the fact that books advertise an intellectual theme, which is befitting in light of the intended governmental administration and the view to social progress in the remote regions of La Nucía.
It captures culture and conveys the current, all while proffering the passerby with a curiosity and an invitational functionality sometimes absent from modern office buildings. It is sure to accomplish the goals it sets out to accomplish, and the design does quite a magnificent job at condensing the theoretical socio-political aspects of that goal into the fully realized functionality of its basic concepts. One can only imagine what it would be like to work in such an innovative and socially relevant building that is so divorced from our modern conception of stark grey office buildings and cold-hard suits . . . cue Cubicle Land: looking on in envy.
Photography by David Frutos