Environmental Centre on the Ebro River

Zaragoza’s Environmental Centre © Jesús Granada

A great example of contemporary sustainable architecture in Spain is a Magén Arquitectos building design, the new headquarters of the public spaces and environment centre service in Zaragoza. The building is designed with techniques of passive climatization and active solar energy which use along with a dose of “green symbolism” and form an integral entire.

This building is located at the urban banks of the Ebro river and also built-up region of the city, which form a linear park that accompanies the Ebro river on its way via Zaragoza. Placed within the centre of the city and beside the Almozara bridge, the building has different level: about five metres between the avenue and square at the upper level and also the Ebro riverbank park.

Environmental Centre on the Ebro River

Environmental Centre Front View © Jesús Granada

This project is actually based on two fundamental ideas:

  1. For responding the landscape significance of the location and a unique urban, through a formal definition and configuration of the building which suggests an intense relationship with the landscape.
  2. For expressing the intrinsic relationship between its materiality and the environmental commitment of the building project and programme, which houses the Forestry and Natural Areas Section of the Environment Department of Zaragoza City Council.

The relationship between the topographic features and the adjacent urban area of the site turn out to become active conditions for the building implementation. This makes the levels of the various floors and entrances coincide with the already existing ones. The relationships can clearly be seen through the roof and also the building configuration as a platform-viewpoint onto the Ebro river. Among the formal characteristics of the project, which also responds to the functional organisation of the various uses, there is the contrast between a continuation of the walls of the adjacent, the solid podium of the platform, pre-existing electrical substation, and also the lightness of the wood and glass pavilion which rests on this level.

The main entrance to the building is on the upper floor to give the differences in level of the place. This floor is for public use, environmental classroom, and also administrative spaces. The primary hall joins and separates both spaces to allow them to be independently utilized. The mezzanine is located over the hall houses offices which also act as a backup for the classroom, but still can be utilized for conferences and meetings. While, the classroom is configured as a projection to supply this area with 180º continuous panoramic vision, both at floor and roof level, giving the impression that the space is floating over the park. The restricted access offices of the Forestry and Natural Areas departments are located below the entrance level, within the basement: changing rooms, automobile park, guardrooms, installations, and warehouses. This lower floor has vehicle access and pedestrian from the Riverbank Park.

The roof is a necessary element for the landscape design of the building which is also as the main image of the residential buildings. The image is that the roof, which look out onto the park from the town side, have of the building. The roof is configured as a viewpoint at various levels as an extension of the outer public space and accessed from the hall, which are joined together by gentle ramps along with a terraced grandstand. This concept is created as an outdoor amphitheatre for feasible recreational uses. On the other hand, the programmatic demand for a particular pedagogical character within the environmental commitment of the project is clearly visible on the roof, which could be seen within the option of construction also as energy solutions and supplies, with its landscaped decking and ecological, photovoltaic panels and solar panels, that offer electricity for night-time lighting, through continuous flush mounted light fittings around the perimeter of the offices and classroom, converting the building, at night, into a lighthouse within the park landscape.

Environmental Centre on the Ebro River Inside

© Pedro Pegenaute

Environmental Centre on the Ebro River Outside

© Jesús Granada

Environmental Centre on the Ebro River Window

© Jesús Granada

Environmental Centre on the Ebro River Inside Window

© Pedro Pegenaute

Environmental Centre on the Ebro River Stairs

© Jesús Granada

Environmental Centre on the Ebro River Top

© Pedro Pegenaute

Environmental Centre on the Ebro River Window View

© Pedro Pegenaute

The contrast between the black tinted, roughened, concrete panel, with its various textures of the basement (latticework, grooves and smooth), and also the upper level, with its continuous wooden boards and carpentry-free glass panels on façades and latticework, defines the formal configuration of the building.

The project tries to offer the IPE wood with maximum value of use and expressiveness. This wood is utilized by way of 15 cm wide boards within the building to conform latticework, façades and lintels, walls and ceilings, pavements, both outside and inside. Whilst the interior finish of the Forestry and Natural Areas Unit is defined by OSB panels and black steel carpentry, from floor to ceiling, and the coating of the public areas is made of IPE wood.

The main energy source used by this building is electrical from a heat pump with a VRV system (variable cooling flow), which is much more efficient than a standard system. There are also mechanisms of water saving in plumbing devices.

A total of 45.87 m2 of photovoltaic panels and 14.17 m2 of solar collectors had been installed on the roof. The base of an independent circuit of night lighting may also supply the daytime life of the building. The electricity is stored on-site in batteries located in a technical room on the lower floor instead of being fed into the public network.