Offices for the Castilla León Government in Zamora
Alberto Campo Baeza
By Pol Martin
Madrid-based architect Alberto Campo Baeza has
created the new headquarters for the Castilla León region's
government, located in the ancient heart of the city facing
Zamora's old cathedral. The design offers a successful mix of glass
minimalism and smart site-location strategy. Like a Babushka doll
the building's first layer is an enclosing stone wall, then a
garden of air and finally a completely transparent glass house.
Architecture is often compared to frozen music- and indeed, like
any music composition, or even a simple chord, many notes combine
together in harmony to form one final entity. This means, of
course, the more you reduce, the more perfect the notes must
One way of describing Campo Baeza's work is turning to the Japanese expression "wabi". Wabi roughly translates into "rustic simplicity, freshness or quietness" and is also related to the Buddhist thought of traveling lightly through life, the value of having very few possessions.
Using only three elements: a wall, a garden and a glass house, Campo Baeza creates a building that goes beyond its physical facade. It's an architectural composition that unites the interior with the exterior as a necessary part of the building. The emptiness - or empty space - in architecture is not empty, but full. To be aware of this fullness, the best skills and discipline are required from the architect.
A Wall and a Secret Garden in the City
Right in the middle of the ancient city center,
Campo Baeza encloses the whole site with a wall, running along the
old perimeter of the former convent's kitchen garden. Using the
very same stone of Zamora's Cathedral for this wall and the
exterior floors, an empty space is created. This emptiness is
filled as a secret garden with trees and scented plants. Only a few
scattered windows are strategically placed to allow for specific
views towards the cathedral, the buildings and the exterior
landscape of Zamora.
A Garden and a Glass House
A glass facade house - consisting only of glass
- is placed inside the empty space inside the wall and its box of
air. Avoiding any kind of structural elements, the facade is purely
transparent. It is the ultimate expression of the desire to make
the facades disappear completely. From inside the building, the
visual limit becomes the surrounding wall and the interior melts
into the garden space. The glass house itself seems to be
entirely made of air.
Glass Facade Construction
This exceptional facade construction is reduced to the simplest system. Each single glass sheet measures 600x300x2.4 cm and are joined together with structural silicone and little else. It's finally a double facade similar to a Trombe wall. All the angles of the box are completely solved with glass, enhancing even more the effect of transparency. Not by chance, Alberto Campo Baeza points out:
[This is] precisely what Mies was looking for in his Friedrichstrasse tower.
A glass facade in central Spain might, or even
should, raise a few eyebrows considering the absence of any sun
protection at all. However, in the winter the glass facades are
actively used to produce the heat that any standard greenhouse
would provide. In the summer, the facades ventilate enough to
liberate and reject all the heat. It is like there is
no facade - something Mies also dreamed of.
Building With Air
Talking about dreams, when referring to this building Alberto Campo Baeza writes: "To build with air, the abiding dream of every architect". Within the open stone box, there is a closed glass box. If "box" stands as a metaphor for building, one certainly would like to dream that the building would extend until the stone wall, even if there is no roof over the garden.
It is in this space between facades or between
boxes, where one might wonder if a building necessarily needs a
roof to be a building. This duality of the facades creates an
interesting, unclear definition of the building's limits. It is a
simple project concept that uses relatively few elements to create
quite complex architectural spaces. And magically, it's all built
with one material at a time: stone, glass and air... maybe.
Facts about Offices for the Castilla León Government in Zamora
Offices for Junta de Castilla y León in Zamora
Obispo Manso, 1, Zamora, Castilla y León, Spain
Alberto Campo Baeza
Pablo Fernández Lorenzo
Pablo Redondo Díez
Alfonso González Gaisán
Francisco Blanco Velasco
Ignacio Aguirre López
Miguel Ciria Hernández (architects)
Alejandro Cervilla García
Emilio Delgado Martos
Sergio Sánchez Muñoz
Eduardo Díez - IDEEE
Juan José Bueno Crespo
José Pablo Calvo Busello
UTE Edificio Consejo Consultivo: Dragados - San Gregorio
Last updated: December 20, 2013
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