Sáenz Valiente Building, Torcuato di Tella University
Josep Ferrando Architecture
Buenos Aires, Argentina
Miquel Rodríguez (XMADE), Roberto Alfie, Sposito Asociados, Juan Marcos Feijoo
Universidad Torcuato di Tella
The building is presented as a rigorously open organization that integrates the diversity of the campus into a single spatial and structural system.
Tectonics becomes the base matrix for the austere but multifaceted expressiveness of the building. In an ascending sense, it presents a tripartite organization, in which each part adds one floor to the previous one, while the number of structural supports triples and doubles, successively, in response to the spatial needs of the uses required at each level, and giving a growing slenderness to the whole.
In favor of a dual purpose of specificity and spatial versatility, the structure accompanies the trends of the uses without becoming prescriptively functionalist, and, along with the facilities, occupies the perimeter of the building, freeing the floor plan, but modulating it and influencing its scale of repetition. A complementary relationship is established between them: while the structure loses dimension due to the reduction of loads to the reduction of their ducts as they descend. The envelope thus presents a thickness that gives both general rationality and openness over time.
The tense organizational serenity that results from embedding and matching dissimilar rhythms, from the entire campus to the definition of the interiors, characterizes at the same time that it gives the new building the capacity to integrate the campus of which it is a part.
The main impetus behind the design of the Sáenz Valiente building, located on the Alcorta campus of the Torcuato di Tella University in the popular River neighbourhood of Buenos Aires, was to provide both a building and a part of the city.
The entirety of the ground floor boasts a portico with vertical columns reaching the height of the building, with the metal framing and glass façade of the main entrance sheltered beneath. This spatial arrangement orientates the new construction with existing retail units and attracts use from the community.
The campus contains particular rhythms and sequences: on the one hand, the large volume on Avenida Figueroa Alcorta with its grid of imposing columns and capitals; on the other hand, the warehouses with their series of porticos and cantilevers. The building assimilates these contrasting characteristics, suggesting an integrated modularity in its cloister-like location.
The building makes city through its integration in the urban fabric and defines the campus by formalizing the cloister as a space which facilitates sociability. It becomes lighter as it approaches the ground, enhancing transparency in the transverse direction between the courtyard and the street, and solidifies as it detaches in correspondence with the longitudinal organization of the interiors. The suspended staircase transforms what would normally be a functional, liminal space, into one which serves an educational purpose: a place for exchange and debate.
The project aims to express a great deal with very few elements, combining classical characteristics with contemporary construction.
The building affords flexibility and versatility of usage through the minimization of structural elements and the concentration of facilities in the perimeter. The facade is the mechanism that ensures the integration of structure and installations whilst mediating between the interior and exterior.
The structure becomes a board on which a multitude of interior arrangements can be played with. Industrial lightweight modules – self-supporting unitary elements built from recycled aluminum sheets, oven-lacquered in white – are assembled within. Not only do the slats in these reflect light towards the interior, they also avoid overheating due to solar radiation.
The compactness of the building reduces temperature exchange between the interior and exterior, resulting in greater thermal efficiency.
In energy terms, the project includes technology that allows an energy saving of up to 35%: lighting systems with occupancy sensors and daylight sensors in all outdoor spaces, as well as a solar powered water heating system installed on the roof.
When it comes to water conservation, in addition to the careful selection of plumbing that allows for a 30% reduction in consumption, a grey water tank feeds the irrigation system, eliminating the use of potable water. Further savings are made thanks to the selection of native or adapted species with low water requirements.
The construction incorporates devices which serve to improve indoor air quality, such as high-efficiency filters in outside air intakes, mats in entrances or CO2 sensors in all densely occupied rooms.
The building achieved the gold standard LEED certification for new constructions.