SOMOS.arquitectos proposal for a new mixed-use block (offices + housing) in the area around Zaragoza high-speed train station (AVE).

In order to limit the field in which the proposals shall be developed, competition regulations open up with two extreme positions in their approach. On one hand, it presents a very accurate and legible volumetric envelope, making it clear that the site is in fact inserted in a much larger urban approach based around the so-called Golden Mile. On the other, it offers a very open programmatic scheme, a hybridization of functions that are forced to coexist in the same container, on its turn, very polarized by the different character of its urban boundaries. How can different uses coexist in the same building and still meet the formal requirements of the general layout in which it is inscribed? 

As required in the competitions regulations, the apartments must have double orientation. Given the depth already fixed in the original volume, there is a chance to locate a multipurpose flexible space right in the middle of the housing unit, a volume that not only acts as a momentary relief for those pieces surrounding it, but also extends their possibilities in a long term period. Thus, we propose a decentralization of the living room in favor of this extra space. It is conceived as some sort of “open theater”, adaptable according to the owners’ needs. Its importance is determined by a small difference in level that marks a distance, proposing a nuanced limit. The fact that little by little, house and work are interconnected, the development of new forms of leisure that demand their own space or the ability to accommodate new family distributions (possible because of greater geographical mobility) crystallize in an elastic, adaptable, living and changing space, a space closest to the more abstract Japanese lifestyle as opposed to the more sedentary Western lifestyle in which each space is determined by a single function. 

Despite the open programmatic approach concerning different compatible functions, the coexistence of housing and offices must be able to establish a clear dialogue with a building as powerful, overwhelming and monumental as the Zaragoza Intermodal Station. In each case, the answer may be homogeneous in its theoretical approach but not necessarily in the formal one. We believe that the institutional or symbolic component shall correspond to the office tower owned by ADIF, which in this case clearly takes a leading role. This tower is conceived as the key element conducting and unifying the project by means of an outer skin that joins this slender volume with the base upon which the two housing towers rest. This skin surrounds the glass volume offering necessary protection. Because of its geometrical pattern it disrupts de concept of “scale”, diluting the domestic perception of a typical window. The inner layout of the housing tower typology is clearly taken in consideration when designing the façades: bedrooms open to the Northwest and living rooms to the Southeast. In the first case, aluminum panels type Alucobond used as solar protection are placed over a pattern of small-sized windows calculated in order to prevent heat loss. On the opposite side, we propose a curtain wall which is complemented inside by the use of tinted glass panels (opaque) movable shutters, adding a contrast in color which plays against the uniformity that prevails in the rest of the project.