SOMOS.arquitectos wins the first prize in the construction of the Auditorium and Cultural Center in Orio (Gipuzcoa).

The project site is located in a new expansion area in Orio, just north of the Cantabrian motorway that connects San Sebastian to Bilbao. It is in this town where the highway is closest to the sea and it is here where Orio emerges as a clear reference to the Basque coast. The plot chosen cannot be more representative. To the east lies the new residential area with a four-floor profile, to the west the river Oria ends in the Bay of Biscay, accommodating a marina. This dune area must be understood as a means to connect both landscapes. The new Cultural Center must channel these two different flows and function as a place of encounter for these two fronts separated by different levels: sea and land. The new Cultural Center is a pole that brings meaning and value to this new urban extension in front of the House of Culture on the other side of the highway. Taking advantage of the freedom regarding the position of the building according to the open Regulations, we wanted to develop and fix our proposal based on three key decisions:

1. Built volume integration: Orio landscape is characterized by its secular relationship with the sea, by the lush green hills around it and by the dune park which surrounds the new civic facilities. This complex wants to respect, promote and save this image, looking forward to be perceived as part of the landscape both from the immediate and distant surroundings and from the highway. For this purpose, two basic decisions are taken: first, we will split all the pieces of the program in order to make them fit into the geometry of the original plot, without imposing a new geometry. On the other, we will depress the whole building one level, which ultimately drives us and reinforces the next decision.

2. Connection between urban plaza and marina: For us, it is crucial that the natural level of the building matches that of the seafront, but without completely detaching ourselves from the urban level, four meters above. Thus, we have two separate entrances that allow connections between both levels (urban and sea) through the building. Thus, it becomes an area of ​​transition, collecting pedestrian flows from both "banks." From the long stairs we descend to the lower platform while the masts in the Marina form a vertical counterpoint that we will recover again when we arrive to the last step, thus establishing an inalienable link with the past, present and future of Orio.

3. Open independant structure: To ensure proper illumination of these areas, the square-roof deforms to become a sort of artificial dunes that actually work like large skylights. In some cases they are closed at the top and only allow the lighting of the exhibition spaces. In others, forming a courtyard open to the sky, they provide natural ventilation to the workshops and the rest of the building. Since it's buried underground, it takes advantage of the large thermal inertia of the soil, allowing us to save energy costs. The building emerges as a manipulation of the land, as a topographic accident whose roof can be used as a public square, providing space that the Center would consume if it would rise over the first floor. The roof of the great auditorium serves as a wonderful outdoor theater where films can be watched during the summer season. In the exhibition area, fixed partitions and domestic-scale structure have been avoided: large structural bearings and sliding light panels provide the necessary versatility to modify the size of the rooms in order to fulfill the ever-changing future needs of the Center.