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Francisco Javier Saenz de Otza BANCO DE BILBAO

(Madrid, Spam) 1971-78

The Banco de Bilbao in Madrid is one of the most elegant towers built in Europe since the Second World War and probably the most distinguished tall office building of the period in this book. Surprisingly, it was not primarily formal visual considerations that were the architect's main concerns in conceiving and carrying out the design; these were, instead, functional organization, the flow of information and energy conservation.

The building stands on the Paseo de la Castellana, the high-rise business section in the centre of Madrid created during the period of economic boom, in the twilight of the Franco era. It has 29 floors and an underground service area. The building is divided into two horizontal servicing duct zones. The mechanical servicing is located on the eleventh, twentieth and top floors. The top floor, under the servicing, is used for meetings and public relation functions. The auditorium and other meeting rooms are on the fifteenth floor. Most work areas are on the periphery of the building with good views and natural light.

A basic concern of the architect was the reduction of glare and overheating becauseoi the intense sunlight. An extended peripheral awning of metal that projects at almost eveiy storey has solved this problem and gives the building its characteristic silhouette. Together with another unusual feature, its warm huesof maroon and copper, it demonstrates the archi tect's sensitivity to regional contextual factors, as well as conferring on the building a sense of place, scale and craftsmanship sadly absent from the exteriors of most contemporary

(Right) One of the rounded corners

(Opposite, right) The entrance (Opposite, left) Interior (Above) Lift

(Right) One of the rounded corners towers. The corners of the Banco de Bilbao are rounded, and. once more, there are functional benefits to be derived from such a design: the carved niches create a better place for work. Rounded corners also have a pleasant visual impact. The curved glass is modelled on a Frank Lloyd Wright masterpiece, the Johnson Wax Building (Racine. Wisconsin. 1936-39), a detail that makes the Banco de Bilbao stand apart from the overwhelming majority of postwar office towers which have tended to follow the tradition of Mies van der Rohe.

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