Barcelona Botanical Institute

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Barcelona, Spain


Higher Council for Scientific Research


Carlos Ferrater, Joan Guibernau,

Elena Mateu



Net floor area

3,800 m2

Cubic content

4,600 m3

The Barcelona Botanical Institute is prominently situated on the highest point of the new Botanical Garden on Mt. Montjuic - 150 m above sea level and far above the city of Barcelona, right on the Olympic Ring.

The long, linear volume cuts into the mountain and forms a conspicuous hinge between the horizontal contour line of the mountain and the sloping topography. It affords spectacular views of Barcelona and establishes a prominent landmark. Despite the reinforced concrete supports and cross walls that rhythmically structure the rigid volume, it appears as if floating above the terrain when seen from the south. This effect is intensified by the recessed ground floor and the change of material. The top floor seems to

Botanical Institute Barcelona
Basement floor plan

The volume suspended between the cross walls seems to hover above the outer lightweight structure of the lower level.

The volume suspended between the cross walls seems to hover above the outer lightweight structure of the lower level.

Plomba Budynek Angielsku

hang between the base rising from the slope and the protruding exposed concrete cross walls and supports. The in-situ concrete, poured with neat joints and smooth formwork, adds to the technically precise architecture that is based on one consistent modular grid. In conjunction with the restricted range of materials -Corten steel and glass - that was also used for most of the other buildings in the Botanical Garden, and were applied with great discipline and in equal sizes, the new building forms a pure and abstract image. Its elegance is underlined by the transparency of the ground floor and the floating transition between the building and the garden.

The sloped site enables the building to be organised round separate, but thematically linked functions with their own respective entrances - both from the street to the rear and the network of paths of the part of the garden dedicated to western Mediterranean and northern African vegetation.

Each level accommodates its own programme. The lowest level, which is fully recessed into the ground, sits in a concrete tank reinforced by massive cross walls and also forms the foundation of the building. Here, the large air-conditioning system, the switch room, and further secondary technical service rooms are located as well as the large herbarium, various preparation rooms, and the bibliographical archive of the institute containing card indexes of the collection, and conference rooms. These rooms receive daylight from above via narrow light wells.

The very humid climate of Barcelona makes the conservation of the extensive collection of pressed and dried plants particularly difficult. Inspired by the modern herbariums in Geneva and Berlin, a special 500 m2 archive was constructed as a waterproof concrete tank in which room temperature and air humidity can be kept constant within small tolerances. The entire building is based on its modular 6 x 6 m grid.

The bays created by the structural cross walls can adapt to room conditions and lighting requirements

Ground floor plan

The transparency of the multi-functional hall blurs the boundaries of interior and exterior

The transparency of the multi-functional hall blurs the boundaries of interior and exterior

Orologi Solari Per Trasparenza

of all sorts. Together the cross-walls, supports, and walls form a three-dimensional composite frame that provides the structural solution for the architectural idea of the detached volume floating above the slope.

The middle level with direct access from the path network of the Botanical Garden is exclusively reserved for public use. On this level, a multi-functional hall, a conference room with state-of-the-art audio-visual equipment, the Salvador Museum, an exhibition area that can be subdivided, and a café-restaurant used by visitors and employees of the institute alike are situated.

Due to the sloping site the non-public top floor has its own entrance. Here, the scientists' individual and group studies are located as well as the library, various linked laboratories, and the offices for the director, the retired professors, and the administration of the institute. This level affords extensive views over the generous gardens, the Olympic Ring, the city, and the far-away Serralada de Collserola.

The three functional areas herbarium, public zone, and research zone are linked by reinforcing cores that provide vertical access and support communication between the library, the Salvador collection, the café, the herbarium, and the work spaces on the different levels.

Giuseppe Terragni Architetto

Top floor plan I I_I

Top floor plan I I_I

The library located adjacent to the studies on the top floor.

The library located adjacent to the studies on the top floor.

Kamm Mascherode

from left to right

The institute can be read in different ways: as parallel pairs of volumes with long or short "legs", as penetrated and shifted rows, or as one building that comprises a number of exterior "corridors" | The "doubled" strip windows of the south façade conceal the height of the floor levels behind | A view into a courtyard shows "shades of grey" | Façades at the gable ends show vertical joints between separately poured concrete panels that are fixed to the framed reinforced concrete structure

Biodesign Courtyard Arizona

Computer Science and Electrical Engineering Institutes, Graz University of Technology

Graz, Austria


Republik Österreich, Bundesministerium

für wirtschaftliche Angelegenheiten


Riegler Riewe Architekten, ZT-Ges.m.b.H.

Construction period

1997-1999 (phasel)

1998-2000 (phase 2)

Net floor area

8,000 m2

Cubic content

63,800 m3

The building of the Institute for Information Technology and Electrical Engineering represents a building type that is quite average in terms of mechanical engineering and technical infrastructure compared to the facilities of biological/chemical institutes or similar disciplines. Hence, the planning of the extension of the Technical University on a site with no outstanding qualities focussed much more on urban design aspects. Simple residential architecture, a not very sightly high voltage transformer station, and very bland existing university buildings dominate the environment called Inffeldgrunde. The architects have responded to this context by concentrating on the building site and a rigid grid - an open urban campus creating its own identity. The buildings have been

Cross section through two volumes and void

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restricted to a height of three storeys, which gives the layout a very human scale.

Based on a strictly orthogonal grid, the buildings generate a city within the city with streets and house fronts, squares and gates, passages and groups of trees. The architecture of the altogether eight exactly parallel volumes is governed by the strict organisation and the openness of the space. The first two of the overall four phases will be completed in 2004 -the completion of the remaining stages is uncertain.

The individual volumes are spaced at regular intervals of 6.00 m in east-west direction. The varying lengths of the individual rows result from the different pro grammes of the respective institutes. Every two rows are linked by a void. The offices, galleries, lifts and stairs orientated towards these voids face south; seminar rooms, libraries, and public areas face north. Since the buildings are mostly within the scope of mechanical engineering for normal office buildings (lines for heating and sanitation, electrical and data wiring) the programme does not include zones for technical building services. Supplementary or large central shafts are not required; no vertical or horizontal service lines have to be provided or reserved for future use. The strict layout of the buildings is loosened up by the ubiquitous bridges, corridors, galleries, and openings that link the buildings on all levels and create this interconnected, self-sufficient, and almost small town-like campus with its varied squares. The permeability of the structure can be felt particularly on the entire ground floor, the "street" level.

The interior and exterior circulation concept sustains an urban structure which at every point reveals the functional and spatial pattern of the "city within the city". While the ground floor features a wide central access corridor, the two upper floors are connected by an atrium. Following the client's explicit request, only the large lecture halls on the basement floor abandon the strict plan layout.

In contrast to many university facilities that accommodate individual institutes in separate buildings or

Basement floor plan with auditoriums

from left to right

The austere architectural theme of "shades of grey" also extends to the interior | The auditoriums are located at basement level | Footbridges as connective and communicative elements support the design concept of the "city within the city" | Consistently rough finishes also dominate the interior from left to right

The austere architectural theme of "shades of grey" also extends to the interior | The auditoriums are located at basement level | Footbridges as connective and communicative elements support the design concept of the "city within the city" | Consistently rough finishes also dominate the interior building parts, here a dense yet permeable complex was built that is linked on all levels. It effortlessly enables the expansion and reduction of individual functional units without entailing complicated refurbishment.

Flexibility is also reflected in the structural system composed of rows of columns behind the external walls and load-bearing walls in longitudinal and cross directions. This structural system creates an open plan providing additional flexibility, as partitions are either not required or can be installed if needed. However, the choice of the structural system was mainly steered by architectural considerations.

The architects considered concrete the ideal material to link the building parts both structurally and architecturally. The design idea was to highlight the urban configuration rather than the individual volumes themselves. Therefore, the concrete was designed to appear as rough as possible to create a consistent finish. To achieve this finish, recycled formwork boards were used. Some formwork boards were artificially worn out since used formwork was not available in sufficient quantities. Black pigments were added to the grey cement. The intended irregular finish was achieved almost automatically since the in-situ concrete was poured in three stages and the pigments were added on site. The interior façades also received the rough exposed concrete finish - however, without the black pigments. Consequently, the interior spaces appear much brighter and therefore more pleasant.

To some degree, the interior appears even more unfinished than the exterior. Austere façades with horizontal strip windows bound the spaces. Little attention was given to the detailing and materials used - terrazzo, concrete, or simple galvanized steel for the doors -seem unfinished and were put together in a haphazardly to challenge aesthetical conventions.

An essential element of the intended homogeneity of materials and the characteristic colour scheme of shades of grey is the treatment of the exterior floor finishes. The buildings stand in a bed of pebbles, which


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