Community Health Centre in Cartagena by Temperaturas Extremas

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The Madrid-based architectural firm of ACM (Atxu Amann, Andrés Cánovas and Nicolás Maruri), has just recently completed the new Community Health Centre in Cartagena, the second largest city in the Murcia region. The Health Centre is part of the total redevelopment of Cartagena’s Molinete district, a commission ACM studio won in 1993 and which is still ongoing. The redevelopment is a municipal project aimed at modernizing the district while also protecting the Roman ruins discovered beneath Molinete. The redevelopment plan was adapted to preserve some of the ruins in the form of an archaeological park with a total surface area of 20,000 m². The archaeologists have already finished working on a 3000 m² area, which was inaugurated and opened to the public last April.

The new Health Centre building consists of four floors for the key programmes of primary healthcare, plus a basement housing the archaeological remains that were discovered during the building’s construction and which delayed its opening for several months. The ruins can be viewed from the ground floor, where parts of the floor in the communal areas are of glass.

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The result is a new type of public space combining healthcare and museum functions. The building has two access points, the first of which is a corridor that passes over the archaeological remains and functions as an observation platform from which to view site’s heritage. The corridor was part of ACM’s design, but has not yet been constructed. The second access point is located at the northeast corner of the building. Most buildings associated with healthcare follow a rigid functional scheme and the internal layout of the health centre is largely dictated by the relevant regional legislation. Despite this, the architects have managed to focus on points not covered by the legislation. They have worked intelligently to double the surface area that can be used for communal spaces such as waiting rooms, where ACM has achieved a first by creating outdoor rooms where nervous adults and restive children can wait their turn in the fresh air yet protected from the strong Spanish sun.

The building also takes account of the fundamental principles of sustainable indoor climate regulation. The first of these is the use of solar shading. In this part of Spain, the light intensity is very strong and the long hours of sunshine can generate high indoor temperatures. The architects have consequently used a system of revolving blinds that are closed during summer to protect the interior against the hot and glaring sun, whereas during winter they are opened to capture as much light as possible. The second principle is the inclusion of unroofed patios planted with a combination of artificial and natural vegetation. As well as providing cross-ventilation in all the adjoining rooms, the patios provide oases of tranquillity in the often fraught atmosphere of a health centre.

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Interior design plays a very important part in this typology, given the state of health and frame of mind of many of its users. Thus the architects have used lively colour schemes combined with large, vinyl photos affixed to the inside of windows. Similarly, great attention has been paid to views out: the patient’s gaze is directed away from the waiting room and out to the surrounding landscape, archaeological ruins and the old quarter of the city.

In summary, the Molinete Health Centre is conservative and respectful in terms both of its environment and of its users. ACM has demonstrated sensitivity in its handling of a highly regulated building type, being innovative where possible for the benefit of the users and employing simple but efficient climate control systems to create a sustainably comfortable building.

Architect: Atxu Amann Alcocer, Andrés Cánovas Alcaraz and Nicolás Maruri González de Mendoza
Client: C artagena City Council and the Council of Public Works
Address: C / Adarve, Cartagena, Murcia
Info: www.amann-canovas-maruri.es


July 2009
Article published on A10 #28 . Link here