BIG wins competition for European Commission Research Centre

14 April 2022
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Sustainable workspace to transform former Expo ‘92 site in Seville

Tenderstream member Bjarke Ingels Group (BIG) has won the design contest for the European Commission Joint Research Centre (JRC) in Seville, with a concept inspired by the architectural vernacular of the southern Spanish city. Located at the former Sevilla EXPO´92 site, in Isla de la Cartuja, the new 9900 m2 building ties into the city’s goal to become a global benchmark for sustainability by 2025, as well as conforming to the eCitySevilla project to decarbonize and transition Isla de la Cartuja to 100% renewable energy sources. 

The JRC building will house 12 research units and supporting functions, while creating new public and private outdoor spaces. Inspired by the shaded plazas and streets of Seville, BIG proposes to cover the entire project site with a cloud of solar canopies sheltering the plaza, garden, and research building underneath, akin to the pergolas typical to city. The canopies consist of square lightweight PV sheets supported by a forest of slender columns, with the roofscape cascading down from the centre of the site to a human scale height at its periphery.

Underneath, the new building is positioned diagonally across the site to connect to the ‘Jardin Americano’ river-front and the Torre Sevilla market in a continuous public space that is both plaza and promenade. The floorplates of the research centre step back as the building ascends, creating a series of terraces with view of the city. Inside, the public dining facilities, conference centre and social spaces are located on the ground floor, while the offices and research units occupy the more private and secure upper floors. 

The passive design of the building through its shallow floorplate and constant shading under the pergola cloud enables natural cross ventilation and optimal light qualities. The design prioritizes locally sourced materials, such as limestone, wood, and ceramic tiling, with the building structure comprised of  is low-carbon concrete, while the pergola cloud is made from recycled steel. 

Bjarke Ingels stated: “With our design for the Joint Research Centre in Seville, more than anything, we have attempted to allow the sustainable performance of the building to drive an architectural aesthetic that not only makes the building perform better but also makes it more inhabitable and more beautiful - a new Andalusian environmental vernacular. Having started my studies as an architect in Andalusia and later returning to ETSAB in Barcelona, to now having a 50-person BIG office in Barcelona, this project feels like coming full circle.” 

The project is expected to break ground in 2024.

Lucy Nordberg
Tenderstream Head of Research

This tender was first published by Tenderstream on 20.05.2021 here

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