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DESIGNER
SANTIAGO CALATRAVA
DATE
1995
LOCATION
Alcoy, Spain
TYPE
open/public space
USE
Pedestrian entrances to the underground Community Hall
Alcoy Community Hall (entrance structures)

Alcoy Community Hall is Calatrava’s contribution to the urban renewal of the Plaza de España. Two major landmarks, the Santa Maria Church and the Town Hall, highlight the socio-spatial importance of this public square, leading the architect to a very modest gesture, that of placing the new building underground. Two transformable and rather sculptural roof structures were designed to signal the western and eastern entrance to the building, solving practical issues of lighting and accessibility. The transformation occurs through a hydraulic system that guides the articulated movement of folding elements. In the western entrance, a pentagonal shape of framed slats unfolds upwards to reveal the grand stairway. The eastern entrance structure follows the same folding principle applied on a different shape. Uneven stainless-steel beams, pivoted on a bent axis, fold to create a curved, shell-like form that covers the pedestrian entrance as well as a fountain. When the entrances are closed, their integration with the urban fabric is almost seamless. Moreover, the kinetic attribute of the entrances generates a memorable ambiance, a most inviting characteristic for an open public space.

TRANSFORMABLE DESIGN FEATURES AT A GLANCE
PRINCIPLE
PHENOMENOLOGICAL
folding
ACTUAL
folding
TYPE
PHENOMENOLOGICAL
linear elements
ACTUAL
linear elements
SYSTEM
mechanical
ELEMENTS
Roofing / paving elements
Application Framework
Enclosed Space Open Space
Private Space Public Space
Passive Communication Active
Project Scale
Kinetic Elements Scale
Equipment
People
Intensity of Activity
Fluctuation of Intensity
Periodicity of Fluctuation
Design
New Design Intervention
Requires Support Self Supported
Simple Geometry Complex Geometry
Low Tech High Tech
Manual System Intelligent System
Surface Transformation
Volume Transformation
Morphological Variations
Modularity
Portability
Adaptability
Sustainability
Materials
Conventional Sophisticated
Elastic Rigid
Transparent Opaque
Warm Cold
Weight
Maintenance
Insulation
COST (estimation)

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Image source:

1-3: Lefaivre, L., & Tzonis, A. (Eds.). Santiago Calatrava’s Creative Process Sketchbooks. Basel; Boston; Berlin: Birkhäuser, 360-365.

Further Reading:

Lefaivre, L., & Tzonis, A. (Eds.). Santiago Calatrava’s Creative Process Sketchbooks.
Basel; Boston; Berlin: Birkhäuser. Oungrinis, K. (2006). Transformations: Paradigms for Designing Transformable Spaces.
Cambridge, MA: Harvard Design School.