Visitors Center of Atapuerca
Juan K. Ayala

Visitors Center of Atapuerca

MATA Y ASOCIADOS_grupo de arquitectura as Architects

The project of Visitors Center of Atapuerca paleoanthropological site seeks metaphorical proximity to the site, an existing archaeological park, that effectively contributes to the production of new architectural organism, by recreating a part of the building that belongs to the earth (stereotomic) and one that is detached from it (tectonic), a mask protection as light as possible wrapping the whole.


In this sense, the building is designed with a big concrete box -petrous nature- pierced by large skylights, and an outer perforated net that wraps and covers acting as a second skin.


Thus, a double reading of the building is proposed: from its presence in the landscape to its inner functions, the image refers to the volumes present in the surrounding landscape such as straw piles, or clumps of trees, filtered and qualified from inside. Plans and sections are conceived to allow expansion, introduce daylight and express our projectual intentions.


The interstitial space generated between the net and the concrete box recalls the archaeological site workspace. At the building entrance this space is conceived as a rest area, and the one of the opposite corner as a multipurpose outside area.


The indoor exhibition space chooses a route between major structural concrete screens in addition to the presence of the lecture halls. At the entrance there is a space for information and sales of publications, a cafeteria and administrative and service areas.


The classrooms are designed as modular elements with multiple possibilities of use and relationship between the polyvalent area and the exhibition area, from a small room for about 25 people to a conference hall for 100 people.


The lightweight exterior enclosure has a discontinuous character, it is punctured or disappears in singular points as the entrance plaza and the gazebo. It generates a variable section in the access area with very strong relationships between the open space of the square and the space of the terrace-gazebo, in contrast to the austerity of the outer box.


To solve the necessarily large car parking area, the idea of nature is recreated again through metal elements, metaphors of trees, on which in the future vines will grow to shape the final camouflage of parked vehicles.


A light canopy and a wooded grid between it and the building will form an exterior square for outdoor activities.


Outside a pond of macrophytes solves the sanitation of both the Visitor Center and the next Archaeological Park. The bed of the pond is a biotechnology system that mimics the process of self-purification that spontaneously occur in natural wetlands, based on the use of plants and other aquatic lower organisms. This system is in perfect harmony with the new policies and sustainable development needs, providing high purifying efficiency with low operating and maintenance costs. The visit to the projected pond finally has become part of the Visitors Center’s educational route.


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Henri Dutilleux Conservatoire
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