Each year the prestigious Tile of Spain Awards celebrate the creative and innovative use of Spanish ceramics in interior design and architecture across the world.
The panel of judges praised “the simplicity and effectiveness” of this project, highlighting “the smart application of ceramics to resolve acoustic and light control challenges and to create a connection between the interior space and its surroundings”.
The construction of the new multipurpose hall for sports and events was part of a recent extension to the Gavina school, which was originally built in the 1980s. The new stand-alone multipurpose structure features a sliding latticework facade made of Estartit by Cerámica Ferres: square volumetric ceramic pieces enclosed within safety glass discs in a random colour combination, allowing for colourful shadows to be projected into the building.
The architects were approached with the brief for the new school facility back in 2008 and went through a public consultation process involving both teachers and parents. The Gavina school is proud of an active extracurricular programme of sporting competitions and theatrical and musical performances, but the old school building was no longer large enough to accommodate its busy events calendar under one roof. One of the key requirements for the new hall was versatility and easy adaptation to a variety of uses, from badminton tournaments to theatre productions.
The architects also had to take into consideration the aesthetics of the existing 1980s school building and the surrounding rural scenery, and so design a contemporary but visually non-intrusive structure. Maximising sustainability was also a key consideration, in line with the school’s firm commitment to best environmental practices, therefore choosing natural materials that maximise energy efficiency was crucial. Last but not least, the architects had to meet a limited budget of €1.2m for the construction of the new facility and all its finishing touches.
The careful choice of materials was instrumental to meeting the brief and Spanish ceramics played a starring role. The new hall features a sliding latticework facade constructed from 90m² of Estartit glass-filled clay blocks by Spanish manufacturer Cerámica Ferres. Each of these volumetric ceramic pieces has a circular cavity in the centre, filled with glass discs in various tones, allowing for colourful shadows to play across the white concrete floor of the hall. “The links with earth and nature were fundamental and that is why we wanted to preserve the raw clay look of the facade ceramics, rather than go for rich glazes. The choice of colourful glass accents, on the other hand, create a subtly playful touch, making the space inviting for kids without being too overpowering. The building feels almost translucent, while in fact it is a solid structure,” says architect Carmen Martínez Gregori.
However, the role of ceramics in this project goes much further than their high-impact aesthetics – they have also allowed for high levels of acoustic and thermal insulation in the building and thus have increased its energy efficiency in line with the sustainability ethos of the school. Biomass heating was another very important feature introduced by the architects.
“One of the engineering ingenuities of this project was allowing the relatively heavyweight ceramics to be mounted onto a series of sliding doors, which nevertheless are light and easy to move when opening up the interior to the sports pitch outside,” explains Gregori.
The upper section of the facade features lightweight Perspex, screened behind louvres that span the entire wall and both the framework and the flooring are finished in white concrete.
To visually connect the new building to aspects of the adjacent 1980s original school block, the architects chose to honour both its shape and hue, while offering new structural solutions – such as a sliding ceramic facade and a smart system of internal walls that maximises acoustic absorption. In a contemporary reference to the white plastered brick facade or the original building, the new multipurpose hall features concrete and unglazed ceramics in a complementary colour palette.