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Vall d’Hebron Hospital now has a master plan for its transformation


Since May, Barcelona’s Vall d’Hebron Hospital has a master plan for the reform of its facilities. The architecture practices BAAS and Espinet/Ubach have won the ideas competition for the construction of the headquarters of the Vall d'Hebron Institut de Recerca (VHIR), the Vall d’Hebron Research Institute, the first piece in the transformation process of the hospital complex. The winning project outlines a master plan for the ensemble which, as stated by the Health Councillor of the Generalitat de Catalunya Government during its presentation at the Architects’ Association, will serve as a road map for the works that will be undertaken in the medium and long term.

The major idea behind the plan is to transform the current “maze” of buildings into an urban park that addresses the accessibility problems through a vertical axis bridging the uneven levels with escalators, plus a set of horizontal axes that will cross the park to connect the districts of Montbau and Sant Genís. The architectural team’s aim is to remove a good part of the vehicle traffic, a goal which will be helped by the creation of major car parking clusters in the lower part of the complex and next to the research building and the array of public transport stops on the entrance plaza. The plan also encompasses the creation of an atrium construction next to the main building as the great gateway into the complex, plus the removal of some of the current obsolete constructions. The atrium edifice is in turn accompanied by what the architect Jordi Badia has described as a “civic square”, conceived as the hospital’s great urban anteroom and a public transport hub. Although the architects’ idea is for the plaza to be extended by enlarging the platform above the ring roads and to give it its own metro stop and a major bus stop, the councillor pointed out that these aspects will depend on any agreements that may be reached with other administrations such as Barcelona City Hall.

During the presentation, both Badia and Ubach and Comín emphasised the project’s strategic importance in general terms, considering that architecture, as well as addressing the functional problems, has the ability to transmit certain messages to the citizens. In this case, they seek to transmit confidence in Catalonia’s largest hospital and the idea that, according to the councillor, “in our health system, the worst is now over”. The current image, in the architects’ opinion, does not further this objective and so a radical remodelling is viewed as a matter of urgency.

Both the atrium building and the headquarters of the research institute, the two works due to be completed in the first phase of the redesign of the complex, present an arcaded image that the architects and several of the jury members have described with words such as “timeless” or “classical”. The research centre is conceived as a horizontal body operating as a step up the mountain. Its situation inside the park and its internal composition underpin the horizontal and vertical axes. The latter crosses the building, forming a crevice in it that is compensated on the opposite side by a courtyard that opens on to the park on one of its sides. During the presentation, the authors emphasised the Mediterranean nature of the proposal: walkable flat roofs, courtyards and terraces inherent to Barcelona’s climate that are at the root of the design given that the project, as well as seeking to give a sense of poise to the research space, aims to foster fortuitous encounters in view of recent studies that show the benefits they bring to research.

The budget for the headquarters of the VHIR is 15 million euros, financed by ERDF funds. It will foreseeably be completed by 2019, while others of the pieces that the Generalitat government is planning for the complex will be built as budget availability allows, according to the councillor. These include the Health Park, valued at 20 million, the new outpatient consultation building, at 60, and the master plans for internal and external renovation, at 27.

The competition’s jury for the research centre, which included architects such as David Chipperfield, Anne Lacaton, Beth Galí or Carles Ferrater, chose the BAAS and Espinet/Ubach proposal over the rest of the projects, which were entered by Elías Torres and Martínez Lapeña, Rafael Moneo and Moneo/Brook, Carme Pinós and PSP Arquitectura and Josep Llinàs and Casa Solo Arquitectes. The councillor praised the quality of all of them and announced that an exhibition will shortly be staged to make them publicly known.


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