Photos: Paula Alvarado.
A dark warehouse that used to function as the city's fish market from the 1930s until the early 1980s has been recycled into a new home for the Metropolitan Design Center in Buenos Aires.
Although not sold as green, the building's recycled structure, wonderful natural lightning and ventilation, and adaptable spaces are solid proof of good architecture.
Plans for a new home for the Metropolitan Design Center --an organism that promotes design as a development tool in the city-- began in 2001, months before Argentina's worst economic crisis in history exploded.
The project took ten years to complete traveling through four different administrations, an incredible milestone for a public construction in Argentina.
Its goal is not only to serve as the home of a set of design start-ups, events, and all kinds of activities related to design, but also to contribute with the revitalization of the neglected southern area of the city.
As it was assumed that it would be a project that would extend in time, the idea was to design a small portion of the center very fast so that some of the workers could establish there, and then build the rest in the following years. Hence the need to create a project that could be built gradually and in a modular way.
The resulting design was a set of wooden warehouses ('ships') separated by a central street and surrounded by a line of offices, forming a sort of small design city within the greater structure.
Architect Adriana Perez Moralejo designed the first area that was built and directed the master plan, while the wining design for the whole recycling project was created by Paulo Gaston Flores Studio.
On top of the stunning look of the building, the project had some green features that seem ahead of their time considering its date.
Respecting the rule that the greenest building is the one already standing, the whole structure of the original fish market was preserved and reused.
The ceiling was re done with isolating materials to control the sun incidence, while double glazing windows were chosen for exterior areas.
As is visible in the pictures, lots of new windows were placed above to let natural light in, while common spaces outside the wooden warehouses were naturally ventilated (no AC or heat is used in those areas).
The final investment for the whole 14,500 sq meters building (156,000 sq feet) building was 60 million pesos (around 15 million US dollars). It was inaugurated in October 2010 with a huge party, but will begin functioning full time and open to the public in the following months.
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