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Home > News > Interviews > Interview with Alejandro Shell Montero - Shell Arquitectos

Interview with Alejandro Shell Montero - Shell Arquitectos

"The building certainly stands out, due to its unique design and partially due to its urban-geographical location; we believe that part of the building´s value is based on this reactionary condition, the fact that its design does not correspond to aesthetic conventions, but to a deeper analysis of the elements involved in the creation of a university campus"

Interview with Alejandro Shell Montero - Shell Arquitectos (Foto 1)Interview with Alejandro Shell Montero - Shell Arquitectos (Foto 2)Interview with Alejandro Shell Montero - Shell Arquitectos (Foto 3)Interview with Alejandro Shell Montero - Shell Arquitectos (Foto 4)

The shape of the building reflects the topography on which the building is constructed, correct? 

The geographic location of the plot is one of the main factors that were considered by the Irish studio, Grafton Architects, for the design of the UTEC Campus, among other aspects (such as the climate and the urban context) which, together, form the basis for the building´s unique design.

In geographical terms, the plot forms both the extension, as well as the top of the line of cliffs of the Costa Verde, which invade the city by way of the Armendariz Gorge. As it is situated on an edge, on a natural boundary, the building is privileged in terms of how it is perceived, as it undoubtedly can be viewed from different levels and at different speeds. From an urban point of view, the building is also situated on a boundary, as it is located directly on the borders of the districts of Barranco and Miraflores, benefitting from the respective contrasts; on the one hand, the northern front is affected by the busy traffic of the Malecón Armendariz; on the other hand, the southern front faces a traditional barranquino neighbourhood, which has a rhythm and atmosphere of its own. The building´s design is the result of the combination of all these factors, and this is why their expression is so unique.

What was the reason for selecting material such as concrete and for constructing a building which seems completely naked, void of any type of ornamental elements?

Concrete or cement, as it is known in our environment, is a suitable material, considering the climatic and programmatic conditions of the campus; due to the proximity to the sea, the humid environment and presence of saline, a low-maintenance and highly resistant material is required, as well as the absence of exposed metallic elements, to prevent corrosion. Therefore, exposed concrete is the ideal solution for these problems, as it requires minimum maintenance and the metallic components are embedded and protected within it.

From a design point of view, it was very important to Grafton Architects to employ concrete, for geological and cultural reasons; on one hand, the predominance of concrete provides continuity as an extension of the Costa Verde Cliff; in fact, the GA-architects baptised the building as "man-made cliff", as it shares the same geological features as the cliffs (in terms of the mineral origin of cement), but at the same time, it distances itself from the organic shapes of the natural formations (hence it is “man-made"); from a cultural point of view, the use of the "mute" concrete refers to constructions of "adobe", a material which is rooted in our pre-Columbian cultures, as well as being employed during much later periods (almost contemporary); according to the GA-architects, concrete is somehow the "new adobe", as its production is essentially similar (apart from the obvious differences).

Due to these features on their own, it is a building which attracts attention. Is this a new icon of the city of Lima? 

The building certainly stands out, due to its unique design and partially due to its urban-geographical location; we believe that part of the building´s value is based on this reactionary condition, the fact that its design does not correspond to aesthetic conventions, but to a deeper analysis of the elements involved in the creation of a university campus.

The movement of people, the lighting and ventilation; they also compose the building´s structure: is this correct?

It is correct, the building´s configuration and final expression is the result of the horizontal, vertical, and diagonal, movement of persons (students and teachers), the exposure to and protection from the sun-rays and the building´s permeability in terms of ventilation). These factors shape the building and provide the guidelines or parameters for the building´s architectural structure.

In which sense are these elements considered to be the main internal organisers of the campus?

Each of these elements plays a direct role in the building´s organisation and expression; the mild climate and the scarcity of rain determined that the north side remains entirely open (some would refer to a complete lack of enclosures or façades), however, the lack of enclosures on the north side enables the entry of sunlight to the social areas, while the academic facilities (classrooms and workshops) are protected from light and sound on the south side of the building; the windows are set perpendicular to the malecón, which allows to capture the wind blowing from the Pacific Ocean, which is directed by the Armendariz Cliff; the movement of students form the different paths, bridges, stairs and squares, which are situated at different levels, thus playing with their perception.

As an important factor for the granting of its award, RIBA highlights the fact of having set a new global architectural standard: What is the reason for this?

We believe that RIBA has awarded the architecture of the building due to its consistency with its geographical and urban context, the climate and the architectural program; in that sense, architecture becomes the answer to a series of concepts and variables, which allows its expression to be a direct result of the context (time and place) of the architectural project.

Which features should the building´s main auditorium present?

The Auditorium should host at least 300 people, and should be able to host any type of event (from conferences and lectures, to theatre performances and musical presentations). Therefore, the auditorium features a stage lift and a series of supplementary facilities (such as dressing rooms) which normally only theatres are equipped with.

Regarding the seating area, the issue of the predominance of concrete should be addressed, while at the same time ensuring adequate acoustical properties (as is well-known, concrete is not "acoustic" material, as the sound waves tend to bounce off it). This problem was solved, mainly due to the participation of the acoustic experts (Jorge Moreno and Carlos Jiménez), who cooperated with the architecture team by installing the sound absorptive panels and diffusers at strategical locations.

Did the distribution of the seats present a major challenge?

The floor of the UTEC Campus auditorium is not distributed regularly; on the contrary, the seats are distributed in two sectors which are not parallel to each other, nor are they installed parallel to the stage. Therefore, the seats had to be installed in this trapezoidal area with plenty of attention to detail, while, of course, additionally observing the normative (number of seats per row) and visual (isoptic curve) criteria.

Why did you select this Figueras model in particular?

The dimensions, materials and comfort of the seats were adjusted to the requirements of space and its aspect was immediately well accepted.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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