About the project
The University of the Americas is the largest private institution in Ecuador that, for 27 years, is dedicated to providing an educational experience of excellence and focused on the student. Contract Workplaces -working together with BMA Estudio- was in charge of carrying out this infrastructure expansion.
From the very beginning, the premise underlying the project was to respect and adapt the existing building. There lay our first challenge, since the aim was to achieve an aesthetic and functional integration into a harmonious whole. At this stage, however, and unlike what happened in the first project, where the organisation was introspective and revolved around two central yards, the premise here was to open up to the surroundings, incorporating the views of the valley and integrating the topography and environment. Thus, the architectural layout is developed in two strips that open up to the outside, incorporating the landscape as a key player in spatial perception. These “arms” are joined to each other at some levels by means of bridges which serve not only as connections, but also as places to linger and gather.
The new building, then, is structured around a great central atrium, accessed by means of a forecourt topographically adapted to the natural terrain which connects the two glazed parallel seven-levelled prisms that house the different areas. From the main block of one of the parallel strips, there emerges a cantilever intended to capture the best views of the valley, generating a gestural and playful movement of the whole toward the Vía Nayón, and which, at the same time, functions as a powerful metaphor for UDLA’s projection into the future.
Founded on a gully in a seismic area, structural resolution was a key party to countless meetings and solutions proposed from the beginning of the project with a view towards maintaining the spirit of the proposal unaltered. The program includes classrooms, laboratories, offices, restaurant and canteen, library, auditorium, multipurpose room, parking, accessible terraces and gardens. Most of these were required by the University in advance, but many were added or enhanced thanks to the new possibilities offered by the project. The first big win was understanding the exterior and intermediate spaces as frequently-used places for the students. The surroundings, then, work as the grand foyer, an unstructured gathering and relaxation area.
Regarding the interior, Contract Workplaces rejected the idea of organising the university solely around the use of classrooms, incorporating the premise of offering both students and professors a place to be at all hours that encourages them to stay in the building for multiple activities and fosters a strong sense of appropriation and belonging. The project, then, incorporates new spaces that house activities other than lectures, such as studying, resting, doing research, socialising, exercising, working collaboratively, and even playing. Learning as well as professional and personal development are comprised of all of these. Thus, the design of the building is centered on the people that occupy it. For this purpose, before even starting, Contract Workplaces carried out an investigation following a methodology called Campus Place Strategy, where Contract Workplaces not only gathered data about the expectations and habits of the new building’s future occupants, but also incorporated the newest trends in pedagogy. In this sense, for instance, classrooms are designed to be restructured for different dynamics: lectures, individual projects, team projects, innovation, debate and presentation, among others; a concept that greatly differs from the traditional layout where desks face the board and students face the back of their classmates’ heads. In this manner, the aim is to facilitate learning the skills necessary to succeed in the 21st century, such as problem solving, critical thinking, empathy, emotional intelligence, creativity and innovation.
From the architectural point of view, a Building Information Model (BIM) methodology was used from the design stage onwards, allowing us to make a virtual and 3D version of the project and, thus, exponentially reduce the time needed for project stages. This, in turn, allowed us to start early on the mobilisation period, in line with the challenging deadlines required by the University, and beginning work on a fast-track process of design and construction.
One of the key premises from the start of the architectural planning stage was to select different strategies that allowed for the efficient use of energy and resources. Mitigation of the impact on roads and traffic is one of UDLA’s key commitments to the environment. The University has its own intercampus transportation system, in addition to providing a lot of space for bicycles and promoting car-sharing. Continuing on with the existing building’s guidelines, the use of photovoltaic panels has been increased, adding a 25 KW supply to the 18 KW already provided. When designing the glass envelope, air vents were incorporated throughout the perimeter, which guarantee a constant natural air circulation, resulting in a reduction of the load to be covered by traditional air conditioning systems. Also in line with the reduction of energy consumption, the new building has an automated lighting system in the general areas. This is achieved by means of natural light, occupancy and presence sensors. The totality of sewage waters is treated by the UdlaPark complex. The responsibly-treated waters are recycled for irrigation of its nature reserve.The landscaping design favours the use of open spaces holding native species of vegetation, generating areas to gather and linger. All of these strategies reduce the carbon footprint generated by the complex, with the new building reaching the following values:
- Energy-efficiency measures: 47.23%
- Water-saving measures: 75.15%
- Material-saving measures: 38.72%
UdlaPark has been granted the Punto Verde Certification for Sustainable Construction. For this extension, based on the background provided above and the energy-efficiency data obtained, Contract Workplaces plan to obtain the Edge Advance Certification.