Ambar Engineering & Innovation Centre

Ambar Engineering & Innovation Centre

Sobrellano Arquitectos

With its interplay of irregular diagonal lines of profiles and flat façades, Ámbar Telecomunicaciones’ dynamic new research and innovation centre in the Spanish city of Santander suggests the illusion of depth. It appears to be a typical example of a design which could never have been conceived in this way without modern information technology and rendering programs.

The design has resulted in a plastic and highly expressive image for a building which actually isn’t that large – only 2000 square metres. And while it appears to be a playful exercise in geometry, there is nothing childish about the technical execution. All of the parties involved in the design and execution process delivered precision work. The fabricator Bellapart S.A.U., from the Catalan city of Olot, is known for taking on geometric challenges. They were eager to work on the irregular façade composition designed by Sobrellano Architects, and enthusiastically calculated and realised it together with their own engineering bureau Strain.

On the ground floor the building projects outwards to a great extent

A three-dimensional steel construction was erected which supports the roof and the façades around four oblong storeys. This construction is not attached to the floors and forms an autonomous shell around the functional spaces. Steel connectors were mounted to the ball-shaped joints of the tubular profiles of this support structure. Reynaers aluminium profiles CW 60 were then mounted to these connectors. At first CW 50 profiles were requested, but the horizontal sections in particular, some of which are up to three metres long, needed more stiffness. On the basis of calculations made by Strain, Reynaers supplied CW 60-SC for the façade. In the final design, each frame and glass surface is of a different size, creating the building’s unique appearance. The building is surrounded by double-insulated laminated glass with a 20-mm air cavity, and the glass continues even over the thick corners. In this way the outer layer of laminated glass plates acts as a camouflage for elements like roof drainage. The drain water then runs down along the corners, where the glass again covers the profiles. Because the texture of the surface consists entirely of glass, the building’s appearance is light and shiny, despite the large amounts of steel and aluminium included in the skeleton of the roof and façades. A similar effect could also be achieved on a small-scale level by installing Reynaers’ CS 77 doors with hidden hinges, reducing the number of visible technical details.

The threedimensional steel support structure is clearly visible from the inside

The glass exterior turns the building into a mirrored boulder, which from the back appears to rise up out of the earth. At night, the building gains depth and reveals its secrets. Then the overlap between the 3D steel structure and the aluminium network surrounding it becomes visible, as does the building’s interior. The interior walls become illuminated, and the underside of the roof is also lit from within the offices and research rooms. Glass has also been used for the circumference of the roof, and as a result the massive roof surface does not extend all the way to the façade. This makes the outer edges disappear in darkness and brings the illuminated sections, the heart of the building, even more prominently to the forefront. The Reynaers CW 60 structural clamped profiles only reveal very thin joints between the external glass panels, while the edges of the main surfaces (sometimes because of drainage, but also in those places without drains) are sculpturally set off conspicuously. At these edges, metal insulated profiles measuring about 20 x 20 cm have been used, and although these are covered in glass, softening their appearance, they still lend the building a certain robustness. In fact, the sculptural form demands it. The protrusion on the ground floor and the powerful interplay of the different façades are imposing. The fact that within these strong lines and surfaces a vibrating network of steel and aluminium has been erected, makes the subtlety and elegance of this interplay of lines even more impressive, not least made possible by the perfect collaboration of the different parties involved that each brought in their expertise. Together for Better.

A - top hung window horizontal section mullion
B - roof vertical section transom
Fabricator: 
Bellapart SAU
Architects: 
Sobrellano Arquitectos
Location: 
Santander, Spain View on map
Photographer: 
Wenzel