Name: Selgas Cano Architecture
Location: Madrid, Spain
An architectural firm’s creativity is best measured by the environment it chooses to work in itself. Nestled into an area of woodland on the outskirts of Madrid, Spanish firm Selgas Cano have submerged their office into the earth to create one of the world’s most sustainable and inspiring workplaces.
Nature was the driving force behind the office’s inception
The self-designed office aims to connect staff to the natural environment by immersing them in beautiful forest, giving them a unique bug’s eye view of the surrounding vista. The intelligent design ensures nature is the focal point of the office and, as leaves fall and wildlife passes by, encourages the shifting forest landscape to be the inspiration behind the firm’s ongoing projects.
Husband and wife team José Selgas and Lucía Cano had a strong eco-ethos when it came to designing their workplace, restricting themselves from felling any trees and ensuring they only built in natural clearings among the pines, laurels and acacias.
The building is accessed via a wooden walkway through the forest, leading to a stone staircase down to its entrance. Half a dozen staff work in the office and its layout is suitably minimalist. Everybody hot desks – one of many energy saving features – sitting in pairs at a row of white-lacquered work surfaces. Those who wish to work late do so under the glow of spherical desk lamps – the only source of artificial light in the office.
The office’s sustainable design maximises natural light and insulation
Shaped as a long aerodynamic tube, the streamlined space is encapsulated by a curving wall of transparent acrylic that extends into part of the ceiling. The elongated panel acts as both a window and a skylight, flooding the office with light and eradicating the need for artificial lighting during the day.
The opposite south-facing wall is part-submerged into the earth and is constructed from an 11cm thick fibreglass and polyester sandwich, offering the staff shade from direct sunlight. Being almost subterranean ensures the office stays cool during the warm Spanish summers, while the fibreglass and polyester provides enough insulation during the winter.
Furthermore, the forest’s leafy canopy offers shade from the glare of the Iberian sunshine during the summer, while in winter, the leaves have fallen and the office can benefit from as much natural heat from the sun as possible.
A hinged opening at one end of the office is attached to weighted pulley mechanism on the building’s exterior. This can be opened to allow varying degrees of natural ventilation. This, combined with the use of natural light and insulation, exhibits Selgas Cano’s commitment to designing sustainable structures with low carbon footprints.