by Sunena V MajuSep 19, 2022
With the Spanish conquest of the Aztec Empire, Spaniards began the colonisation of Mexico, followed by the capture of Tenochtitlan which led to the founding of the Spanish capital in Mexico City. This course of history, establishing the Nueva España (New Spain), marked the beginning of a 300-year-long colonial era in Mexico. The period of colonisation is also directly related to the emergence of most Mexican cities. However, in the southern part of North America is the city of Escárcega, whose emergence contradicts that of most Mexican cities. Escárcega was established in the early 20th century as a settlement for exploiting gum, rubber, and logwood. It was not until 1990 that the Escárcega communal farmland became a municipality and today, is a city in the state of Campeche. With a population of approximately 32,000 its strength lies in its privileged geographic location that works as a hub connecting it to various other Mexican cities.
Can an architectural building become a tool for developing the urban infrastructure of a growing city?
Years after its establishment, through a federal investment program, Escárcega finally has the resources to complement and improve its urban infrastructure. Building on this initiative, Mexican architects at Kiltro Polaris Arquitectura and JC Arquitectura, have embarked on etching the Centro de Salud N1, translated as N1 Health Centre, to become one of the seven interventions taking shape in the region as a part of the urban development. Introduced as an apparent concrete structure that will serve the people who live there, the healthcare centre will act as a basic treatment clinic.
Owing to its urban significance, the healthcare architecture had to reflect on the principles of the 20th century city. Therefore, at Centro de Salud N1, the architects borrowed from the inspirations of brutalist architecture, realising them in the singularity of modern materials and design elements. The 798 sq.m area of the building has been planned to not only cater to the functioning of the clinic but remain adaptable to varying needs. “While its purpose has been defined as a basic treatment clinic, Centro de Salud N1 is conceived as a versatile, well-ventilated, and illuminated structure that, if necessary, has the possibility of a wide variety of uses. With this in mind, the building can last over time and be adapted to the changing needs of a growing city,” share the architects.
A series of structural bays designed using barrel vaults in raw concrete architecture form the main architectural character of the structure. Throughout the building, these bays come together in a symmetric and balanced form to create uniform volumes in the building. Across the different spaces, defying hierarchies, the transition areas act as open halls, inhabitable spaces have been designated for defined purposes such as doctor’s offices, pharmacies, administrative areas, multipurpose rooms, treatment rooms, etc. and create service niches connecting all rooms. The structural system for the building employs six barrel vaults that are interrupted by a series of courtyards. This courtyard design allows for rainwater catchment, natural lighting, covered walkways for staff and patients, and natural ventilation for all the rooms.
Complementing the raw nature and monochromatic aesthetics of the concrete vault system is the presence of brick architecture adorning the walls. Furthermore, the use of glass with black steel frames in the opening adds a node of modern architecture in the otherwise brutalist structure. Though this material palette with concrete, glass, and steel is neither a new approach nor a local occurrence of the region, the minimalism and raw nature it imparts builds on the narratives of a growing city.
Though barrel vaults are an age-old construction technique in architecture, their presence in Mexican architecture is comparatively new. Therefore, the simplicity and minimalism of the architecture of Centro de Salud N1 brings forth a new, yet somehow familiar addition to the architectural concourse of the city. While hedging one's bets, the health centre seems to mark the beginning of a new phase for Escárcega. Here the architecture is simply a beginning, an introduction which may guide or contradict what may come.
The coherent clarity and ease of Centro de Salud N1 is evident in how the architects introduce the project, "It is a clinic that is open to the city and, through a series of versatile bays and central courtyards, offers access to basic health services.”
Name: Centro de Salud N1, Escárcega
Location: Escárcega, Campeche. México
Area: 797.60 sq.m
Architects: Kiltro Polaris Arquitectura + JC Arquitectura
Year of construction: 2022
Architect in charge: Victor Imre Ebergenyi Kelly and Juan Carral O’Gorman
Design Team: Yissel Alanis Nolasco, Valentina Bellego Barrera, Noe Urquijo, Gerardo Pacheco, Anahí Alvarenga