by Pallavi MehraMay 11, 2022
Inspired by the exuberant fantasy of Homer’s Odyssey - one of the most celebrated pieces of extant ancient literature from the Mediterranean, Odiseo Gastronomic and Leisure Center by Clavel Arquitectos is a 15,500 sqm urban leisure complex in Murcia, Spain, situated between vast highways at the entrance to the city. The initial idea behind the project was conceived by a major player in the Spanish hospitality and leisure sector, Grupo Orenes, who envisioned a landmark leisure centre near the mouth of Murcia’s urban landscape. In this vein, Odiseo’s layered structure functions as a massive totem within its context, striving to capture the attention of travellers moving in all directions. Housing two restaurants, a nightclub, performance hall, casino, sports bar, and two underground parking levels, the complex is a visual reference point welcoming visitors to the city amid a setting replete with billboards, tarmac, and constant vehicular motion.
“Odiseo Restaurant and its cuisine are deeply rooted in the Mediterranean Sea, of which Ancient Greece is considered its prime representative,” mentions Ricardo Carcelén González - a member of the project team at Clavel Arquitectos, in conversation with STIR. He continues, “The hero Odysseus (whose heroic saga is the source of the complex’s name) was characterised for being brilliant, astute and versatile. In drawing a parallel to the fabled myth, the design process for the project was highly arduous and full of different unexpected events: almost a sort of epic story on its own.” The dazzling façade design is composed of a double-height plinth with the complex’s name emblazoned across the upper tier, above which rests a vast terrace used as a pavilion for the outdoor restaurant. Suspended above this zone is the ‘totem’, made of a layered lattice of metal tubes which supports another piece of signage along the structure’s crown.
González explains, “The ‘totem’ is just made out of steel, but the goal was to make the whole structure look like a light and weightless element. To do so, pillars were split up into three connected tubes and the upper ‘crown’ structure - actually a six-metre-high continuous beam, was made of very thin rectangular metal tubes. On the other hand, the need for a high and visible sign was an excellent opportunity to work with ‘air’ as a building material for creating a large-scale space.”
From the entrance below, the design of the lobby sets the tone for the rest of the journey through the structure, filled with dynamic strip lighting and a sculpture shaped like an oversized rabbit head - which is a recurring motif throughout the hospitality design project. The user experience was given maximum precedence throughout the design process, in keeping with the complex’s function as a leisure centre. Hence, the architects made use of sensorial elements like textures, reflective surfaces, and sounds such as running water, to elicit emotional reactions to the various spatial encounters on offer. Juxtapositions of contradictory styles and trains of thought outline the interconnected worlds of each functional zone throughout the interior design. For instance, the industrial-style exposed ceilings in the underground parking levels have been anchored to the overarching design theme of the complex through warm lighting and chain-link wall treatments that echo the external signages.
This premise extends into the indoor restaurant and nightclub areas, which are incredible immersive environments in their own right. Drawing inspiration from the history and traditions of the Mediterranean, an eclectic agglomeration of textures and colours - including wood, gold and bronze, natural fibers, velvets, and artisanal ceramics, convey different perspectives of the region’s aesthetic ideals when bathed in warm hues from ornate lighting fixtures.
With regards to the furnishings, González notes, “Almost all fittings and furniture are custom-designed and made for this project. Perhaps the most notable among them might be the hanging jute fabric lamps, whose shapes were inspired by sea creatures such as shells, jellyfish, or mermaid tails. Formed by jute braids, these particular elements were a combination of CNC metal manufacture and local artisanal craft.” Contradictory atmospheres of irreverent opulence, ornate delicacy, and contemporary sensibility characterise transitions between functional areas in the restaurant design, enhanced by strip accent lighting design whose dynamic curves transmit an illusion of motion. Alternatively, flashes of greenery, floral-patterned upholstery, and bold colours intensify the exotic, otherworldly feel of the space.
On the uppermost level, an elevated forest-like environment is created by the totem’s projecting metal tubes, which generate an ecosystem that provides abundant natural ventilation and shade to tackle the region’s hot climate. The highlight of this sequence of spaces is a soaring cantilevered swimming pool - the largest of its kind in Europe and second largest in the world. Overhanging 22 metres beyond its supports - a pair of central concrete cores, the pool’s design is a bona fide marvel of structural engineering virtuosity. González elaborates on this element of the design, saying, “Building the elevated platform and its cantilevered pool was probably the greatest challenge faced throughout the project. In addition to its technical and structural complexity, the final decision of including this element into the building was made after construction work had been initiated, which necessitated a challenging redesign process and meticulous coordination strategies.” Honouring the tradition of a creator assessing their work first, architect Manuel Clavel Rojo, Founder of Clavel Arquitectos, was the first to take the plunge and test out the pool.
As per the architects, in staying true to the spirit of promoting local craftsmanship, much of the construction was executed with the aid of labour and talent sourced from nearby, and financed by private benefactors. This course of action was adopted to support the city’s economy, which had been badly hit by earlier economic crises. Reflecting on the outcome of their efforts, Clavel Arquitectos states in an official release, “Within Odiseo, architecture, communication, and nature overlap to give character and liveability to a previously inhospitable and charmless area of the city, creating an urban oasis with a domesticated climate open to all citizens.”
Name: Odiseo Gastronomic and Leisure Center
Location: Murcia, Spain
Client: Grupo Orenes
Year of completion: 2020
Total built area: 15,494.09 sqm
Total built area above ground: 7,011.94 sqm
Total built area below ground: 5,561.70 sqm
Total built area terraces and outdoor spaces: 2,920.45 sqm
Architecture and interior Design: Clavel Arquitectos (Manuel Clavel Rojo & Luis Clavel Sainz)
Project director: Diego Victoria García
Team: Cristina Jódar Pérez, David Hernández Conesa, Luis Muñoz García, Juan Pedro Boluda Sánchez, Javier Zueco Sánchez, Ana Fernández Martínez, Rafael de Giles González, David Gil Delgado, Joaquín Pérez Vicente, Tatiana Poggi, Adrián Riquelme Martínez, Ginés Sabater Arnaldos, Elena García Jiménez, Nieves Clemente García de Alcaraz, Diego J. García López, Ricardo Carcelén González, Ana Abellán Márquez, Cristina Rodrigo de la Casa