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A unique intangible inspiration manifests into a remarkable architectural concept in a building designed to foster and to be a beacon for innovation. The INES innovation centre in Concepcion, Chile, designed by Chilean architecture firm Pezo Von Ellrichshausen, is a seemingly straightforward structure on the outside with a dynamic core. Housing an “unexpected and exaggerated” interior scheme within, this rust-pigmented structure flaunts its functioning and dynamics to bystanders outside through its four visually porous faces.
Developed as a centre for innovation in academic practices, helping engage professors, students, researchers, entrepreneurs and the local communities, the building develops along a central continuous, fluid space, albeit vertical: a physical translation of the sequential development of formal research, and the reversible and multiple dimensions associated with informal knowledge. Manifesting order, hierarchy, creativity and expression through a diminutive circular orifice in each of the floor slabs, the structure houses its functional activities around this vertical spine, formless yet defined through circles. Patrons are thus visually and aurally connected as they proceed upwards in the building, with the openings progressively diminishing in size and functional space enclosures progressively shifting outwards from the corners.
Conceptually, INES derives its structurally innovative form from what the architects state to be two essential facets of the innovation process in academics: a solitary epiphany, as well as collective efforts in research and their successive fruition. "The building acknowledges the need for polarising the innovation time in at least two moments: in a creative experience based on a social, collective and integrated realm, and another rather individual, intimate and solitary experience. The spatial structure of the building is based in these two clearly differentiated conditions," states Mauricio Pezo, founder and lead at Pezo Von Ellrichshausen.
Similar circular openings also manifest in the cantilevers on the façade at each subsequent level, shifting as we go above instead of diminishing in size, forming a distinct facial element for the building apart from the striking pigmentation. Inwards, as the opening successively diminishes, the spaces around it burgeon towards the centre in convex arcs centred around the building's four corners. The innovative placement of rooms stacked to each corner, gradually rising upwards, leads to the impression of a large stairwell housed inside the building, remarkably highlighted by the building's illumination scheme in twilight hours.
An open core along a corner of the building establishes a series of vertically interconnected halls, along with facilitating access to private working spaces on the remaining three corners of each floor plan in a quarter-circular arc pivoted along the corners. As mentioned, these grow inversely proportional to the size of the central voids.
While a sense of visual innovation flushes the building, the structural design of the building serves a great example of the behind-the-scenes in architectural design practice. Instead of a traditional system of columns most commonly arranged along a non-differentiated, non-hierarchical grid, the offices and spaces follow a hierarchy, leading to a dynamic structural system that changes with each floor. This allows the building to accommodate varying typologies, from private cabins, to rooms for workshops, meetings, and even exhibitions to be hosted. The arced walls act as opaque screens from the central area, establishing visual and acoustic control. The character and diversity of the resulting spaces thus whimsically promotes the dynamic sense of innovation that the architects aim for in the building.
Name: INES Innovation Center
Location: Collao Campus, Concepcion, VIII Region, Chile
Client: Universidad del Bio-Bio
Architects: Mauricio Pezo, Sofia von Ellrichshausen
Collaborators: Aleksi Vicic, Eva de Hovre, Diego Perez, Sofie Taveirne, Victoria Bodevin, Caitlyn Flowers
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