Vaillo + Irigaray's Biomedical Research Center

Bio-mimicry and biotypes in the architectural creation process

by Malcolm Clark
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The camel, the polar bear and the leaf: these are the three biotypes that have inspired the Cib - Biomedical Research Center. Hospital De Navarra project in Pamplona, designed by Vaillo + Irigaray Architects.

The project focuses its configuration on the function of the Center: biomedical research through the application of bio-mimicry (adaptation of biological systems to human intervention) in the process of architectural construction.

Vaillo + Irigaray take the camel, the polar bear and the leaf as a reference for establishing similar adaptive systems.

The camel as a paradigm for functional section. Defence against extreme weather conditions creates the appearance of protuberances as storage systems of reserves (water, food, fat, etc ...). In the same way as the anatomy of the camel expands where its function so requires, in this building, projecting parts and recesses have been created where necessary (on the roof for the machines of the installations or in the basement to accommodate warehouses and loading and unloading areas). The building thus deforms to function effectively and also to adapt to future needs.

The polar bear is, on the other hand, used as an example of a multi-purpose skin. The skin needs to maintain a stable internal temperature, in spite of the cold outside, and does so with a thick black skin, covered with hollow transparent hairs, which maintain the warm air inside: the vision we have is of a white coat which blends in with ice and snow.

The leaf, provides an integration between structural strength and flexibility, was the reference for the design of perforated aluminium plates of the façade: like leaves on trees, these huge (4500 x 800 mm) yet thin (3 mm) plates must be self-supporting, lightweight, flexible and capable of standing in a vertical position. This “mixture of origami” generates flat, folds and ribs that stiffen together creating the geometry necessary to protect from the sun, yet allow vision.

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    Cib - Biomedical Research Center. Hospital De Navarra 51

    Cib - Biomedical Research Center. Hospital De Navarra

    Pamplona / Spain / 2011