The Barcelona Institute of Science and Technology (BIST) will be the first building to be built under the ambitious ‘Ciutadella de Coneixement Initiative. This initiative developed by the Barcelona City Council and UPF aims to transform the area of Antic Mercat del Peix into a knowledge hub for biomedicine, biodiversity, and planetary well-being. BIST held an international competition in which over 34 renowned firms participated. Out of these top five designs that were shortlisted, one of the qualifying designs was by BIG+IDOM. The BIST center will be home to four different institutions, namely CRG, IBEC, ICN2, and IRB Barcelona; these will house over 500 researchers and 60 groups dedicated to the study of medical sciences.
Client: Barcelona Institute of Science and Technology (BIST)
Architect: Bjarke Ingels Group (BIG)
Project Location: Barcelona, Spain
Partners in Charge: Bjarke Ingels, João Albuquerque
Project Architect: Julieta Muzzillo
Team: Gonzalo Auger, Wei Lesley Yang, Jose Gomez & Lena Mariella von Buren
BIG Landscape: Giulia Frittolli, Ulla Hornsyld, Nandi Lu & Marcel Götz.
Area: 24,600 sq. m
Project Status: Idea (Competition)
Bjarke Ingels’ design proposal is based on the idea of L’ Umbracle, meaning something that gives shade. The building is imagined as a fusion of the main research wing and a pergola that combines the public and private spaces into a unique built form. The public plaza – Agora, is shaded by the building creating a canopy of sorts. The BIST building will stand as a chamfered block with a larger footprint above that rests on a forest of columns. The built form aims to achieve harmonious synergy between the public and private domains.
BIST will have a built-up of under 25,000 sq.m. with multiple levels creating an urban landmark for the city. On the ground level, the building will coagulate the existing fragments of public activities into one holistic continuous plaza. The design of spaces encourages urban continuity around the building.
The proposal will sit on an existing parking lot between the Trias Fargas and Parc de Charles I. It follows Cerda’s urbanistic principles by opening the metro sidewalk in the north while aligning with the UPF building in the south. At the bottom, the building acts as a portico that connects the Agora and the park. The result is an interactive built form that is a hybrid of an urban integrated Agora and BIST.
Planning and Design
The ground floor seamlessly blends with the Agora space. The lobby flows into the public space outside making the building approachable and open. It is cleverly designed as a sunken courtyard that directly connects to the UPF building. The lobby thus becomes the crossroad of all the functions – Agora, UPF, BIST and acts as a hub for all public activities. Additional public spaces like auditoriums and informal gathering spaces make the lobby space the interaction core of the design.
The scheme of public-private interaction continues inside the building, with the atrium being at the heart of the design. The large central atrium expands as the building rises above and culminates with a huge skylight. The corridors and stairs connecting the different floors in the atrium facilitate visual interaction across the space. It also allows natural light to flood into the space and ventilates the common spaces, and also gives them an ethereal quality.
Surrounding the atrium space in the centre are the labs and office spaces, along with a few leisure spaces. The north or park-facing side of the building houses offices stacked on all floors that overlook the central atrium. On the south or the Agora facing spaces are dedicated to meetings and informal or leisure-based activities such as yoga or interdisciplinary group sessions.
Bjarke Ingels has designed this structure as a synergy of both rational functionalism and iconic form. Along the periphery, two pragmatic blocks are placed that are dedicated to lab spaces. The side facing the park has wet labs as the side retracts fewer loads, and vibrations are better optimized there. The opposite side is occupied by dry labs with a central core for services like water supply and drainage. Both sides have a flexible layout that can be expanded in the future. These labs occur on all floors and have functional and open layouts.
Material and Construction system
The structure uses the pre-existing parking column grid instead of devising separate load transfer systems. This allows BIG to divert the funds that get used in spaces that people actually use. These columns pierce through the Agora space depicting a forest of columns that are made to look like tree trunks and thus are augmented as a forest of trees.
The building exists as a simple juxtaposition of horizontal planes clad in glass. The structure has a dynamic form as it retracts and expands but the structural system is fairly simple. It also incorporates elements of vernacular architecture like the Catalan arches in the ceiling that increase the span and also have climate benefits. The overhanging slabs prevent solar radiation and the courtyard and atrium act as thermal devices that passively regulate the microclimate.
Bjarke Ingels has attempted to dissolve the boundary between the indoor and the outdoor. The glass facade not only brightens the interior spaces but also gives a view of the surrounding gardens. The incorporation of greens is seen along the exterior facade and also inside the building, creating a symbiosis of the natural and built environment.
At the centre of Bjarke Ingels’ design scheme is the social interaction, both for the public and the staff. While the common public engages and interacts in the Agora city below, the people working in BIST interact in the open terraces overlooking the Agora. BIST will be a hub for social, educational, and scientific centers for the city of Barcelona. BIG’s marvellous concept of L’Umbracle synthesizes rational and adaptable, pragmatism and hedonism, social and private, indoor and outdoor, in a perfect functional landmark.
- Big.dk. 2022. BIG | Bjarke Ingels Group. [online] Available at: <https://big.dk/#projects-bist> [Accessed 8 August 2022].
- 2022. [online] Available at: <https://play-time.artstation.com/projects/8eQb4n> [Accessed 8 August 2022].
- Kliver, J., 2022. Five teams of architects will compete to design and build the new BIST building in the Antic Mercat del Peix – Barcelona Institute of Science and Technology – BIST. [online] Bist.eu. Available at: <https://bist.eu/five-teams-of-architects-will-compete-to-design-and-build-the-new-bist-building-in-the-antic-mercat-del-peix/> [Accessed 8 August 2022].