The Civic Center for Peace is a tangible and symbolic space of governmental presence, community meetings, and support, aimed at children and youth in situations of social vulnerability. The institution has different objectives, such as the prevention of aggression, the development of citizenship training, and the promotion of inclusion and social peace.

Project Name: The Civic Center for Peace
Studio Name: Norte Sur Arquitectos
Design Team: Isidro Ramirez, Victor Murillo
Area: 8.807 m2
Year: 2020
Location: Cartago. Costa Rica
Photography Credits: Fernando Alda

Civic Center for Peace, Cartago by Norte Sur Arquitectos - Sheet1
©Fernando Alda

State buildings are always points of reference within the urban context and are part of the construction of the imaginary identity of a place from its role as a physical representation of power. But from the human experience and amid an increasingly changing society, it is usual to perceive the local institutional architecture as the least growing, due to multiple factors such as limited budgets and the inherent resistance to the paradigms that maintain the inertia of the status quo.

Thus, the need arose to reconsider the regular image of an institutional building, commonly perceived by young people as a stereotypical representation of “authority” associated with ideas of repression and control, and rather seek to be a facilitator of social integration from an accessible, attractive, solid and safe urban space.

Civic Center for Peace, Cartago by Norte Sur Arquitectos - Sheet3
©Fernando Alda

It is not common to start the design thinking of a public building under the slogan of rethinking the image of the state building, especially when that need arises from an open dialogue with the user, about their opinions and needs. This is how we were faced with the need to propose a scenario of attraction.

The design was born from the concept of link, defined as an emotional experience that unites a person with others or with an object and suggests the existence of a structure that envelops them beyond themselves. This concept shapes a building that should be predominantly a plaza: a physical space that offers an experience of encounter with the community, where playful activities are the user’s attractors.

The project offers a skateboarding plaza and sports courts run by Icoder (Costa Rican sports and recreation institute), music, dance, and plastic arts workshops run by the Ministry of Culture, Youth and Sports, and multipurpose classrooms for children run by PANI (national children’s board); an intelligent community center for digital literacy (CECI) promoted by the Ministry of Science and Technology; a center for conciliation and conflict mediation by the Ministry of Justice and Peace, administrative and youth care offices, a refreshment center and service areas.

Civic Center for Peace, Cartago by Norte Sur Arquitectos - Sheet5
©Fernando Alda

In addition, the design contemplates the topography to lead the visitor almost unnoticed to the upper level which is both the roof of the building and urban space using a wide ramp from the existing plaza. There, the play areas contained by green roofs make the youngsters the protagonists whose route revolves around a central courtyard that integrates the levels vertically. The rest of the spaces are located under the shade and protection of the upper plaza and offers a safe, inclusive, and covered walking path that links all the buildings that make up the urban ensemble of the quadrant.


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