CASE STUDY | BIG’s Joint Research Centre for European Commission, Seville
Located at the former EXPO ’92 Seville site, in Isla de la Cartuja, the new 9,900 m2 building by BIG Architects and Buro Happold engineers, ties into the city’s goal to become a global benchmark for sustainability by 2025 and the local vision of the eCitySevilla project to decarbonise and transition Isla de la Cartuja to 100% renewable energy sources.
See gallery below. Images: BIG Architects
The JRC building will house 12 research units and supporting functions as well as public and private outdoor spaces. The building is expected to break ground in 2024.
“With our design for the Joint Research Centre in Sevilla, more than anything, we have attempted to allow the sustainable performance of the building to drive an architectural aesthetic that not only makes the building perform better but also makes it more inhabitable and more beautiful – a new Andalusian environmental vernacular,” said Bjarke Ingels.
Inspired by the shaded plazas and streets of Seville, BIG proposes a cloud of pergolas over the entire JRC site, sheltering the plaza, the garden and the building underneath, akin to the shading elements typical to Seville. The entire pergola structure is supported by a forest of columns and will be covered in photovoltaics contributing positively to the building’s operational footprint.
The periphery of the pergola is lowered to a human scale height creating a variety of spaces underneath it. The research centre adapts to the canopy, creating a series of terraces, shaded outdoor spaces for breakouts, relaxation, and informal meetings with views of the city.
Inside, the functions of the new JRC building are organised with public programme and amenities such as dining, a conference centre and social spaces on the ground floor, while the offices and research units occupy the upper floors for privacy and security. The collaborative workplaces face the plaza, while the deep-focus workspaces face the garden. The proposed layout is designed to be entirely flexible and adaptable according to any future needs of the JRC.
In addition to the energy harvested from PVs and technologies applied across the building, the canopy will feature integrated rainwater collection technologies and a particular focus on biophilia. The passive design of the building through its shallow floorplate and constant shading under the pergola cloud enables natural cross ventilation and ideal light qualities, reducing the energy consumption typically used on artificial lightening, air conditioning and mechanical ventilation.
The design prioritises locally sourced materials, such as limestone, wood and ceramic tiling. The building structure is low-carbon concrete, reducing up to 30% of typical CO2 emissions, while the pergola cloud is made from recycled steel. Gardens, greenery and water elements in the outdoor environment seek to reduce or eliminate the heat island effect and create a comfortable microclimate.
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The JRC site in Seville works closely with sister services of the European Commission to provide socio-economic and techno-economic support for the conception, development, implementation and monitoring of European Union policies.