Tile of Spain Awards 2012

The winners of the last edition of the Spanish Ceramic Tile Manufacturers' Association Awards — Sol 89 and Ramón Fernández-Alonso — show that architecture is flexible enough to produce quality buildings without wasting resources and spending unnecessary money.

 

Architecture / Ethel Baraona Pohl

The Tile of Spain Awards of Architecture and Interior Design — better known as the ASCER Awards — are organized every year by the Spanish Ceramic Tile Manufacturers' Association (ASCER), with the aim of promoting the understanding and uses of ceramic tiles in the building industry. Any worldwide project project using Spanish ceramics can apply. The 2012 edition is important for significant reasons: according to the association, the evolution of ceramic tiles as an architectural material has grown during the past ten years, and the quality of the participant projects was stellar. But maybe the most important fact in this edition of the prize is that both categories selected Spanish projects as winners, in a moment when the country's architectural practice is living the worst downturn of the past decades.

The winning projects are Sol 89's (María González García and Juanjo López de la Cruz) Catering School in a Former Abattoir, in Medina-Sidonia, Cadiz in the Architecture category, and Ramón Fernández-Alonso's (Ramón Fernández and Alonso Borrajo) Teacher Training College in Granada in the Interior Design category. Both projects were selected by a jury composed of Juan Navarro Baldeweg, Francisco Aires Mateus, Luis Martínez Santa-María, Joseph Grima, Anatxu Zabalbeascoa, Matali Crasset, and Ramón Monfort. The two winning projects are symbolic, after so many years of big projects and starchitecture developments in Spain. Both are examples that architecture can respond to the context and current needs of the country, and that the practice is flexible enough to produce quality buildings without wasting resources and spending unnecessary money.

The Catering School in a Former Abattoir is located in Medina-Sidonia, a city and municipality in the province of Cádiz, considered by some to be the oldest city in Europe. In this context, surrounded by dense buildings from the early 19th century abattoir — with thick walls, courtyards, and stone —, Sol89's school becomes an exercise on how to adapt new ideas and materials into a context filled with local memories, and how to create dialogue with the existing historical buildings of a small city — with a population of approximately 12,000 inhabitants. The renovation's concept is always linked to a poetic overview of "memory" and the relationship between the past, present and future.

Top: Sol 89 (María González García and Juanjo López de la Cruz), Catering School in a Former Abattoir, Medina-Sidonia, Cadiz, Spain, winner of the Tile of Spain Awards 2012 in the Architecture category. Above: Ramón Fernández and Alonso Borrajo, Teacher Training College, Granada, Spain winner of the Tile of Spain Awards 2012 in the Interior Design category

Based on these ideas, the roof — covered in ceramic tiles — confers identity to the project, as it silhouette rises up to form a series of clerestories that attract the light and seek to echo the multitude of roofs that rise up the hillside of Medina-Sidonia, in the architects' own words. The shape of the building has two main formal functions: to mimic the old houses within the natural landscape and, at the same time, to provide flexible interior spaces according to the needs of the program. With the creation of this small but well designed building, and the usage of tiles in the roof to create a new icon for the town, the architects have demonstrated a clever approach, using existing infrastructures to create new, meaningful spaces. Bruce Sterling once pointed out how "the future is this place at a different time," and we almost have the feeling that he was talking about this project and all the history behind its walls.

Sol 89, Catering School in a Former Abattoir, Medina-Sidonia, Cadiz, Spain

The winner of the Interior Design category project, Ramón Fernández-Alonso's Teacher Training College came as a surprise in this category. The building features an impressive and fluid façade, clad in ceramic tiles; and the impression of a "floating" façade above the first floor's lightweight glass has caught the attention of Spain's architectural media. But looking at the interior carefully, to discover why it has been distinguished for its interior design, it becomes apparent that the building quietly responds to the needs of the school, designed to provide an intimate, almost familiar architecture in its spaces. The close relationship between the exterior and the interior is reinforced by the fact that the focal point of the building's design is the ceramic envelope. Thus the coherence of the building's skin its sensitive interiors becomes apparent, in its ceramic ceilings and the immanent presence of light. The way that the red ceramics interact with the white interior and natural light results in a warm feeling inside the two main floors.

 
The two winning projects are symbolic, after so many years of big projects and starchitecture developments in Spain
 

Sol 89, Catering School in a Former Abattoir, Medina-Sidonia, Cadiz, Spain

In the current Spanish economic situation, every building has also become a political statement. The reinterpretation of the way we should build architecture, getting closer to the client, to the users, and the local environment, is a way to define what architecture should be. It's easy to understand the common links between the two wining projects: flexibility, poetry and the importance of local context. In times when architectural education needs to be revisited, it is good to see that both awarded projects are schools... even if not architecture schools. Perhaps a close relationship between practice and education is part of the new understanding of architecture that is much needed in the present times. Ethel Baraona Pohl (@ethel_baraona)

Ramón Fernández and Alonso Borrajo, Teacher Training College, Granada

Churtichaga+Quadra-Salcedo Arquitectos, Plaza Mayor redesign, Almazan, Spain, winner of an honorable mention in the Architecture category

Churtichaga+Quadra-Salcedo Arquitectos, Plaza Mayor redesign, Almazan, Spain, winner of an honorable mention in the Architecture category