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Challenging Hierarchies: The Architecture of the Nationa...

Challenging Hierarchies: The Architecture of the National University of San Martín

Pierced, horizontal and without spatial hierarchies, the new building on the campus of the National University of San Martín is proposing a new research centre, with spaces that emphasize group work for scientists and academics. The architecture of the Dr. Rodolfo Ugalde Biotechnology Research Institute is unique on the campus, as it proposes an innovative concept for

Pierced, horizontal and without spatial hierarchies, the new building on the campus of the National University of San Martín is proposing a new research centre, with spaces that emphasize group work for scientists and academics.

The architecture of the Dr. Rodolfo Ugalde Biotechnology Research Institute is unique on the campus, as it proposes an innovative concept for scientific work: free and open laboratories, articulated by the walkways, meeting spaces and equipment. The focus of the design space is teamwork, with open spaces and plenty of natural light.

Laboratory building - daylight

The institute is situated within a campus master plan that locates the university a few blocks from the General Paz Highway, improving the mobility of students, teachers and researchers. This also follows the pattern for expansion and relocation of national universities in the Buenos Aires' metropolitan area.

The seventy meter long pavilion extends longitudinally with the main avenue of access. Meanwhile, the back of the building opens directly onto the “Mitre” urban rail, providing a transportation alternative for users of the building. The volume of the building is overwhelming. A grey box with apparently randomly located horizontal windows, it is difficult for the naked eye to determine how many levels the building has. The design team sought to reinforce the idea of ​​the whole over the individual, a concept that runs throughout the whole project.

Satellite picture of the University location

The designers conceived a concrete enclosure that comes up off the ground to interact with the environment: "Located on campus, a closed and secure location, the building can be opened to the landscape," says Architect Fabian de la Fuente, one of the authors of the project.

Laboratory building at night

Following the original idea of ​​a democratic, nonhierarchical plan, there are offices for the department heads, across from laboratories of regular students, as well as a number of offices without doors and undivided job areas. "The idea is that anyone can appropriate a particular space," says de la Fuente.

In addition, there are mobile workstations on each floor for use by scholars. A question that comes to mind when thinking about this new design concept is whether this “democratic” approach to space planning is appropriate in an educational environment?  Should a university's space challenge the hierarchies of teachers, students and authorities? What do you think?

Credits: Data and images linked to sources.

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Luis Lozano-Paredes is currently a student seeking a Diploma of Architecture and Urban Planning at Belgrano University in Buenos Aires, Argentina. Born in Colombia in 1987, he grew between the cities of Bogotá and Santiago de Cali, and then move...

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