Diagonal Besòs Student Residence

MDBA Architects

Architects: MDBA Architects
Location: Barcelona, Spain
Photography: Aldo Amoretti

The Campus Diagonal-Besòs forms a compact, carefully designed urban unit, located at the intersection of Avinguda Diagonal and Ronda Litoral. The Residence Hall aims play the role as a “social hub” on the campus: a place with large communal facilities and a pleasant home for a diverse population of students, guest professors and researchers.

The contours of the site are sharply defined by the alignment of several buildings on either side of the emblematic central wooden deck. This deck symbolizes what this campus aims to be: a hub for the exchange of knowledge and ideas, education and research.

The Residence Hall has a unique function among the different buildings on campus. It is the only building that will be permanently inhabited. Therefore, it is given an expression that highlights conviviality, with a touch of informality. The wide covered entrance area is an extension of the wooden deck, leading residents and visitors elegantly towards the inner functions of the building. The broad views onto the garden from the street side intensify this welcoming gesture.

The building is designed around a central open space. This courtyard brings in crystal-clear daylight. The repetitive juxtaposition of student residence-units spreads out along this courtyard, generating an area for conviviality between residents, protected from the noisy Ronda Litoral. This outdoor area reaches down to the -1 level, offering further spaces for communal use.

The volumetric strategy of the building is largely defined by the geometric constraints imposed by the building regulations. In order to guarantee a fluid alignment of the buildings along the Ronda Litoral, the contour of the building is cantilevered from level +2 upwards. This results in an articulated volume with an impressive two-story plinth along the road.

The height reduction of the volume on the north side along the wooden deck is a very productive restriction in urban terms, offering a smaller scale at the heart of the campus, a reference height that relates the different building volumes, and an extra terraced space with a pool.

The ground floor level is provided with a restaurant situated alongside the deck. The covered entrance area of the building gives way to a comfortable and pleasant terrace, which serves as an extension of the restaurant.

Student residences have, by definition, a repetitive character. The structure and the façade design show this modularity clearly. In an attempt to punctuate the residential character of the building, however, the repetitive position of the windows is blurred by the mobile aluminum sunscreen panels, creating a more playful façade.

Precast panels combine with bronze aluminum panels for the fixed claddings. In this way, the building manifests its residential character but plays with the textures and colors of the existing buildings.

The identity of the campus as a coherent, quiet, refined but powerful urban unit is respected. The Residence Hall adds another sculptural volume, like one of the figures on this exciting chessboard.