In Barcelona, two italian-spanish women, Benedetta Tagliabue and Patricia Urquiola, join forces in the design of a support center for cancer patients, inserted in a health care complex designed at the start of the 20th century by Lluís Domènech i Montaner, a master of Catalan modernism

Take an award-winning Spanish architecture firm like Miralles Tagliabue EMBT helmed by the Italian Benedetta Tagliabue (after the premature death in 2000 of Enric Miralles), add an equally famous Italian design studio like that of the Spanish talent Patricia Urquiola, and what you get is one of the most beautiful and well-made projects of recent years: Centro Kálida Sant Pau in Barcelona, with architecture and landscape design by Tagliabue and interior design by Urquiola.


Benedetta Tagliabue
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Benedetta Tagliabue studied architecture at the Istituto di Architettura di Venezia (IUAV) and currently acts as director of the international architecture firm Miralles Tagliabue EMBT, founded in 1994 in collaboration with Enric Miralles, based in Barcelona and, since 2010, in Shanghai. Among her most notable projects built are the Edinburgh Parliament, Diagonal Mar Park, the Santa Caterina market in Barcelona, Campus Universitario de Vigo, and the Spanish Pavilion at the 2010 Shanghai World Expo.

In this project, beauty is a matter of care for the spirit and commitment to helping others, with a center that offers moral support to cancer patients and their families. In the awareness that architecture is a sort of third skin – after the body and its garments – shaped around the life that exists inside it, bringing therapeutic value.

Centro Kálida is a welcoming dwelling, a warm, serene atmosphere, a place to feel at home, surrounded by beautiful things, in spite of going through a difficult moment of life. A house that translates into a small garden-pavilion inside the Art Nouveau complex of the Sant Pau hospital in Barcelona, designed at the start of the 20th century by the architect Lluís Domènech i Montaner, master of Catalan modernism, and included by UNESCO in its world heritage listings.

A micro-city composed of a cluster of pavilions, internal streets, a church and a convent. Here, the pavilion of the new millennium extends with its organic forms across an area of 400 square meters, inside a large park that is an integral part of the health care complex, with balanced new green zones and connections between the buildings and the urban fabric. The complex is on two levels, following the shape of the terrain, with a hexagonal layout that guides the organization of the spaces on the basis of the various activities they contain.


Patricia Urquiola
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Patricia Urquiola, Spanish from Oviedo, lives and works in Milan. She studied Architecture at the Polytechnic of Madrid and at the Polytechnic of Milan, where she graduated in 1989 with Achille Castiglioni. In 2001 he opened his own studio working in the areas of product design, interiors and architecture. Among his architectural projects: the Vicenza Jewel Museum, the Mandarin Oriental Hotel in Barcelona, The Das Stue Hotel in Berlin, the Spa of the Four Seasons Hotel in Milan. He has created products for the most important Italian and international companies.

The ground floor, open to the garden, hosts all the communal areas, which rotate around a central two-story dining hall, separated in a flexible way from the entrance, the kitchen, a small library and a multifunctional space thanks to sliding doors. The facility offers sessions with psychologists, stress-management courses, workshops for art and creative writing.

Outside, in the garden, a pathway with a decorative pattern directly connects the center to the oncological sector of the hospital, while a sequence of patios, pergolas and islands of greenery of variable height ensures the privacy of the guests, offering exceptional views of nature.

Centro Kálida is recognizable thanks to its green ceramic roof, inspired by the floral motifs and Art Nouveau memories of the site. "

On the upper level the private rooms are organized around a central two-story space for the lounge, and feature large windows to establish a visual dialogue with the historic buildings of the Sant Pau complex. Seen from their upper levels, Centro Kálida is recognizable thanks to its green ceramic roof, inspired by the floral motifs and Art Nouveau memories of the site.

Like the roof, the facades of the building also feature a composition of vertical brick walls that incorporate glazed ceramic motifs, mutable in their colors and geometric forms. Refined multicolored material solutions are interrupted by the windows facing the garden (with wooden casements), allowing light to spread fluidly through the interiors.

In every space the furnishings designed by Patricia Urquiola with her studio apply materials and colors in pursuit of the same fluid sensation of natural vitality and wellbeing. Under her guidance, leading companies like Arlex, Cappellini, Flos, Listone Giordano, Moroso and Mutina have donated furnishings, design objects and coverings, produced for the occasion. Centro Kálida Sant Pau has been made possible by private foundations and a network of donors and volunteers, including the doctors.

Centro Kálida is a welcoming dwelling, a warm, serene atmosphere, a place to feel at home, surrounded by beautiful things, in spite of going through a difficult moment of life."

This is no coincidence: the center is part of the Maggie’s Centres network, named for Maggie Keswick Jencks, the late wife of the architecture critic Charles Jencks, facilities that have already been designed in the UK by architects like Norman Foster, Zaha Hadid, OMA, Steven Holl. The message: when beauty, solidarity and coexistence take place in welcoming, comfortable spaces, the positive inner spirit of things cannot help but come to the fore.

Project Miralles Tagliabue EMBT (architecture) + Patricia Urquiola Studio (interior design)
Photos Duccio Malagamba