Arquitectura Viva
Thursday, December 03, 2020

Dominique Perrault Architecture, Exhibition Hall in León

The Santa Elvira sugar refinery was, since the early 20th century until its closing in 1992, one of the key economic motors of the city. The site where the old factory building was located was the place designated for the construction of the new Convention Center and Exhibition Hall of León, a key urban intervention in the city. The winning project in the competition held in 2005 included not only the refurbishment of the main building as congress center, but also the construction of an adjoining new volume for exhibitions. The proposal also recovered a smaller structure known as El Palacín, adapted for restaurants, offices, and smaller exhibitions. The intervention was developed as part of a series of operations aimed at promoting the development of La Sal quarter and connecting the industrial area west of Bernesga – historically isolated by the railway tracks running parallel to the river – with the urban center. The program proposed included a large auditorium for 1,200 spectators and a total exhibition area of 10,000 square meters. The buildings, all three with flexible interiors and easily dividable, were set out as adaptable spaces for different needs.

The renewed ensemble was therefore conceived as a unique ‘lit up factory’ able to dynamize the city’s cultural scene. At this moment El Palacín – completed in 2011 – and the Exhibition Hall are both running, and part of the urban development of the surrounding public space is also finished, helping to connect the site with the nearby AVE train terminal.

Built in steel and glass, the Exhibition Hall features solutions for the production of renewable energy and energy-efficiency systems. The extensive faceted roof – with mineral folds evocative of León’s mountainscape – is built with metallic trusses, structural elements used also to shape six support points resembling large tree groves. On the outside the building is covered with around 4.000 photovoltaic panels to reduce the energy needs of the building, which also includes a system for the recovery, storage, and treatment of rainwater that provides for 70% of the hot water needed. Furthermore, the facade is built with a high-performance double glass skin with a ventilated chamber where motorized blinds are placed, reducing energy use by one third compared to the traditional single-layer facade finish.
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