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Febres Cordero | A new hybrid building in the historic center of Cuenca

Category: ⚐ EN+architecture+ecosistema urbano+mixed-use building+sustainability

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The Febres Cordero building was developed within the scope of CUENCA RED, the urban reactivation strategy for Cuenca, Ecuador. The aim of Cuenca Red was to incorporate activities and programs in the Historic Center in order to create a new network of reactivated public spaces. One of those spaces is Febres Cordero, an emblematic and historical building which had functioned as a school for decades.

This building has great heritage value and has one of the largest courtyards of the entire historic center (3,300 m2). It is located on Gran Colombia Street, right next to the tram line. It is comprised of two main volumes, one of them  with much less quality and architectural interest.

The building was going to stop its activities within a few months of the beginning of the project, as the school was going to be relocated into a new building. Also, the school has been an important node of social and economic activity for years on the area. This large community injects daily activity into the center of Cuenca.

Fachada Exterior Febres Cordero

Activity from the beginning

One key aspect of the project was not only to design a building with new uses and programs, but also to plan the transition process between one moment and the other. We conceived the project from its Phase 0, in order to unleash, through different actions and activities, dynamism and interest in the future of the building and its interior space.

Space is activated from the beginning, dividing the construction into 3 phasesThe project is planned in 3 phases. The first one is really important, consisting of the opening and reactivation of the central courtyard as a public space for events and activities. This phase is esentially low cost, but its implementation will have a strong impact in keeping momentum and activity around the area, and also generating interest and expectations around the building. Subsequently, the reconditioning and construction of the building will be carried out, and finally the climatic conditioning of the new interior square.

In search of new uses

Following our conclusions of the urban analysis, we noted the progressive emptying of housing in the Historic Center of Cuenca. Although the center still continues to be an active space for tourism and commercial activity, the number of residents is decreasing, moving towards the perimeter of the city center.

This is certainly a problem, especially in the afternoon or the evening, when the shops and offices close, and the lack of activity and people in the area becomes more evident. That emptiness generates unfavorable conditions, like sense of insecurity, or an increase in the number of abandoned or underused properties.

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Current status of the interior patio of the Febres Cordero School in Cuenca, Ecuador.In this complex context we identified, through a participatory process partly hosted in the school itself, the need of strengthening the resident population living in the center of Cuenca. It was also key to generate conditions for other families to consider attractive and feasible to live there. The inhabitants of the CHC and technicians who participated in the participatory process agree that the building has optimal conditions to become a new “catalyst” of the city. The Febres Cordero building can be reconstructed as a pilot project that will address many of the opportunities and challenges shared with other historic centers in Latin America.

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Participatory activities carried out with the students of the Febres Cordero School

A hybrid architectural complex

Febres Cordero does not only house a school, but also commercial premises along the ground floor. The project aims to enhance this aspect, creating a hybrid building capable of bringing together different programs, generating a diverse community that serves as a reference for social and economically sustainable urban intervention.

The rehabilitation of the Febres School seeks three main goals, as steps towards the improvement of the Historic Center:

  • Increasing the extension of public spaces in the area
  • Providing diverse housing typologies (including social housing)
  • Generating a new heart of urban activity through the insertion of new facilities.

Hybrid program of the new complex

To achieve this, Febres Cordero comprises 3 components:

  • Rehabilitation of the existing heritage building (4.500 m2) with new apartments, students dormitory, commercial ground floor, common workspaces, rest area and an elevated outdoor public space.
  • Construction of a new building (5.000 m2) on the surface freed by the demolition of the unprotected building. It is mainly residential and will also have a series of additional services and facilities that are of a public nature and therefore accessible to the rest of the inhabitants of the complex.
  • Reconfiguration of the inner courtyard as a new public square for the city (3.300 m2).
ESTRATEGIAS FEBRES

The new building is connected to the heritage building by corridors

A new public square

The courtyard is conceived as a new public square for the city. It recovers the entrances from the 3 adjacent roads and generates an active and attractive, programmable public space. The ground floor will be adapted to reinforce this idea, promoting permeability and the visual connection between the streets and the courtyard.

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New public square, with 3 entrances from the surrounding streets

The proposed square includes two conditions: a flexible space with a mobile grandstand that allows the creation of different configurations for cultural and sport events, and a more natural space, a cuencan garden inspired by the multiple existing green patios that together create a network of vegetation and biodiversity in the historic center.

Respecting heritage

We are aware of the historical value of a building like this. After a careful study of the history, typology, and construction of the building (built around 1900), the intervention was designed to preserve and respect its historical value and at the same time to introduce new structures to diversify the possibilities of use and adapt it to the evolving urban context.

The intervention respects and seeks to value the intrinsic qualities of the building, and also wants to create a dialogue with the most innovative construction techniques.

TOMO 2.pdf

View of the new public space with the mixed-use building connected to the old Febres Cordero School.

Sección Transversal de la Escuela Febres Cordero

Cross section. A relationship between the new mixed building (left), the public square (center), and the heritage building (center and right).

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Architectural plans of the refurbished complex.The main strategy consists of concentrating the utilities or technical systems of the apartments in spines perpendicular to the façade line. This way we can  to minimize the impact on the façade and generate cross ventilation in all the rooms. The exterior façade is not altered by any of the interior interventions and will preserve its current structure and image towards.

On the other hand, the roof was in poor condition. Activating the space under the roof with the creation of a new housing ring towards the interior of the patio enabled us to expand the useful surface without impacting the building on its exterior appearance and its relationship with the public road.

Maximum sustainability

In a project as ambitious as Febres Cordero, the most appropriate technical mechanisms must be sought to achieve maximum economic, social and environmental sustainability. The final design and construction systems were devised under the following sustainability criteria: following bioclimatic design principles for better energy efficiency, adopting local materials and construction techniques to improve durability, and considering the economic impact of the construction at a local level.

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Adaptation of housing typologies to the structural modules in the heritage building.

Comportamiento bioclimático Febres Cordero

Basic outline of the bioclimatic behavior.

The rehabilitation of Febres Cordero is also conceived to be financially sustainable, allowing a short-term return of the investment with the sale and lease of housing and commercial premises, and with the generation of new economies in the urban area.

In general, this rehabilitation project, a pilot within the general Cuenca Red plan, will increase the intensity of use, the possibilities of social interaction and the generation of economies that contribute to the long-term sustainability of the historic center.

You can see the full documents of this project in our portfolio.

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What we’ve been up to | Portfolio Review and Current Projects

Category: ⚐ EN+architecture+ecosistema urbano+work in progress

We know it’s been a while since we published something in our blog, but we can assure you that we have been everything but idle. In fact, it was totally the opposite: 2017 was a big year here at ecosistema urbano. We had the opportunity to develop a wide scope of projects, from participatory workshops to urban-scale studies, in countries like Mexico, Argentina, Ecuador, Germany, and even Spain! Let us have a look at the last updates to our 2017 portfolio, and some of the projects that are coming during 2018.

 

Idea Hermosillo

The Inter-American Development Bank (IDB/BID) tasked us with the challenge of reactivating urban spaces around the Historical Downtown in Hermosillo, Mexico. For this project, we put in place a brief but intense participatory process involving different stakeholders (institutions, businesses, students, neighbors) from Hermosillo. That way, we were able to identify the key aspects to address towards the revitalization of the city center. The Idea Hermosillo Revitalization Plan consisted of a brief diagnosis, a series of general strategies, and a set of 27 pilot projects which, together, would help reactivating the urban spaces in the area. One of these pilot projects was further developed as proof of concept: the Banco de Ideas, proposing the renovation of an existing building with a creative and mixed program that would act as a catalyst for attracting activity and driving interest about the Historic Downtown.

One of the pilot projects in Hermosillo – ‘Banco de Ideas’

See the “Idea Hermosillo” project in our portfolio

Febres Cordero Mixed-use Building

The Febres Cordero School was identified as one of the key interventions in the the CUENCA RED project in Cuenca, Ecuador. The proposed project keeps part of the original school building while creating a new mixed-used building in side it. The main goal was to create new public spaces and combine local businesses, a civic center, student residences and other uses that would help activating the surrounding area. The new Febres Cordero building also implements sustainable design elements such as locally sourced materials, bio-climatic façades and passive temperature regulation.

Technical design of Febres Cordero complex

See the “Febres Cordero” project in our portfolio

Spielraum – Der Andere Park Competition

In 2017 we were also invited to take part in an international competition to design the conversion of a former military base in Heidelberg, Germany. The City of Heidelberg alongside the IBA hosted a competition for the opening of the -until then- restricted area, and creating new public spaces for the city to enjoy. ecosistema urbano devised a playful layout for the park, concentrating the intervention in the central areas of the open spaces, and integrating the existing pavements and elements whenever possible. The overarching design and pathways of the park were conceived as a “game board”, where elements of the park, such as playgrounds, would become “game pieces”. The program and final design of these elements would be defined by the “game rules” consisting on a series of participatory processes involving neighbors and other stakeholders.

Schematic overview of programs at Der Andere Park

See more about the “Spielraum” project in our portfolio

Thinking Fadura

This project consisted of the preparation of a big participatory project in Getxo, Spain, towards the conversion of a closed sports area into an open park. An urban diagnosis of the Fadura area was made in order to identify the main issues, challenges, and opportunities that the park, the surrounding area and the population currently possess. This diagnosis was intended to inform both the technical development and the participatory process. In addition to this, a social mapping was created by meeting and interviewing all possible stakeholders and representing their relationships, their possible level of involvement and the key topics they were interested in. Over the course of four months, the team conducted multi-stakeholder meetings and presentations to engage the users of the park, as well as to inform and prepare them for the participatory process.

Stakeholder mapping as part of the preparation for the participatory process

See more about the “Thinking Fadura” project in our portfolio

Cervecera – Fadura Community Center 

In the same sports area in Getxo, Spain, a participatory architecture project was commissioned to us, with the aim of building a community center in the place of a public facility which had recently been damaged by a fire. In its final years, the former pub (cervecera) was used as a social facility. In order to create a design that would allow for the same level of engagement and active use, a participatory design process was devised. Three workshops were conducted where stakeholders could take part in the rethinking and redesigning of the building and its surrounding open spaces. At the end of the process, a sustainable and flexible community center was designed, capable of hosting even more activities than before while remaining adaptable to future needs.

Rendering of the envisioned cervecera

See more about the “Fadura Community Center” project in our portfolio

Santa Fe – Resilient Cities

As part of the 100 Resilient Cities program in Santa Fe, Argentina, ecosistema urbano was asked to lead a participatory project for the youth of Santa Fe. In this exciting activity, we had the opportunity to create and run a program which allowed children to get involved with the future of their city. The children were led through an explorative stroll around Parque del Norte where they were encouraged to be creative about what they observed and what they envisioned for the park. Afterwards, the children drew on maps to demonstrate what they hoped to see implemented into the future park. Then they were given materials to create small models of their proposals, micro-landscapes they created using natural materials, sourced from the park itself, in a transparent box. The maps and boxes provided invaluable feedback in order to include the vision of the younger citizens in the future park.

Images of the “participation kits” used for the creation of models

See more about the “Santa Fe – Resilient Cities” project in our portfolio

EU GPP Public Space Maintenance 

In a collaborative project with the European Commission, ecosistema urbano is helping to define the European Union Green Public Procurement (GPP) Criteria for Public Space Maintenance. We are working on creating a guide of best practices that will become the framework for procurement processes regarding public space maintenance. This project will have a big impact due to its scale: the public sector represents 14% of the GDP of the European Union. Therefore, a systematic sustainable change in any part of the public sector will increase the market viability of sustainable products. Our participation in this project will help to augment sustainable change and cost effectiveness in the EU.

Other ongoing projects in 2018

The past few months have been incredibly busy at ecosistema urbano, with more projects happening all over the world. Here are some examples of what we are working on right now:

  • In 2017 we won the competition to become the architectural partner for the Open Shore Initiative in West Palm Beach. We are currently working on the Banyan Hub multifunctional building, as well as the public space improvement of selected passageways. We have recently begun work on a new intervention at one of the key streets in downtown.
  • We started a public space project at the University of Málaga. The project addresses the planning and construction of a central boulevard that will improve the flow of people across the campus, promote sustainability and green space, integrate physical and digital layers of the campus and create places for new activities to happen.
  • We are also currently working with the World Bank in the identification of opportunities for improvement of public spaces and public buildings in one of the most dense and congested cities in the world: Dhaka, the capital city of Bangladesh.

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CUENCA RED | Escuela Febres Cordero – nuevo edificio híbrido en el centro histórico de Cuenca

Category: ⚐ ES+arquitectura+arquitectura red+Cuenca Red+ecosistema urbano+proyectos+social housing+urban social design+urbanismo

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Continuando con la narrativa del plan Cuenca RED y tras haber presentado la estrategia general del proyecto, el proceso de socialización desarrollado y como éste ha influido en las principales decisiones de diseño de las estrategias de acupuntura urbana y red de patios activos; hoy compartimos el último de los proyectos, siendo el de mayor impacto previsto por su escala, singularidad y enorme potencial: la Escuela Febres Cordero.

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