The main focus of the project is its insertion into and the reanimation of the existing -and partially abandoned- urban fabric of El Carmen, one of the historical districts of Costa Rica’s capital San Jose.
Throughout the last decades, a majority of the residents of El Carmen – as well as the other central districts of San Jose- have moved to suburban locations, leaving behind a formerly central urban location that is frequented by 1.2 million “users” daily and inhabited at night by only 50.000 permanent residents.
This tendency of suburbanization and the inherent separation of functions, typical for the cities of Costa Rica and the Central American region, has led to follow up problematics such as traffic congestion, environmental pollution, social segregation and spatial fragmentation.
In order to inverse the exodus from the historical urban locations, new functions with a focus on mixed uses will have to be inserted. Following a recent tendency of “repopulating San Jose” -impulsed by the capital’s municipality in collaboration with representatives of the private sector for residential and commercial office development- it is crucial to improve, modernize and retrofit the fleet of institutional buildings housing the public sector work force and a main source of income in San Jose.
Our proposal inserts a building program of about 10 000 square meters into the historical building context, mostly defined by already existing governmental buildings to the West, the National Museum to the South, the Atlantic Railway Station to the East, as well as the National Park to the North. The connection of all these existing urban attractors is enhanced by shortcuts throughout the target site; those passageways are further upgraded by the insertion of a series of high quality public plazas.
A separate inner “urban trajectory” securely connects the offices of the members of parliament (located within two towers at the Western edge of the target site) with the newly designed main parliament buildings (located around the assembly rotunda at the Eastern edge of the target site) as well as a public library, internal meeting rooms and specific spaces dedicated to the interaction between the general population and its governmental representatives. Reinterpreting the concept of the Greek “Agora”, our design proposes a new urban platform for civic engagement.
In terms of the actual building design, all office and meeting facilities are defined by a concept of bioclimatic architecture, providing natural ventilation and large roof overhangs for shading and allowing for a weather-protected passage of the general public throughout the site. The climatically controlled main internal connector of the “urban trajectory” also works as a giant duck meandering through the site from where fresh air, amongst other services, is being brought into the different buildings.
Rainwater is being harvested on the rooftops that are further shaded by photovoltaic installations; water and electricity is being produced naturally to keep operational costs low. All organic waste is collected in order to produce biogas locally and to add on to the energy efficiency of the individual buildings, which themselves are surrounded and shaded by an arrangement of local tropical plants. The representation of the national flaura and fauna in the governmental heart of the country defines the character of the design and enables a green continuity of the surrounding parks and plazas within the target site.
The optimized architecture for this formerly and future central location, in combination with its integral urban concept for all to use, makes the building ensemble of the new Costa Rican National Assembly integrally sustainable in terms of physical, social, economic and environmental concerns.
Team: A Company (Oliver Schütte, Marije van Lidth de Jeude, Arthur Micheron) with Carazo Arquitectos (Rodrigo Carazo, Vanessa Durán, Carlos Mena) and Lacayo Arquitectos (Ramón Rappaccioli, Juan Manuel Ureña, José Chavarría)
Scope: Architectural Design, Sustainability Concept, Urban Design
Structural Engineering: GCI Ingeniería (Ruben Salas)
Budgeting: Grupo STC (Vidal Monge)
Location: San José, Costa Rica