HOTEL ME: BARCELONA
In addition to a possible horizontal reading of Barcelona, built according to the geometric rules laid down by the Plan Cerdà, a parallel possibility exists for a vertical reading of the city, in which a number of different architectural icons, including the unfinished Sagrada Familia Cathedral, the twin towers of the Villa Olímpica, Tibidabo or the Montjuïc telecommunications tower, all stand out above the skyline. This alternative perception of the city inspired the imagination of a building that, while being firmly implanted in the horizontal city, would present a silhouette that rose up to form part of the vertical city. This project, from the very first sketches, was jointly developed by AIA, Dominique Perrault and Corada Figueras, and counted on the collaboration of BOMA for the structures.
Hotel ME, with its 29,334 m2 and 259 rooms, is located in the city’s brand new 22@ District, Barcelona’s enclave of technological, economic, social and urban innovation, an environment that the hotel reflects perfectly, making it an ideal meeting point and centre for participation in the dynamics of the district.
The inspiration for the building is the partition, in two parts, of a perfect geometric block, with one part sliding up over the other, in this way creating a movement of form and volume that generates a silhouette, inscribed on the skyline of the vertical city, that serves as a new point of reference due to a height of 117 metres (making it one of Barcelona’s five tallest buildings), with a 25-metre cantilever, which endows the insertion of the tower with an urban sense within the horizontal city.
Converting an object of such vast dimensions into a design proved to be a complex architectural challenge. Site management, which was carried out by AIA Salazar Navarro and BOMA, introduced innovative technologies to the construction system of the building, with its height of 32 floors, plus another 5 basement levels (4 floors for car-parking plus another for hotel services and a multifunctional meeting room), in order to avoid obstacles during the construction process and to cut down considerably on the time required for the work.
The project started out by marking a starting level, some 5 metres below ground level, from which point they started to work simultaneously on building the structure, working both downwards and upwards. It was possible to use this new technology because the slab plan of this basement floor physically separated the space into two autonomous units, which could then be developed using different constructive techniques.
The structure of the main body of the building is based on a large metallic mould, which has been activated by sliding it up, rather than by using a more traditional climbing-formwork system. The concrete was poured simultaneously for all of the walls of this floor and the slabs were only installed every six floors until the tower had been crowned, at which point the remaining slabs were installed in groups of 5.
The organization of the hotel’s functions was a logical result of the analysis of the architectural situation of the building: the cubic block at the rear of the tower, at ground level, houses functions that are related to collective activities (lobby, restaurants, forum, swimming pool, bars), while the bedrooms are all located in the body of the tower itself.
Special care was taken to ensure savings in energy and water in the installations, so as to reduce consumption to a minimum. A complex air conditioning system provides heat-recovery for the production of hot tap water at the same time as cold water is produced for the air conditioning. The water from the exterior swimming pool is heated using energy produced by solar panels, while a system was also put together for the separation of grey waters from showers and hand basins that, after filtering and cleaning, can be used for flushing the toilets.
The cladding of the building consists of thick plate-glass, stainless steel rimmed panels that are both rigid and resistant to corrosion, protecting the building, in the manner of a beehive, and allowing extensive exterior views from the interior of the rooms, establishing a visual connection with the cityscape. The skin of the hotel is made up of three types of panels, repeated continuously, windows, filtering panels and opaque panels. This sequence of materials allows each room to enjoy natural light while preserving the intimacy of guests and offering unbeatable views. The qualities of the materials used for the cladding provide endless nuances that fill the exterior surface of the building with expressivity, playing with the light, shining on one side and shadowed on the other, the corners of the towers are transparent and culminate in a kind of assembled point on the perimeter of the terraces.