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MDGAE students participate in a workshop with César Ruiz Larrea and Miguel Díaz

MDGAE student Marycarmen Murillo Frías tells us how she lived the experience and what she learned from it.

"Sustainability is one more tool of architecture". César Ruiz-Larrea, president of Ruiz Larrea Asociados (RLA).

"With this phrase, architect César Ruiz-Larrea opened the workshop. He made a presentation of his works and RLA projects. He took us back to the beginnings of architecture, to how the Incas made bioclimatic adaptations in their constructions and how they gave great importance to sunlight, humidity and altitude in their designs. He also showed us how in Arab countries wind chimneys were already being built 2,000 years ago. All these examples have in common the subject, shape and energy.

Good architecture always adapts to the climatic conditions of the region in which it is built, so a good site, climatic and cultural analysis is essential to better understand the project and better integrate it into the site.

Afterwards, César Ruiz-Larrea presented his projects. He showed examples of this bioclimatic strategy with the project of La Geria. With him we could appreciate the above mentioned, that as architects we must have a broad understanding of the form and function of our projects. The façade of our projects fulfills its aesthetic function, but the envelope has to fulfill its function, which we understand with our study of site and environment. César Ruiz-Larrea was very insistent that it is of utmost importance to understand the socio-cultural and climatic context of our site before starting the stage of design.

The second day of the workshop was spent with Miguel Diaz, director Sustainability of Ruiz Larrea Asociados, who showed us examples of NZEB buildings, works carried out by the studio. He insisted us to take this workshop as a learning exercise, we have to keep our curiosity active to question ourselves all the time. We have to start from some essential questions to design: where, why, for whom?

The initial study of the site gives us information on comfort parameters and conditioning factors such as temperature, humidity, air, radiation and shelter. If this initial study fails, the whole project fails. It is very important to take as a priority the study of the climate of our site, but above all we must take into account climate change, i.e., that it can adapt to the future (rainfall, drought, ...). Diaz invited us to be critical with the climate study and to question what the software tells you, we have to be able to recognize and understand that the sources of data can fail.

As a complement to the theoretical classes, we proposed a practical architectural exercise that we developed in groups with the knowledge imparted in these first days. The 'protagonist' is a small hotel located in three different climates of the peninsula. Different plots of land in different climatic zones were proposed to carry out totally bioclimatic proposals, with priority to approach them from totally passive designs. Three territories and three climates. It was proposed to start the exercises by making a rigorous reflection on the problems to be solved and that the solutions were a consequence of these. The areas to work on were: oceanic climate zone, Cantabrian coast; continental climate zone, center; and Mediterranean climate zone.

On February 8 and 14, project corrections by teams took place. Each team presented the climate analysis of their areas generating brainstorming together with our guest professors César Ruiz-Larrea and Miguel Díaz. Each of them made criticisms to our proposals.

February 20 was the day of the public exhibition of the works, which were evaluated by the RLA team, formed by César Ruiz-Larrea, Miguel Díaz and Ana Sánchez-Ostiz, manager of international strategy of Master's Degree of the School. Each team presented their project to the jury, showed the climatic analysis of the area they had to work in and the architectural proposal of the hotel with its totally passive strategies.

It could be seen that each team with the same climatic zone presented similarities when approaching the architectural design . This showed that the climate dictates from the beginning how we should work. At the end of all the presentations, we made a joint reflection with the jury and all the teams.

We conclude that climate analysis and regional study are very important, both culturally and in terms of materiality and architecture. The regional architecture dictates the principles of the form factor, and the climate dictates the principles of the function factor and the envelope. We were able to understand how each zone and climate demand such different things. For example, a project from an oceanic climate zone could not be replicated in a Mediterranean zone. These are concepts that seem very obvious but that many professionals tend to forget. With this we return to the initial quotation : "Sustainability is one more tool of architecture". Good architecture is that which is designed with this critical thinking and respect for the environment, not only environmentally, but also socially.

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