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CORTIZO Systems at Hospital Álvaro Cunqueiro in Vigo: avant-garde enclosures for healthcare architecture

The new public hospital Álvaro Cunqueiro in Vigo is a project of luis vidal + arquitectos (LVA), a studio from Madrid that, in its 11 years of existence, has positioned itself as a national and international reference in the world of architecture. It has obtained this recognition, among many other reasons, due to its work in several airport projects such as Heathrow Terminal 2, Zaragoza airport or Barajas T4, of which Luis Vidal was the Director of Architecture. The philosophy of “Airport hospitals” was born out of the experience acquired in these projects and was applied to a new generation of health clinics based on a quick adaptation of the building to different scenes, studying of the circulation of individuals, intuitive orientation or environmental responsibility. Examples are this Álvaro Cunqueiro Hospital, the Infanta Leonor Hospital in Madrid or the Can Misses Hospital in Ibiza.

Located in the town of Beade, in the south of Vigo, the Álvaro Cunqueiro Hospital is one of the biggest in Europe with a total floor area of more than 280 000 m². CORTIZO, Spanish leader in the design of aluminium systems for architecture, was chosen by luis vidal + arquitectos to provide solutions in terms of enclosures. The R+D+I and the Architecture and Engineering Departments collaborated in the study to provide the project with the necessary technical assistance: a technological, avant-garde and forward-looking hospital. 

  • Modular construction and constructive flexibility in a hospital designed for the patient

Luis Vidal contemplated the hospital with the aim of maximizing the welfare for the patients, adapting it to their needs and the needs of their companions. In order to achieve it, the study from Madrid chose a simple legibility of the building and the space, with clear and well organised paths to improve the user’s orientation. The presence of natural light and the view of the outside are factors that help to create a nice and comfortable environment, contributing to the humanization of the building and reducing the tension associated to hospitalization.  Luis Vidal makes use of a “healing architecture” in which the priorities are the users and their well-being and recovery, as opposed to hospitals with massive dimensions which were prominent during the XX century. The light, the colours, the materials, the textures, the acoustic or the space are elements which are protagonist in his projects. This focus on colour is visible in this new hospital in Vigo. A prismatic colour has been used, characterised by the change in the colour tone according to the light and the viewing angle. This way, it was possible to break the monotony of the building, which blends with the surroundings. 

The Álvaro Cunqueiro Hospital is structured from a central spine that connects the different vertical modules. This way, an organized building is defined, essentially, in three big areas: eternal consult areas, hospitalization area and a technical block. All of them with different and independent access.

At the same time, the project was contemplated in 8 floors with well-defined functionalities. The main access is located in the ground floor through a great distribution hall. In this level there are several teaching areas, administrative offices, non-health related areas and a garden located above the external consult area, right under the ground floor. In the first floor, intended for hospitalization is where the sails that distinguish the building begin. If we ascend to the second floor, there are more hospitalization areas as well as areas for Investigation, Rehabilitation, and Development. The emergency rooms are in the third floor, with the fourth floor reserved for the technical area of the hospital, the surgical block, the critical care unit, neonates and more hospitalization areas. Basements 2 and 3 are intended for parking.  

It should be noted that this health centre has been contemplated with a constructive flexibility that would enable the expansion of the central spine towards the outside, by adding pavilions, or by vertical growth, if new needs appear.

  • Maximum indoors brightness with energy efficient enclosures

In its commitment to provide natural light with a greater importance, luis vidal + arquitectos decided to use enclosure systems that answered that need of maximum indoors brightness. To accomplish this, they chose solutions such as the TPH 52 façade by CORTIZO which combines energy efficiency and integration with the environment. This system was installed in hospitalization blocks for the enclosure of the northern side, on the ground floor and the inner patios.  It is a mixed system with an inside seen section of 52 mm, maximum glazing capacity fo 44 mm and a great thermal break area. These characteristics, together with the use of glass compositions of great thickness, ensure an excellent thermal and acoustic performance. Also, this curtain wall maintains the coupling pressure profile-end plate on the horizontal gaskets, while it is fixed to the vertical edges with clips and the U-profile. There are different end plate options: H-shaped, elliptic and rectangular.

The TPH 52 façade was also used in the modules that make up the central spine and the teaching area of the hospital. However, in this case, the Architecture and Engineering Department of CORTIZO designed an ad hoc solution to mechanically fix the glass in a vertical position through an omega-shaped aluminium profile

CORTIZO’s  TPH 52 façade is integrated by a system with a broad range of mullions and transoms which has allowed to meet the different aesthetic and constructive needs of the project. The flush mullions and transoms placed at different levels open the possibility of waterfall drainage and, together with pipettes and continuity pieces, ensure a complete watertightness, drainage and evacuation of the enclosure. The maximum performance of this curtain wall is guaranteed by the excellent results obtained in the AEV test bench, being awarded with the CWCT Certificate in accordance with the British Regulations.  

Another of the solutions chosen by luis vidal + arquitectos for the enclosure of the Álvaro Cunqueiro Hospital was the COR 70 Hidden Sash CC16 window system by CORTIZO, installed in the hospitalization areas, teaching areas and in the technical block. With a seen section of 70 mm and a maximum glazing surface which can reach the 85% of the glass, it ensures an ideal use of the natural light. The design of the COR 70 Hidden Sash CC16 window allows to keep the sash hidden from the outside, so that it is impossible to tell the fixed zones from the zones which have an opening. This way a perfect homogeneity is reached with the aesthetic of the façade. It is a solution that combines an attractive design with the maximum energy efficiency (transmittance from 1,3 (W/m²K). This performance is endorsed by the superb classifications in the AEV tests: permeability (4), watertightness (E1500), and wind load (C5).


  • A sustainable project awarded with the BREEAM® certificate at the Design Stage

This project based on sustainability and energy efficiency has been awarded with the BREEAM® at the Design Stage. The Álvaro Cunqueiro Hospital has become the first Spanish health centre that receives this honour that endorses sustainable construction. Several factors, such as a combination of structural and energy solutions and adapting the architecture to the environment, have contributed to this, making it an efficient and environment-friendly building.

Among the measures adopted was the production of thermal energy fuelled by a biomass furnace, managing to reduce the CO2 emissions. In addition, using green roofs with indigenous species of vegetation, recovering rainwater, adapting the architecture to the environment,  emphasizing the rural environment where the building is located or the use of ecological coolants have contributed in achieving an efficient and environment-friendly building.  

Another award obtained by luis vidal + arquitectos for this project was the  ha sido el  International Award for Best Future Health Project granted in the VIII World Congress of Design and Health in Malaysia in 2012. The International Academy of Design and Health acknowledged with this award “the vision and innovative capacity for the XX century hospital”.


PROJECT: Álvaro Cunqueiro Hospital in Vigo
LOCATION: Vigo (Pontevedra)

ARCHITECT: luis vidal + arquitectos (LVA)

Associates LVA: Marta Cumellas, Óscar Torrejón, Luis Vidal

Project Coordinator: David Ávila

Project Manager during the design phase: Isabel Gil

Project Manager during the construction phase: Francisco Sanjuan

COLLABORATING ARCHITECTS: Jacobo Rodriguez-Losada / Vicente Fernández-Couto

CORTIZO SYSTEMS USED: TPH 52 façade (ad hoc), Composite panel, COR 70 Hidden Sash CC16, COR 3500

INSTALLERS: Arteal, Carmetal, Ferga, Ventanales Caamaño, Vilares Chas
PHOTOGRAPHY: Eduardo Irago