The UNASUR – União de Nações Sul-Americanas’ General Secretary Headquarters building designed by renowned Ecuadorian architect – designer Diego Guayasamin is a pièce de résistance! Its volume is a massive piece by contrast, which rises to project ‘freedom’ as a metaphor. The marvel exudes the transparency sensations, vertigo and the weight to exist together, simultaneously.
Hailing from Quito, son of an architect father Gustavo Guayasamin, Diego was educated at the Lufthansa Technik in Hamburg, Germany. He is known to have specialized in airport terminal designing. Having won many national and international awards with his design creations, his stature stands tall in the Ecuadorian architecture.
Diego Guayasamin’s well-known projects have been well-appreciated worldwide, prominent among them are: the Casa Museo Guayasamin (together with his father, arq. Gustavo Guayasamin), the Corporate Tower building Suyana, the QBE Colonial Insurance Headquarters building, the interior design for the European Union, Corpei and the UNASUR General Secretary Headquarters building, just to name a few.
Deportivo Quito Shopping Center and Stadium, designing, developing and building of a corporate tower property, Quito; the Headquarters or the Superintendent of Companies and Banks in Guayaquil, Corporate Tower in Lima, Peru and the Embassy of Ecuador in Brasilia – Brazil are some of the current projects, his architectural firm is busy with.
Diego Guayasamin talks with Johnny D of Design Trends about the challenges and intricacies of designing the magnificent project.
Diego Guayasamin: The architectural project for the General Secretary of UNASUR creates a space as an architectural expression of the objectives of the newly created headquarters from his vision. The building has built confidence for a better future of the region with its high standards of quality and projection of integration.
The project is located in the city Mitad del Mundo, 14 km north of the capital city, Quito, Ecuador. Conceived as a continuous environment without barriers and open to public, it conveys the dimensional dynamic space to the complex, as proposed by its design.
GD: The design of the master-plan and the building took about six months. It was the result of many work sessions between the design team and the different representatives of the 12 countries, representing the UNASUR.
GD: The following were the main challenges:
– The budget was one of the biggest challenges to execute the project. Even though this building represents 12 countries, we had to be very conservatives with the budget of the entire project.
– After winning the National Contest to design the building, we had to get the approval of the rest of the countries representing the UNASUR. Certainly, this was not an easy task, because each government had their own architecture proposal. Unanimous approval of the design was the big challenge.
– Structural design of the building also was a big challenge, because the building is located in a seismic zone. We had to be very careful with the structural design. Fortunately, we had a great group of engineers, who worked in the project to give the design its due.
– Special analysis had been the immediate context, specific to the Mitad del Mundo Monument and its location. It was necessary not to exceed the height of the monument. So, the horizontal type UNASUR building is implanted in a lower level. It solves 75% of its program underground, including the significant areas. In this way, the impact of a volume with a high requirement of areas was minimized.
– The building had to represent the 12 countries of the UNASUR. Hence, the design standards had to match the international standard. The architecture symbolizes ‘freedom’, thereby, conveying the message for a better future for the region.
GD: We start from the first conversations with the client. We take into consideration the architectural program to begin with an initial idea. The result of several sketches, which I work on, is then shared with the design team. Each team member contributes with new ideas. After several meetings and brainstorming sessions, we come to a final design, which is then shared with the client.
GD: We were 8 architects, including myself, who worked on the project. It took us nearly six months to deliver the final design.
GD: The construction took about 18 months. The budget was USD $43’000.000,00
GD: Without a group of skilled engineers, it would not be possible to design a building of this kind. Working together with our partner firm of engineers (FRACTALES S.A.), led us to the expected result.
GD: Ecological aspects were also the priority of the project. The efficiency level of consumption of water, grey water reuse, accredited materials, low energy consumption and environmental international certification – LEED have been incorporated. The installations of photovoltaic cells on the roof generate 24% of the project’s demand and the automatic systems.
The building’s external aluminum not only repels dust particles, but also it consumes carbon dioxide with coefficients light direct to diffuse reflectivity to its minimum. Likewise, glasses and solar control films are high performance to help reduce energy consumption, especially in the mechanical systems.
UNASUR have incorporated more than 73,000 m2 of new green areas. They have been reforested with over 160,000 endemic trees in the immediate environment, including the Casitagua and Catequilla hills. To mitigate the impact or footprint produced by the change of use of land from the base of the building (main body of 1,500 m2 that support the two large flown), green areas and trees inside the same area were generated, in addition to the upper slabs or green terraces.
GD: I am humbled and grateful regarding the recognition I have had at this time. I am passionate about architecture! I hope to continue working on this for much longer (smiles).
GD: I am a person, who is passionate about everything he does. I learn from the traveling I do. Both personally and professionally, I live my life with the premise of “God is in the details” of architect Mies Van Der Rohe. This is why, I am very thorough in every aspect of my life. Apart from architecture, I enjoy time with my family and my passion for cars (smiles).
GD: Among the recent ones, below are the awards we have won:
Image Courtesy: The Architect