words Manijeh Verghese
images Roland Halbe
An open factory of ideas, urban art and sport,” is how SelgasCano Arquitectos describes its recently completed project in Mérida, Spain. Called La Factoría Joven, the complex houses the region’s youth outreach movement, which aims to gather together many different members of the community beneath the factory’s continuous undulating canopy. The diverse scheme includes a skatepark, climbing and graffiti walls, as well as spaces for parkour, the performing arts and many other activities.
Made of two layers of polycarbonate, the canopy is a cost-effective solution for unifying the multiple programmes that occupy the space. It also provides shelter from harsh sunlight and heavy rain for the outdoor activities of the groups who occupy the space. The orange surface of the upper canopy filters the light during the day, while at night the white canopy below illuminates the space. As the architect explains: “The white is to let light in and out in its purest form, while the orange colours it.”
The vibrant colours of the canopy and surrounding terrain animate the spaces, creating different environments for users to inhabit. The skatepark is predominant in the design of the project, with architectural insertions determining the skateboard’s route through the space. Triangulated concrete geometries and angular corrugated sheeting emphasise the industrial aesthetic of the complex. This heaviness contrasts with the canopies, which appear to float above the scheme – a reminder that the structure is actually very light, with a shallow basement so as not to disturb ruins from the Roman city of Mérida that lie beneath the site.
SelgasCano believes in economy – “the least and simplest way forward” – which, coupled with thoughtful design, has created a communal space for different activities and groups of people, transforming the project into a factory for social amelioration.