[originally published in Mark Magazine #31]

You wouldn’t know it from looking at photographs such as these. You wouldn’t even know it if you were standing in front of the building itself. And you would definitely never suspect it knowing the architects are RCR Aranda Pigem Vilalta, the Catalan trio known for its uncompromisingly architectural architecture. No, you would only know it if someone in the know made it known: this is a “green” building; LEED certified and all.

So where, you might well ask, are the photovoltaic panels, the wind turbines, or the nitrogen-inflatable EFTE pillows? Why isn’t the building set in a Teletubbies landscape? And considering this is a private-sector commercial office building: where is the eco-lifestyle advertising billboard that doubles to greenwash the corporate brand? No, this building does not make hay out of the tons of CO2 that it prevents from being emitted annually into the atmosphere, nor does it show off its rooftop photovoltaic panels, solar hot water heating system, or grey water-flushing toilets (thank goodness).

On the other hand, this building does make ordinary sheet steel (recycled and recyclable, of course) look like slabs of marble à la Barcelona Pavilion; it makes a two-way reflective glass interior light-well recall a Dan Graham installation; and it manages to visually appropriate the neighboring Repsol service station (designed by Norman Foster) in order to transform it into a piece of corporate sculpture in a plaza. Could it finally be that designing a building that saves energy and natural resources no longer needs to look like it’s doing so, and that it might actually even delight us in the process?


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