Universidad de las Américas – Park Extension

  • area / size 341,216 sqft
  • Completed 2021
  • Location Quito, Ecuador,
  • Contract Workplaces and BMA Estudio worked together to carry out the infrastructure expansion for the The University of the Americas in Quito, Ecuador.

    The University of the Americas is the largest private institution in Ecuador that, for 27 years, is dedicated to providing an educational experience of excellence and focused on the student.

    From the very beginning, the premise underlying the project was to respect and adapt the existing building.

    There lay our first challenge, since the aim was to achieve an aesthetic and functional integration into a harmonious whole.

    At this stage, however, and unlike what happened in the first project, where the organisation was introspective and revolved around two central yards, the premise here was to open up to the surroundings, incorporating the views of the valley and integrating the topography and environment.

    Thus, the architectural layout is developed in two strips that open up to the outside, incorporating the landscape as a key player in spatial perception.

    These “arms” are joined to each other at some levels by means of bridges which serve not only as connections, but also as places to linger and gather.

    The new building, then, is structured around a great central atrium, accessed by means of a forecourt topographically adapted to the natural terrain which connects the two glazed parallel seven-levelled prisms that house the different areas.

    From the main block of one of the parallel strips, there emerges a cantilever intended to capture the best views of the valley, generating a gestural and playful movement of the whole toward the Vía Nayón, and which, at the same time, functions as a powerful metaphor for UDLA’s projection into the future.

    The program includes classrooms, laboratories, offices, restaurant and canteen, library, auditorium, multipurpose room, parking, accessible terraces and gardens. Most of these were required by the University in advance, but many were added or enhanced thanks to the new possibilities offered by the project.

    The first big win was understanding the exterior and intermediate spaces as frequently-used places for the students.

    The surroundings, then, work as the grand foyer, an unstructured gathering and relaxation area.

    The project, then, incorporates new spaces that house activities other than lectures, such as studying, resting, doing research, socialising, exercising, working collaboratively, and even playing. Learning as well as professional and personal development are comprised of all of these.

    Thus, the design of the building is centred on the people that occupy it.

    For this purpose, before even starting, we carried out an investigation following a methodology called Campus Place Strategy, where we not only gathered data about the expectations and habits of the new building’s future occupants, but also incorporated the newest trends in pedagogy.

    In this sense, for instance, classrooms are designed to be restructured for different dynamics: lectures, individual projects, team projects, innovation, debate and presentation, among others; a concept that greatly differs from the traditional layout where desks face the board and students face the back of their classmates’ heads.

    In this manner, the aim is to facilitate learning the skills necessary to succeed in the 21st century, such as problem solving, critical thinking, empathy, emotional intelligence, creativity and innovation.

    From the architectural point of view, a Building Information Model (BIM) methodology was used from the design stage onwards, allowing us to make a virtual and 3D version of the project and, thus, exponentially reduce the time needed for project stages. This, in turn, allowed us to start early on the mobilisation period, in line with the challenging deadlines required by the University, and beginning work on a fast-track process of design and construction.

    Design: Contract Workplaces and BMA Estudio
    Interior Design
    : Contract Workplaces
    Contractor: Semaica
    Photography: JAG Studio