Sphere of light
Adrià Goula Photo
When we think of space — cosmic space — our mind conjures up images of stars, spirals and spheres strung out over sidereal distances. But whereas stars and spirals allow a certain freedom of form and interpretation, the sphere is universally acknowledged as the ultimate symbol of perfection. Humans have always dreamed of travelling, living and orbiting in a spherical space. From beads to marbles, from footballs to hot air balloons, spheres surround us and are part of our everyday lives. Nonetheless, it is still difficult to get inside a sphere, to spend the day and night there, to become part of one.
These obscure motives go perhaps part of the way to explaining the strong interest generated by the project for the new iGuzzini Illuminazione headquarters in the town of Sant Cugat del Vallès, near Barcelona. Set alongside two main roads, it emerges from the banality of the surrounding commercial fabric like a hot air balloon waiting to take flight.
Architect Josep Miàs says that his glass sphere was inspired by the work of the Russian constructivist Ivan Ilyich Leonidov, while others see influences of the French neoclassical architect Étienne-Louis Boullée or the lightness of the geodesic domes of the American engineer Buckminster Fuller. The building certainly draws from age-old ideas, former utopias that are now attainable thanks to new technologies.
The architecture conveys a sense of physical and visual lightness and dialogues in an original way with both the raw materials and the sensibilities of the client, a leading company in the lighting sector that has long been committed to issues of sustainability and visual pollution. The building consists of two main bodies. The first is located in an underground floor and is used for storage, parking, a showroom and an auditorium. The second is a spherical shell designed with a special focus on energy saving. The sphere’s structural design is based on a central pillar with a trestle structure that supports the entire building. Energy efficiency is ensured by a meticulous study of the orientation of the glass panels with respect to sunlight. Solar protection is provided by a fabric cloak stretched across a three-dimensional metallic structure that envelops the entire glass facade. Additionally, an aluminium panel solar screen surrounding the southern section of the sphere allows light to enter in the winter but shields the sun’s rays in the summer. All the floors in the building open onto a large central patio that allows natural light to penetrate through to the underground floors, retaining warm air in winter and acting as a ventilation shaft in the heat of summer. The interior spaces are mostly white and create the perfect scenario for showcasing the potential of light. The building has a floor space of 9,000 sq.m and the external atrium above the car park and auditorium can be used during the summer as an open-air meeting area and showroom, offering splendid views of the exoskeleton and the fabric façade. The ceramic tiles for the raised floors on all levels, for the exteriors and for the floors and walls in the bathrooms were supplied by Marazzi (SistemT porcelain tile, Graniti series), which cooperated with the architects to adapt the available systems to the building’s spherical shape.
Josep Miàs refers to the building as «il cielo iGuzzini». People who work there appreciate the quality of the internal spaces, illuminated by natural light originating from both the central void and the facade. By day the sphere looks from the outside like an opaque volume, but the people inside enjoy an expanded perception of space, without boundaries between interior and exterior. At night these characteristics are reversed and the building’s transparency reveals its spherical heart of light.
Marazzi Tecnica, SistemT - Graniti
60x60, 5x60, 20x60, 30x30, 15x30 cm
Dark grey GR
Water absorpion (ISO 10545-3): ≤ 0,05%
Chemical resistance (ISO 10545-13): compliant
Resistance to deep abrasion (ISO 10545-6): 120-150 mm²
Stain resistance (ISO 10545-14): compliant
Frost resistance (ISO 10545-12): compliant
Modulus of rupture and breaking strength (ISO 10545-4): 32 N/mm²
Slip resistance (DIN 51130): R9A
Thermal shock resistance (ISO 10545-9): compliant
Crazing resistance (ISO 10545-11): compliant
Linear thermal expansion (ISO 10545-8): compliant