Alcañiz, Spain – The Mercado de Abastos, the 19th-century market building in the village of Alcañiz, sits in a plaza amidst a collage of architectural styles: beside a Baroque church and across from the town's (first) 15th-century Gothic-style market and its Renaissance-era city hall. During their 2011 refurbishment of the Mercado de Abastos into a children's community center, architects Cesar Rueda and Miquel Mariné echoed this outdoor collage inside, creating an extension of the plaza indoors.
To do this, they threaded together a patchwork of visual contradictions – historical elements with modernism, ornament with minimalism, organic materials with the synthetic – by using bright, sleek Artigo rubber flooring.
A kindergarten takes up the second floor, while the ground floor hosts parties, concerts, laboratories and fairs. The two preserved the grand interior of the building, including time-stained columns, wrought-iron window bars and whitewashed arches, while augmenting these with new wooden structures, flooring and pivoting full-height wooden doors that allow previously divided spaces to be connected. The whimsical children's furniture, including a wooden slide with a red tongue, was purpose-designed and built.
The elements that draw the center's diverse uses together into a coherent series of spaces are material: the whitewash of existing elements, the wood planking on floors, stairs and furnishings and, most vibrantly, the Artigo floor in bright acid green (shade K72).
Sottsass' appreciation for Indian visual and material culture would push the industry as a whole into new material experimentation
Kayar flooring was designed for Artigo by Sottsass Associati, the first rubber flooring to incorporate natural coconut fibers in its surface. Ettore Sottsass' appreciation for Indian visual and material culture inspired the innovation, which would push the industry as a whole into new material experimentation. The fresh, bold colour also quickly became a classic.
'The aim of our design was to keep the large market hall as a main playground,' said Rueda, whose team won a Best Refurbishment award for the project in 2012. 'The choice of a comfortable and durable product in a bright green was therefore just a logical consequence that adds interest by being in strong contrast with the structure of the room.'
But it also contributes to the project more deeply than this: the material dampens noise due to treading – a 3-mm floor, for instance, can cut sound values up to 10 db, with an acoustic version available that is certified up to 21 db. It prevents slipping, gives the floors robust durability – Artigo floors have proven to be very resilient – and offers non-porous, anti-bacterial and anti-microbial properties and easy-to-clean smoothness.
Not least, the floors also add up in LEED and BREEAM certifications, and count toward credits in a number of architectural environmental sustainability rating systems around the globe.