Machala, Ecuador – In Ecuador, the capital of the El Oro Province is the place where some of the most delicious things in the world begin their journeys: Machala is mostly known for its sizable bananas, shrimp, coffee and cocoa exports. The coastal city has been a key element behind the province’s economic growth in the past decade – in fact, it generates 60 percent of El Oro’s total income.
But that also means its population has grown along with its economy: from 200,000 inhabitants in 2005, Machala’s current residents have crossed the 300,000 line. The city’s public services were overloaded by this rapid increase, and few felt the strain more than the area’s old hospital. The Ecuadorian Social Health Institute needed a new space within deadline and within budget.
Building only what you need means costs are optimised
And that’s where Barcelona-based architecture firm PMMT came in: their proposal for a fluid hospital, a novel typology in the field, checked every box and more. With a parametrised model, the team was able to come up with a proposal that could be designed, built and opened within a year – a fourth of the time usually required with regular projects. Furthermore, the hyperflexible structure came with a very important advantage, an Aravenian solution of sorts: the client could choose to only build what they needed at the time and extend as necessary later on. ‘The relationship between the built surface area and usable area is ideal: building only what you need means costs are optimised,’ explained architect Patricio Martínez.
PMMT’s fluid hospital typology involves a bespoke process: the team defined the particular parameters that, when combined, allowed for good functioning of the healthcare facility and allowed for flexible adaptations to future changes. Those calculations included the metrics of the layout and blocks, the modulation of the façade, strategies for extensions, vehicular access and the location of entrances. The resulting criteria guided them towards a series of open-plan spaces and a firm commitment to the segregation of functional units – it is a modular system that uses a single basic module of 7x7 metres.