Institute of Legal Medicine
Location: Madrid, Spain
Client: Campus de la Justicia de Madrid
Date: 2009 Completion
Total Area: 14,000m2
Budget: €12.5 million
FOA Partner in charge: Alejandro Zaera-Polo
Project Architect: Cristina Parreno
Design Team: Sukyeong Kim, Mio Sato, Aldara Zuleta
This project is located in what was supposed to become the centralized City of Justice of Madrid Regional Government and hosts the forensic medicine services of the region. The Campus de la Justicia was suspended in 2008, during the building’s construction, and the building was clad by an alternative supervision team. It remained abandoned until 2020, when the COVID pandemic required the commissioning of the building, which became the centre of the Pandemic Hospital of the Madrid Autonomous Government, built in 2021.
While constrained by very strict functionalities and health and safety regulations, the building is the stage of dramatic events. The project plays up the iconographic side of its function as a building dedicated to death, while complying with the circular geometric system which ruled the former masterplan of the “Campus de la Justicia”. It was the only project from the masterplan which was completed.
The figure of the circle has been applied three-dimensionally, producing a spherical volume for the building. The sphere – often found in tombstones and cenotaphs – has a strong symbolic association with the rites of passage between life and death and the liminal states of the human body. Here, it has been applied to both the external form and as an internal monumental volume, connecting both spheres with a toroidal surface to form a continuous membrane. The skin, adjusted to the spherical geometry of the mass, was to be built with a concrete shell perforated with circular windows in the original version, and with a mosaic of oblong metallic shields in its second version. The built version turned the spherical envelope into a series of cylindrical rings wrapped by a spherical skin of perforated steel.
The project is organised in program-specific rings adjacent to public circulation, lining the spherical atrium, with a double-loaded corridor in the upper levels. The ground level was been slightly lowered along the perimeter of the building to illuminate the rooms located on the first basement, and to produce a levitating effect, as if the sphere might continue below the ground.