Formal experimentation in healthcare architecture: Miguel Fisac Mupag rehabilitation centre
If you stroll through Madrid’s Chamartín district you will come across one of the most representative examples of formal experimentation in healthcare architecture almost without realising it. This is the Mupag Rehabilitation Centre, today the Madrid Provincial Directorate of Fraternidad-Muprespa.
This small hospital, built between 1969 and 1973, was designed by the architect Miguel Fisac. The site chosen for its location replaced two single-family homes in a residential area. In addition to a consultation area and physiotherapy and surgery facilities, the Centre originally had fifteen rooms and outpatient capacity for sixty patients.
The Mupag Rehabilitation Centre was later converted into the Fraternidad-Muprespa Day Hospital. In April 2019, with the opening of the Fraternidad-Muprespa Habana Hospital, the facility became the Madrid Provincial Directorate of Fraternidad-Muprespa. It is currently used for both administrative tasks and occasional outpatient care.
The formal experimentation with concrete façades is the hallmark of this healthcare centre.
A HEALTHCARE FACILITY THAT REINVENTS CONCRETE TEXTURE
For Miguel Fisac, the 1970s marked a paradigm shift in his architectural design. The global oil crisis was shaking a Spain in transition, where architectural commissions were becoming less and less frequent. Fisac took advantage of this situation to experiment.
Smaller commissions, increasingly spaced out over time, enabled the architect to experiment with greater formal risk. His interest in concrete had marked his work during the 1950s and 1960s. The building he designed for Jorba Laboratories in 1965, popularly known in Madrid as The Pagoda, was a milestone in his career. The geometric forms that make up the five storeys of the tower demonstrate the possibilities Fisac found in concrete and wooden formwork.
Fisac was dissatisfied with the way wood was rendered in concrete, giving it an appearance contrary to its nature. The Madrid headquarters of Mupag enabled him, for the first time, to explore the possibility of giving this material an appearance congruent with its fluid origin.
The building´s façade has rounded edges and a padded texture, the result of experimentation with the formwork. The innovation in its execution arises within the structure itself. The classic wooden slat formwork is replaced by a wooden frame with a plastic sheet held in place by wires. This prototype formwork gave the concrete a rounded and soft appearance, as if it were still a fluid material.
Miguel Fisac patented this flexible formwork, which marked the appearance of his later works. Exposed concrete padded façades can be seen in other projects such as the Hotel Tres Islas in Fuerteventura or Madrid’s Our Lady of Altamira Parish.
INNOVATION IN THE SERVICE OF HEALTHCARE ARCHITECTURE
Flexible formwork is not Miguel Fisac’s only contribution to healthcare architecture. The architect’s care for natural light throughout the building was geared towards the physical, emotional and cognitive wellbeing of the patients.
The different types of openings designed by Fisac responded to the needs of the interior spaces. In each of the fifteen rooms, the windows were oriented in such a way that the patients received light from behind and not from the side. A small slit in the inner corner of the Centre’s angle provides grazing light to illuminate the main services area.
The Mupag Rehabilitation Centre was initially conceived to resemble a rectangular-shaped pill but was later transformed into an angle with equal sides. The successive regulatory setbacks limited the position of the building on the plot and so the shape of the building was changed to make better use of the space. This arrangement gave it the functional flexibility needed to house the various healthcare units arranged around a central core of services.
Originally, the ground floor was used for outpatient emergencies, the first floor housed the fifteen double rooms and the top floor served as a space for various medical specialities. The orientation of the open windows on the first floor makes them appear to hover over the ground. The rhythm of these elements protruding from the main volume creates a façade that seems to be in motion. Inside, the floor plan is the shape of a saw blade accented by the volumes of the rooms.