Cuenca Del Tajo Sport Technification Centre: At one with nature thanks to stainless steel Ecaille® cladding sheets

The Sport Technification Centre in Cuenca del Tajo (Caceres, Spain) hosts a programme for the research, training, and practice of sports associated with nature. Due to its role and the natural environment in which it is set, the project - built entirely of steel - required subtle involvement, taking advantage of and also incorporating the topography of the peninsula on which it is situated. Thanks to use of Ecaille® stainless steel sheets for the facade, the building is like a chameleon that blends into its surroundings.

Detailed information

The Sport Technification Centre for Activities and Recreation in a Natural Environment has specific facilities for research into new techniques and materials, the training of professionals in the field, the promotion of activities in a natural setting, and the creation of new companies and training for new business people. It acts as a booster for quality tourism, taking advantage of its unique location in exceptional surroundings, being a place where athletes from different disciplines associated with navigable waterways, the mountains, or the nearby takeoff points can come together.

Architectural concept and natural setting

This centre is located on the nearest peninsula to the north-east of the village of Gabriel y Galan with road access to the south along a forest lane. The peninsula's terrain, in contact with the water from the marsh around its entire perimeter except for a narrow entryway to the south giving access to it, has a total area which varies according to the season and the level reached by the marsh waters. The area suitable for occupation is above the elevation considered floodable - 387 metres - with 65 036 square metres.

The project is based on the geometrical form of a ring: all the different programmes and facilities of the centre are linked to these two concentric circles. This perfect geometric form holds in its interior all of the peninsula's landscape for conservation. It is a magic circle, leaving all the action, activities, and movement on the outside and maintaining the inside for rest, observation, and reflection. 

The material and formal properties of the ring are recognisable as a modern, sensible intervention into an exceptional landscape: it shows the utmost respect for this place, refraining from creating visual and physical barriers and blending into a setting of great environmental and scenic value as neutrally as possible. The topography of the peninsula has barely been changed. Although the main storey of the building runs on a constant height of 393 m above sea level, the building floats with differing distance to the ground, keeping points of contact with the ground to a minimum, connecting and visually associating the interior space with the exterior.  The visual differentiation between the inside and the outside is produced by a line of shadow under the building, which varies throughout the day. Between the ring and the ground, in this strip of shade, a series of open air spaces are created, shielded by the ring - areas for activity and practice.

Placing the building on the edges of the peninsula provides views of the beaches and the water, thus creating a specific, comfortable atmosphere that can be enjoyed at each of the functional areas of the centre.

Moreover, the choice of material for the facade - stainless steel - allows the building to take on the colours and the light of different seasons and times of the day, dematerialising and blending into the environment. 

The successful integration of the vegetation into the architectural concept has facilitated the clean up of the peninsula, recovering the previously wasted landscape and additionally protecting the area from fires and other hazards. The vegetation along the banks has been recovered, the cork trees have been cleared in the meadow, and the pine grove has been cleaned up avoiding the unexpected falling of weak trees.


The Centre for Technical Development is a sandwich construction. For major efficiency, its lower floor contains all the technical installations like energy distribution. This makes inspection and maintenance easy and the impact on the terrain is minimal as its distribution is not based on ditches or excavations in the ground.

The structure is as cost effective as possible as it is primarily made of steel. The main beams cover a span of a maximum of 7 m. Floor beams, 2.5 m apart, cover spans of 7 m and floors are made of composite decking and cover spans of 2.5 m. The vertical structural elements are also made of steel. In order to streamline the structure, the sizing of the pillars has been unified by floor with HEB 140 on the main floor and HEB 200 on the lower floor. The foundations are made of reinforced concrete footings supported on the firm substratum from a depth of 2.20 m.

Paving indoors and outdoors consists of exposed non-slip concrete.

Locker rooms and storage rooms are set up with pre-fabricated concrete frames.  These pieces, used most for civil works, arrive on site ready to be placed in their chosen locations after a thin concrete slab has been laid. 

Construction time for the Centre for Technical Development was five months and can be better understood as an assembly of parts rather than a regular construction process as if the building were a giant Meccano set. This was achieved as a result of systematisation of the steel structure and the use of uniform construction systems throughout the entire building.

Facade and roofing

The building has a ventilated double skin. The exterior skin consists of folded steel sheets (50 cm x 240 cm) finished in stainless steel with the design facade system Ecaille® from ArcelorMittal Construction. The reduced size of this sheet, with the form of scales, allows it to be perfectly adapted to the curve of the ring. In some parts of the facade, the sheets have been omitted thus creating openings with a steel frame that provides ventilation and illumination.

The outer finish of stainless steel reflects the surrounding landscape, the changing light at different times of day, the movement of the leaves in the wind, or the flying birds, converting the ring building into a chameleon that blends into its surroundings.

The roof is flat and can be fully transited and is built like any another floor structure, based on metal floor beams and a floor of composite decking. It acts as a ringed walkway at an elevation of 396.65, allowing for a full view of everything happening on the peninsula and its surroundings.

Facilities and access

Its facilities - a cafeteria, restrooms, locker rooms, storage, and parking - are designed to respond to the needs of this particular type of tourism.  Among the facilities, we find the reception, distribution, and information centre, the physiological laboratory and business incubator, the documentation and distribution centre - where multi-purpose release rooms are to be found - the cafeteria, the dining hall, the different test benches distributed by activity, and the storage and locker rooms.

The primary functions, research, training, distribution, business incubator, food, and accommodation take place on the main floor, with an elevation of 393 m.  The different programmes are distributed along one side of the walkway, looking out over the exterior landscape. 

Each usage area has its own access in order to provide separate entrance to the activities served and is separated from the rest of the usage areas by a covered terrace reached by the elements for vertical connection.  Where the building and the ground naturally meet, access is via a flat ramp covering the difference in levels between the building and the ground creating three entrances in this manner.

Where the difference in elevation is larger and ramps are not a solution, access to the elevation of 393 m is provided by eight staircases distributed along the perimeter of the ring, three of which have elevators.

Text: José María Sánchez Pérez Arquitecto (adapted)

Project information

  • Guijo de Granadilla, Cáceres
  • Spain
  • Architects:
    José María Sánchez García, José Luis Periáñez, Pedro Miranda, Fernando Benito Fernández Cabello
  • December 2008
  • Client:
    Consejería de los Jóvenes y del Deporte - Junta de Extremadura
  • Contractor:
    UTE Magenta - Construcciones Pinilla, S.L.
  • Photographers:
    ©Roland Halbe, ©Pablo Calzado