Lorena del Rio
Lorena del Río is co-founder of RICA* STUDIO, based in New York and Madrid, an architectural practice and a platform for design investigation operating across many scales, reflecting on the redefinition of flexibility and aiming to improve life condition through architecture.
Del Río’s academic research addresses an interdisciplinary approach to design where architecture, art and material research meet to investigate architecture’s psychological affect and its capacity to promote emotional well-being.
Del Río is an architect educated at Polytechnic University of Madrid, ETSAM (Escuela Técnica Superior de Arquitectura de Madrid), where she graduated in 2008 and where she is also developing her PhD. Prior to founding RICA* STUDIO together with Iñaqui Carnicero she was a senior architect at Selgascano office, based in Madrid, collaborating in projects such as El Batel Auditorium in Cartagena, Plasencia Auditorium and the Factory Youth Center in Merida.
Her profesional work has been recognized with several awards in international competitions; recently in the competition to design new sport facilities at Dalseong, Korea, Europan 11 San Bartolome, Spain, Europan 12 Kagran, Vienna and the competition to design a Primary School, Elementary School And Leisure Center in Pleyel, Paris. She has been part of the design team of the awarded Spanish Pavilion for the 2016 Venice Architecture Biennale. Her work has been widely published in international journals such as GA, Bauwelt, Arquitectura Viva, Detail and AIT Magazine.
Del Río has taught at Cornell University as a Visiting Assistant Professor for four years and California College of the Arts where she also was the co-director of the BuildLab.
View Lorena Del Rio's full CV here.
English for Fun Center, Madrid, 2016
English for Fun, founded in Spain in 2011, uses a revolutionary method for children of any age or physical condition to learn English using their five senses. English for Fun is a place for all children to learn. This pedagogical approach is based in the idea that every child is special and unique.
The new center for English for Fun wanted to be a representation of this innovative teaching method, a place to booster creativity, imagination, and to stimulate all five senses.
This commission represented an opportunity to investigate how design can shape experience and affect the subject in processes of playing and learning.
The Reggio Emilia approach is an educational philosophy based in a self guided and very open interpretation of learning. It is based in three core principals:
- the child as an active part of the learning process. it is based in a non-guided way of playing where the kids have their own interpretation of natural and artificial play-objects.
- the built environment of the school is considered the third teacher, only after teachers and parents.
- the process of learning has to be made visible
The proposal should overcome the cliches of spaces designed for kids, being non figurative and open to multiple interpretations. The goal was to create a space in the spirit of the adventure playgrounds where the play-objects, not toys, only develop their full potential in the interaction with the kids. The design should operate at the adult scale as much as the kids’ scale, so it was important to create spaces that only children could inhabit and own. The answer was to propose a tinker tray, where all the objects involved in the play and learning process could be storage, the work produced exhibit and where the kids could also feel that they are part of it. The strategy was proposing a thick structure instead of thin partitions to configure the class room space, an inhabitable wall that will storage all furniture and objects when not in use, making the reconfiguration of the class very easy. The broken geometry of the structure creates a series of nooks, that will be inhabited by the kids. The different typologies of objects were reduced to the minimum, establishing a generic module that can be used in multiple ways. It is not a chair, or table, or tower, or play kitchen, or car, or box for stones, or helmet, but all the above.
The function of this thick inhabitable wall was twofold, first creating little spaces to be own by the kids, and second to provide storage space facing both, the classroom and the corridor, so the space that usually only serves as circulations is now activated and can be used as common ground for kids, teacher and parents. It also transforms the corridor into a showcase of the learning process, blurring the limits between the classrooms, and expanding the perception of the space, avoiding the conventional compartmentalisation of the classrooms.
Primary School, Elementary School and Leisure Center, Pleyel, Paris
The site is in close proximity to the future multimodal station of Pleyel, in the heart of the new territory of culture and creation. Framed in the west by small working-class houses along the Tunis street, to the north by recent office buildings, to the south by a new pedestrian alley, and to the east by industrial buildings which are moved to In the near future, the Landy Village school group is an initiating and structuring element in a changing environment.
It takes place in an old building whose brick facade on the street of Tunis and the presence of metal halls with their roof in the form of shed are so characteristic of the industrial memory of the district. The complex and historical nature of this place has guided the project in favor of the revalorization of the symbols of a bygone era and the reappropriation of a structural framework allowing a great flexibility of development.
Rue de Tunis, the existing industrial facade will be maintained along the length of the plot, sometimes interrupted by winter gardens; Interstices of light and transparency.
The architectural proposal is broken down into four interventions that allow the maintenance of several existing and heterogeneous entities and their integration into a new spatial organization.
This proposal takes place in four movements:
1. Preservation of "selected pieces" and the insertion of programs adapted to the structural and typological constraints of existing volumes.
2.The creation of a gallery covered by a vegetated roof. A visual articulation carried by a fine wooden structure, thread of Ariadne between the different spaces of the school group.
3.The implementation of a raised base, technical and structural support linking the different entities of the program.
4.The addition of prefabricated volumes in wooden structure; Under the existing roof on the side of the Rue de Tunis, drawing a singular volumetry in elevation along the valley to the south and to the northeast corner above building A.
Like a contemporary cloister, the volumes thus created interact, respond, play together with the preexisting elements of the site to form a new harmonious and coherent whole.
Juegaterapia, La Fe Hospital, Valencia 2017
“El jardín de mi hospi” is the result of the collaboration with Juegaterapia ( www.juegaterapia.org ), a non-proﬁt foundation that improves the life conditions of children with cancer. They began delivering donated play-stations to the kids in order to be used during the chemo but they have expanded their agenda and now they transform rooftops and leftover spaces in paediatric hospitals into playgrounds for the hospitalized kids.
Several studies have demonstrated the beneficial effects that nature can produce on patients, in some cases shortening the recovery time. But when collaborating with Juegaterapia foundation it was manifested that despite these facts not all the hospitals are willing to add vegetation into their facilities as they are concern about costs and maintenance. As a result of this constrain, we explored and analysed the proper characteristics of natural environments that can be extracted and recreated by artificial means to be inserted in the existing structures.
Through design it is possible to generate artificial systems that perform in a similar way that living systems, without mimicking natural elements literally in form but in their predicative dimension: movement, flexibility, variation of density, sound, lightness... Also an interactive quality is pursuit , actions like sheltering, hanging, lying down under the shade, swinging… frequently done in nature should be also possible in these artificial environments.
We discovered colors, the repetition of the tree troncs, the movement of the leaves, the flexibility of the branches, the different densities, the shade… We started to think about one material that we could use in different ways to recreate all these characteristics, and that would be easy to work with and unexpensive. We thought about the versatility of ropes, their resiliency, and the tactile quality that make them be one of the most used materials in playgrounds. Climbing walls, swings, hammocks… Can be done with just one material.
We wanted to create a magic world, an open space where the elements that we proposed could generate artificial landscapes and that could blend with natural elements, where the different play structures could be used in different ways so the experience of playing could be new and unexpected every time. For that we proposed big hanging rope structures that move with the wind, that cast different shades during the day and that cover open and flexible spaces that can be used in different ways, playground, exercise space, stage for shows and concerts… Using the same material we filled the space with play structures, swings, hammocks, hanging ropes… We wanted that this magic world could be enjoyed also from the rooms of the hospital, so the bird view of the playground was an important part of the design. The hanging rope structures are perceived from the rooms as huge colorful flowers.
The Jello Pavilion is an inflatable structure in the spirit of Ant Farm: the avant-garde group of architects who revolutionised the use of plastics with the ambition of creating flexible, democratic and fun spaces for people in the 1970s. Students in Lorena del Rio’s “A Journey into Plastic” Seminar at Cornell University conceived the Jello Pavilion as a collaborative design build project to bring a wave of fun during the stressful final weeks of the semester.
With a budget around 300$ the pavilion is comprised of over 100 plastic panels of various geometries secured together through a calibrated technique of heating. This thin plastic shell achieves its volumetric potential with a high-power fan that inflates air in through a tubular appendage in a constant way. A globular shape when fully inflated, the pavilion is easily manipulated into different formal configurations through the fastening of Velcro strips attached throughout the volume. Despite its complex system of assembly, the Jello Pavilion portrays a simple image of fun, and is filled with balloons and light projections at various times throughout the day. The Jello Pavilion is an opportunity for all to literally enter a bubble of fun in the midst of hectic campus life.
It also carries on the tradition of plastics as a cheap, malleable and flexible material with incredible potential for designers.
Lorena del Rio, Architect, Visiting Assistant Professor Cornell University
Students of Architecture:
Ten Stories' House
Ten stories’ house investigates an alternative way of living while questioning the classical concept of the villa where the sequence of generic rooms define a domestic environment where the acoustic isolation and visual independence of the spaces facilitates the inhabitation.
Our proposal challenges this notion of fragmentation by defining one main vertical space where the program is not any more linked to a room. In the same way than a bookshelf operates, the section of the house reveles platforms at different levels that eliminate the horizontal partition between floors. The vertical communication not only happens through the stairs but also climing from shelve to shelve, enjoying the discovery of new places of opportunity where activities can happen. Working and Living spaces are connected yet independent in an organization that blurs the traditional boundaries of the different rooms. These spaces structured in an spiral configuration provide maximum flexibility while defining a circulation that allows the contemplation of the landscape in all directions in search of the water views and the long distance perspectives.
RICA* is a young architectural office and a platform for design investigation operating across many scales, searching for the potential of creativity regardless of the size or budget of the project. Interested in programmatic requirements as an opportunity to innovate or produce new typologies, the understanding of the context as a source of inspiring forms, scales, and patterns, and materiality and fabrication as the starting point of design.
Sculptures Museum, Madrid, 2012
The landscape where this Sculpture Museum rests is unique. Upon our visit, we realized that people did not use the paved paths, but rather engaged with the sculptures by moving around small, serpentine, dirt trails that had been created in time. We also notices that the artwork could only be engaged from the ground, preventing views from other angles.
Our observations became the starting point to propose a design that recreates the attractive spots already existing in the park. The new building preserves a relationship with the open air exhibitions, linking the park into the interior.
The interior of the architecture becomes a new trail in the landscape, while the exterior serves as a roof over existing trails. Between the curves, we generated small gardens that became new backdrops for showcasing the sculptures.
The new building will be a continuous section piece of 5.50 meters wide by 550 meters long and it curves, turns, and bends, in order to adapt itself to the plot limit and to maintain as many of the existing trees as possible. It abides by the empty spaces and embraces the sculptures, the trees, and the beauty of the artwork surrounded by nature.
The piece also twists and interlaces upon itself in its vertical dimension, using ramps to communicated the changing topography. The visitor moves goes up and down, inside and outside, almost without noticing it.