The Virgen del Rocío University Hospital is one of the largest healthcare facilities in Spain. Spread across an 85,000-square-metre campus in Seville, the sprawling collection of imposing pale brick buildings is punctuated only by roads and understated greenery. In the inner courtyard of the campus’s largest clinical building, however, a newly reimagined pavilion injects a fortifying burst of colour into the complex.
Designed by architect Elisa Valero, the modest space is envisioned as a play area for children admitted to the hospital – and a quiet retreat for their parents. The revitalized courtyard is immediately defined by the playful pattern of ceramic tiles that wraps the octagonal pavilion at its heart.
Alternating strips in blue and white form the large square sheets that clad the structure’s envelope. The staggered pattern of horizontal, vertical and diagonal subway-style tiles lends the form an eye-catching yet elegant kinetic energy, one that also manages to exude a calming quality through the simple colour repetition. Meanwhile, a simpler vertical tile motif complements covers the pavilion’s pre-existing gold-hued cupola, which retains a pleasantly weathered patina alongside the pristine tile.
Weaving a sense of aesthetic continuity inside the pavilion, the same blue and white modules accent a living room wall. Configured almost as a residential setting – complete with a small kitchen and dining area – the otherwise pared-down interior is a respite from the busy hospital.
The courtyard setting is further furnished by a series of small loggias that are just as stripped down as the pavilion’s spare material palette. They’re crafted from white-painted wood slats, as are the benches and tables that dot the outdoor space. The minimal landscaping fosters a sense of calm, while providing a soft surface for children at play.
According to Valero, the space is envisioned as “a different world than the rest of the hospital, and a kind of escape from it.” It does the job. With a simple ceramic gesture, the revived courtyard inspires – however briefly – a more tranquil and optimistic state of mind.
Architect Elisa Valero uses playful ceramic tile to carve out a powerful – and healing – new space in a Seville hospital.