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A transdisciplinary research center that will be built from mass timber and produce more renewable energy than it consumes is set to rise at the former site of a historic Barcelona fish market adjacent to the city’s sprawling Parc de la Ciutadella.

A proposal for the planned Mercat de Peix Research Center submitted by Portland, Oregon–based architectural firm ZGF Architects, in collaboration with the Barcelona studios of MIRAG and Double Twist, has triumphed in a global design competition seeking proposals for the new net-positive energy facility, which will operate with the mission to “foster new fields of knowledge and approaches to planetary well-being,” according to a press release.

Anchoring Barcelona’s nascent Ciutadella innovation district, the proposed 452,000-square-foot research center will take form as two mass-timber buildings—one rising five stories and the other seven stories—built around a central courtyard, or agora, with lush landscaping that melds into the fabled 19th-century city park located just steps away. A dry lab will populate the more squat of the two buildings while the taller structure will house a wet lab and the headquarters of the Institut de Biologia Evolutiva, Spain’s only research facility dedicated exclusively to evolutionary biology.

ZGF Barcelona's Mercat del Peix Research Center, courtyard.

Mercat del Peix Research Center, central staircase view. Image © ZGF

Jaume Casals, a professor at Barcelona’s Universitat Pompeu Fabra who served as jury president, praised the ZGF/MIRAG/Double Twist design, noting that it “optimally combines ingenuity in meeting the needs of users” while bringing “brightness and boldness … to a project of this nature, so richly deserved, given that it is destined to play a vital role in both the city and country’s social development.”

A total of 41 design proposals for the Mercat de Peix Research Center were submitted, with four other finalist teams—Kengo Kuma & Associates, Moneo Brock, miba architects with DATAAE, and Arquitecturia Camps Felip joined by London-based Allies and Morrison Ltd.—selected for the shortlist alongside ZGF/MIRAG/Double Twist.

“As a competition team, our expertise combines an understanding of the culturally important site and the complexities of building sustainable laboratories,” said ZGF managing partner Ted Hyman in a statement. “It will result in a project reflective of the world-changing initiatives that will happen inside.”

ZGF Barcelona's Mercat del Peix Research Center, courtyard.

Mercat del Peix Research Center, agora view. Image © ZGF

(ZGF’s own prowess in designing state-of-the-art lab and scientific research facilities can be found across numerous projects, including San Francisco’s Nancy Friend Pritzker Psychiatry Building, designed with Perkins&Will.)

Exterior shading screens, operable windows, chilled beams, and other elements will allow the twin timber buildings to operate with utmost efficiency while promoting natural ventilation and daylighting solutions. In addition to its sustainability, the team’s winning design places emphasis on transparency and collaboration between the two institutions that will take up residence at the center. This is achieved through such hospitable amenities as ground-floor arcades that flank the edge of the courtyard and lead to small, shaded social spaces, and a large roof deck accessible via a shared, five-story mass timber spiral staircase that itself will serve as a natural place of congregation.

The Mercat del Peix Research Center is expected to be completed and operational by the end of 2025.