We were invited by the French Alliance to identify ways in which the existing facility on 49th Street, in Bella Vista, could be transformed in order to comply with the objective of modernizing the educational and cultural programs that have benefited Panamanian society for more than sixty years. Although Alliance directors had initially assumed that the success of this transformation would require the development of a mixed use commercial office and cultural building that would include their new facility, we advocated as an alternative for the development of a small hotel instead of what would forcibly be a massive office block.
This proposal reflects our firmly held conviction that any project developed on this site should be founded on the environmental, cultural, historic and social characteristics of the neighbourhood, in addition to the cultural and historic aspects represented by the Alliance in Panama. In this sense, the condominium towers that have disfigured the area around Parque Urraca and Balboa Avenue not only contrast violently with the residential scale that still predominates on 49th Street, but also constitute a critical surcharge on the existing street, pedestrian, mechanical, electrical, sewage and storm drainage networks. This proposal seeks to revert this situation.
The project also aspires to a high level of sustainability, not only in its architecture, but also in the way it is organized in space and in the immediate context of the neighbourhood- that is, at the level of urban proposition. Thus we propose that the Alliance be located on the ground, first and second floor levels, with the 42 room hotel on the next three levels and a health spa on the roof. The required parking (some 57 spaces) are located on three partially buried levels, taking advantage of the sloped site. In this manner the Alliance remains where it has always been historically and where culture should be- at street level, accessible and open to everyone.
The sustainable architectural proposal includes natural ventilation (solar chimneys, interior space orientation), air conditioning (humidity reduction using desiccant wheels, use of “green” roofs) and illumination systems(facades with a high percentage of thermally efficient glazing, the use of skylights) augmented with alternative energy generating systems (wind and solar) and both passive (sun breakers) and live (vegetation) solar control artefacts.