The architecture of the first Spanish nuclear power plants


rchitecture represents a novel addition that has been scarcely addressed in the nuclear sector but has the potential to expand the technical and technological definition of its facilities. The aesthetic values associated with the work of architects have rarely been explored. This may be since the nuclear power plants design is traditionally associated with tasks performed by highly specialized technical teams, making collaboration with architects uncommon. In fact, until the 1970s, we can barely find quality references to draw upon in the international framework. This article aims to shed light on the anonymous and hardly known interventions carried out by renowned architects in the first Spanish nuclear power plants, which were projected and constructed between 1963 and 1972.

Telephone Pavilion (1972) at Vandellós NPP

The involvement of architects in the construction of nuclear power plants is a significant milestone in both the architecture and engineering fields. Spain’s decision to consistently incorporate architects is groundbreaking, as compared to other countries like the United Kingdom, which has only sporadically included renowned architects since the 1950s, or France, which formed a school of architects in the 1970s. The Spanish companies promoting these installations innovatively incorporated the necessary sensitivity and artistic knowledge of architects in the 1960s due to the concern of locating these plants in natural areas of high landscape value. While the technical and technological aspects of these facilities are determined by the industry, architects play a key role in their aesthetic definition by studying how to enhance the permanent expression of the enormous structures and incorporating interesting strategies to beautify and harmoniously integrate them into the landscape.

While technique and technology are focused on functionality, architecture allows for non-strictly functional variables, resulting in variations depending on the architect. As we conclude in this article, each analyzed installation can be defined as a combination of two parts. Not only do they replicate technological models exported from countries such as France and the United States, but they also incorporate notable differences in the program definition and envelope characteristics. Thus, the proposals presented in this article provide a valuable example of how architecture can enhance engineering efforts in defining installations, resulting in improved integration and aesthetics with minimal resources consumption.

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