A growing number of architects in Europe are discovering the benefits of combining the aesthetic qualities of fashionable hardwoods and the performance they offer in terms of acoustic properties and practical design solutions. Temperate hardwoods they offer a distinct and interesting grain patterns, a wide spread of colours, tones and good environmental credentials. With American hardwoods being able to offer the widest species range, it is not surprising they are featuring very strongly. Some of the recent examples from around Europe and the names of the architects involved say it all. Renzo Piano used American cherry in the Rome Auditorium, while Foster & Partners chose certified American ash for the Sage Music Centre in Gateshead (UK) and Castellón Auditorium (Spain). Allies and Morrison have used American white oak in the theatre and auditorium at Queens College Cambridge (UK) and French architect Claude Vasconi favoured stained American maple for his interior design of the Velizy Theatre in Paris.
Now it is the turn of one of Spain's more important architects, Carlos Ferrater, who has used American maple for the city of Castellón's new Auditorium and Conference Hall, in the Valencia region of Spain. This major public project, which opened in 2004, combines elegance and functionality.
The relationship between light and space plays a key role in the design, so too does the synergy created between the interior of the building and its external environment. The outside structure built in white reinforced concrete is contrasted with the warmer interior spaces where grey stone and light coloured American maple combine. A series of large glass roof panels bathe and fracture the interior spaces with natural light. The light coloured maple is the common theme that links all internal areas as it is to be found in the Foyer, the small 'Chamber Music' hall, the 'multi purpose' hall as well as the main 'Symphonic' hall which seats just over one thousand two hundred people. The walls are constructed from acoustically profiled particle board, surfaced with decorative maple veneer, while maple plywood is used for the ceiling panels. All wood surfaces have been treated with a M1 fire retardant coating
Hardwood joinery is also an important feature in the design of the office areas, library and cafeteria, where solid and veneered maple work together for the internal doors, stairs and panelling.