At a quick glance, any stranger would say anything but a professional cooking school is housed inside these two volumes, which function as the main characters, and where materials like exposed off-form concrete, corrugated steel, garapa wood, glass and metal structure are combined. The consistent use of these materials defines the purity and elegance of Culinary Art School, which embodies the beliefs of Gracia Studio. It is located on the last phase of a 30-year, three stage development in Tijuana, vacant lots surround the school, which is why the two main volumes face each other, creating a transition space: the grand plaza/courtyard, an interior pedestrian “street” that works as the perfect centerpiece between the two volumes.
The greater volume, lined with garapa wood on the upper level, and cast on-site concrete beneath, contains the administrative offices, classrooms, library, and the wine cellar. On the second main volume, covered with corten steel on top, and glass below, the cooking stations, with absolute transparency between them and the plaza, allowing physical and visual interaction among these characters, as well as with the other workshops: the architecture and interiors come together to create an environment that will inspire each and every student. “We are always in-between, inside and outside simultaneously”, says Inés Moisset, an Argentinian writer; a third volume is involved, which accommodates the cafeteria and a small auditorium with concrete terraces, where the alumni and visitors are able to observe their professors’ work.
Gracia Studio is characterized not only for solving functionality and aesthetics, but contributing with creativity in each project, as well as low-cost and use of new technologies and local materials, which translate into an innovative architecture, the result of which can only be called an architecture of inspiration and innovation.