Telefónica’s District C in Las Tablas

Telefonicas District C in Las Tablas, Madrid - Spain, Rafael de La-Hoz Castanys
Address: Ronda de la Comunicación s/n 28050 Las Tablas | MADRID | Spain | Visit Website
Latitude/Longitude: 40.5134, -3.6642

As part of its new corporate strategy, the Telefónica Group has decided to build a large construction to house its new headquarters, where it can bring together all of its companies and divisions, which were previously distributed in different locations in the city of Madrid.

As Telefónica is the largest corporation in Spain, the project has likewise acquired unusual proportions, given that the scale has to be suitable for the size of the company.

As the new headquarters will be situated on a surface of 19 hectares, with a built-up area of 400,000 m2 and 4,700 parking spaces for more than 12,000 employees, the project requires innovative solutions, even terms of the specific type of architecture.

Even before addressing other concerns, accessing the district itself raises certain complications: despite being near the second largest ring road of Madrid (the M-40 Motorway), which gives the impression that it is highly-accessible, the truth is that the project would be unviable, and not just in ecological terms, without public transport access.

Consequently, the new headquarters will have their own suburban underground station, which will be connected with the general public metro system.

This is possibly the most important and explicit achievement of the project and a very important contribution to the environment.


The new complex cannot altogether be termed a “city”, despite the generalized trend (the Justice, the finances, the university), precisely because of its theme.

A city is a place for everyone, not just a few, and calling it as such would deny it its identity.

Neither can it properly be called a campus, despite the fact that it bears many of the relevant characteristics (pedestrianized, gardened, open, thematic), as the project is not enlargeable.

Rather, it is a fragment of the urban fabric, identifiable by its size and activity. In other words, it is a district: District C.


An encampment is a defensive settlement surrounded with a barrier (a fence or block wall), with towers and lookout posts at each of the points of inflexion in the outline. Consequently, a settlement laid out in this way not only has a defensive protection and perspective: its borders are visually established by the additions.

These geometric characteristics of encampments have traditionally been extrapolated and applied to other types of architecture; it is not hard to pick an example of a building constructed by any culture that was based on the schematic floor plan with four watchtowers or lookout posts on each of the vertices to mark the boundaries of the compound.

Rather than attempting to establish an understanding of the place, the system is limited to establishing the boundaries.

Metaphorically speaking, the District C project is also an attempt to set boundaries, and so the complex is nailed to the ground by the four towers/stakes in the cardinal vertices to form a horizontal plane or canopy instead of the vertical defensive plane.

In this case, the horizontal covering protects from the elements and weather: the climate is the aggressor.


Many difficult conditions and requirements were set before the project even began, but it would be idle and useless to describe them one-by-one and in detail, and it is even harder to try to justify them. We will therefore confine ourselves to briefly reviewing the most important ones.

There had to be more than 10 and less than 12 buildings that would be used by the Telefónica Group’s companies and all the floors had to have a built-up surface of at least 2,500 m2. No building could have less than 7,000 m2 or more than 30,000 m2; neither could there be more than 11 storeys or less than 3.

The core of the vertical connections (stairs and lifts) would have to be central, so that the façades would be freed of any functional role and the whole structure would have to be modular, with a set measurement of 1.35 m. There could be more formal freedom in the auxiliary buildings (Exchange, Services 1 and Services 2), but again, these buildings had to be designed as registering independently, like the others, in such a way that each one would have its own plot of land and car park, so that it would be cut off from the rest and thus could be sold on in the future if necessary. All of this, of course, did not mean that we could neglect the essential requirement for the overall complex (individual car parks included): that it must function independently, and yet, form a cohesive whole, constituting the unified headquarters, at the same time.


There are evident functional advantages in constructing a series of buildings, related to each other in that they are to be used for the same purpose (such as those of a university campus). It is a flexible and enlargeable scheme and whilst the project will involve occupying a large surface area, the actual construction costs are not excessive.

On the other hand, the architectural fragmentation of the built-up mass creates a great lack of formal unity.

It is possible to compensate for this by resorting to the homogeneity created by using the same material in each building (in universities, brick façades are traditionally used). Likewise, we can create links between the buildings and the surrounding landscape or create unity through the use of repetitive, powerful and simple geometry (for example: sloped roofs, circular buildings or connecting passageways).

District C resorts to all of these devices, with the use of one predominant material (glass), a singular landscape with water as the link and an overriding geometrical feature: the square grid.

At the same time, it has the powerful and exceptional feature of the roof or canopy that covers, protects and unifies.

Under its protection, everything is one.


The functional programme (offices, cafeteria, restaurants, kindergartens, gymnasium, hospital) is so extensive and the constructed dimensions are so large that the programme and scale are directly interlinked.

It is not so much a case of planning the project as controlling the scale.

The scale (when large) requires economy of means, clarity in the arrangement and conciseness in the detail.

Consequently, District C not only uses a single finishing material (glass) but also a single serialised system in the façades so that they can be made to face any direction without any loss of uniformity. Likewise, the complex is distributed according to one single form of geometry: the square floor plan.

The project avoids detail as an anecdote and trusts in its size as a sufficient motive for its composition.


A large hierarchical community, such as the one that will work in District C, also requires specific a control.

Consequently, we propose a system of associative incremental scales that each user experiences: the scale goes from the sphere of the user’s personal workstation or desk to that of the social encounter in the restaurant; in between, there are the phases in which the user meets up with co-workers from the same department on the same floor, in which they meet up with others from the same company in the building, or with others from the overall Corporate Group in the “cloister” (gardens outdoors or courtyard), or, finally with others from the corporation in the central mall. This associative concept is arranged over a regulating grid, which unifies and links the buildings, arranging them in relation to two powerful vectors.

One is formed by the effect of the cardinal buildings or “cubic towers” on the smaller buildings, articulating a collection of 3 buildings on each corner around a covered cloister, which also forms an entrance.

No city or encampment ever had just one entrance.

An additional part houses the cafeteria, closing off these cloisters to the street; this is a place for receiving people and social encounters.

The other vector exerts pressure on the general distribution, attracting the communal buildings (Exchange and Services) towards the centre and driving out the four cardinal cloisters towards the periphery.

The distribution is structured in this way, in accordance with an almost strictly functional order, but an order that tries not to make the buildings or the façades hierarchical.


The Exchange building is separated into two parts. The largest is suspended from the photovoltaic roof. The smaller one (closer to the ground) is supported like a bridge between the abutments of the plinth.

This sets the borders of a space that is in tension due to the position of the parts, which are very delimited and protected.

The visitor enters District C under these sections, through a space/threshold that is anticipative and welcoming.

The upper part contains the management areas and the lower part (closer to the ground and therefore more democratic) is designed for the company’s presidency.

In this place, the President does not rise above the rest but comes closer to them.

To counter so much formal weightlessness, the Services building is embedded in a plot of land, with part of the programme buried in the ground to resolve the uneven levels at the access, forming a pedestrian’s entrance or door for day-to-day use. Thus, this structure will also contain the underground metro station.

None of the buildings actually imposes its identity on the rest; instead each building submits its volume to the whole, just as all the buildings are protected under the same canopy that unifies them and brings them together.

Only the small services buildings (containing the kindergarten, health centre and gymnasium) are situated outside the protection of the canopy and this is because conceptually they belong as much to the interior premises as to the exterior; this ambiguity forces us to literally bury them in the landscape.


There is no landscape in this northern area of the city of Madrid. Consequently, we have to build an artificial landscape, which is subordinate to the architecture, in accordance with the same principles that we have to apply due to the scale of the project: uniformity and containment. Each cardinal cloister is also treated specially and specifically and the central mall is arranged around a large pond.


Due to the large scale of the project, we have to use one single finishing material (as is often the case on campuses): in this case it is glass.

We use the whole range: from total transparency as the intrinsic quality of glass, to the artificial and absolute opacity of coloured serigraph glass.

For the former, we use large-scale (4 x 2 m) extra clear glass. For absolute opacity, we have used a new type of glass developed specifically for the project, which, thanks to the advanced technology with which it was designed, makes seeing inside compatible with the opacity on the exterior surface. This spectrum of qualities (totally visible to totally invisible) is the visual support on which we base another system, which uses solely the material of the vertical shadow.

The façade is the result of the interaction of two systems, mutant glass and serialised shadow, in accordance with the modular requirements and the construction logic of the façade.

Technically, the façade is built using a modular double curtain wall system. The combination of filtering qualities and distances between layers reduces the resulting solar factor (ratio of visible transmitted light and rejected heat) to 19%.

This favorable ratio is essential for the installation of the chilled beam air-conditioning system, which is cheaper to maintain.


Whilst shadow is a factor of contrast on the façade, on the roof it is a factor of uniformity.

Under the canopy, everything is shadow and yet protecting is not its sole purpose. It provides shelter for those that enter the cardinal squares and those that stop there. It is a structure that sustains the buildings. It also functions as a support network for the electronic surveillance system and consequently makes it possible to remove all physical barriers from District C.

Finally and fundamentally, the roof is photovoltaic, constituting the largest horizontal surface for collecting solar energy in Europe. The solar panels that cover 26,000 m2 of the roof of the canopy transform solar thermal energy into electricity, at the rate of 4,389,000 kw/h/year, which represents a reduction of 2000Tn of CO2 emitted into the atmosphere. The roof’s shadow, cast over the façades, cloisters and entrances, unifies, protects and refreshes.

Promoter: Telefónica de España S.A.
Built-up surface: 390,000 m2
Project Directors: Hugo Berenguer, Siegfried Bürger, Francisco Arévalo, Miguel Maiza, Jesús Román, Carolina Fernández and Belén Rivera
Management Directors: Rafael Quintana and Manuel Doménech
Works Directors: Pilar Anastasio, Daniel González, Concha Peña and Félix Falcone.
Landscaping Director: Marion Weber Master Plan: Jesús Román, Hugo Berenguer and Margarita Sánchez Collaborating Architects: Conchi Cobo, Beatriz Heras, Gonzalo Robles, Jacobo Ordás, Guillermo Vidal, Ascensión García, Javier Amrbruster, Karmen Marco and Luise Wiegand.
Quantity surveyors: Amaya Díaz del Cerio, Mercedes Esteban, Isabel Fernández and Rafael Vegas.
Graphic design and models: Luis Muñoz, Fernando Mont, Víctor Coronel, Diego Mordkowicz, Camille Vidal, Álvaro Rivera, Ángel Arroyo and Daniel Roris.
Structures Engineering: NB 35
Installations Engineering: Rafael Úrculo-Pgi
Landscaping Project: Land (Landscape Architecture Urban)
Façades: Estrumaher S.A.
Steel structure: Martifer
Project Management: Bovis Lend Lease
Construction Company: UTE “CIUDAD DE LAS COMUNICACIONES” (Joint Venture).
Formed by: Dragados and FCC Construcción S.A.

Contributed by Rafael de La-Hoz Castanys

⇒ Architecture Guide to MADRID