Madrid is dynamic, full of life and constantly changing. As the biggest commercial hub in Spain and one of the fastest-growing financial centers in Europe, it’s quickly becoming a favorite destination for students aiming to launch a successful global career. What better place to build the innovative, iconic IE Tower?

The newest addition to the city’s “Five Tower” business district, IE Tower has already become a recognized piece of the city’s landscape. Now, architect Fernando Serrano-Suñer de Hoyos gives us a behind-the-scenes look at the design process that led to this unique building, revealing more about IE Tower and its importance to Madrid’s evolving skyline.

Sustainable design

Founder and partner at SSARQ Studio, Fernando is renowned for creating captivating designs that blend sustainability, technology and contemporary design—principles that he held close to heart when designing IE University’s headquarters in Madrid. 

Since its inauguration in 2019, IE Tower has aimed to not only embody but also encourage sustainability in all its forms. With net-zero emissions, the building has earned the LEED Gold Certification for environmental sustainability. At the same time, the site promotes social and economic sustainability by hosting pro-bono Legal Clinics, the Social Impact Lab and other community projects to improve the economic situation in surrounding areas.

Versatile spaces

Many design considerations guided the architecture of IE Tower, but first and foremost was versatility. In a city where change is the only constant, every area needs to be designed with multiple purposes in mind. Fernando explains that they made the interior structure as open as possible in order to keep up with changing requirements.

At 180 meters tall, the complex provides 35 floors and 50,000 square meters of flexible spaces for learning and collaboration. Its 64 large classrooms provide capacity for over 6,000 students, complemented by communal areas, dining rooms, sports facilities and green spaces. 

Practical facilities like the Fab Lab take center stage, where students of the Bachelor in Architectural Studies and other programs can develop their projects hands-on. You can’t get closer to the future of architectural design than this!

At the base of the tower is the sports area, where students can find a multi-sports court, fitness rooms and an indoor swimming pool. Large, heavy metal structures span its length and support the weight of the shopping plaza above. In an innovative application of environmentally friendly materials, the sports areas are lined with wood chips that absorb sound and improve acoustics. 

It’s as versatile a structure as possible so that the building can adapt easily to those future changes.

Fernando Serrano-Suñer de Hoyos

Innovative classrooms 

There are zero traditional chalkboards in the whole of IE Tower. You won’t find pens and paper in any of its classrooms. Instead, the design team chose to embrace technology throughout the complex, in a move meant to reduce waste and promote sustainability. 

With innovative touches like 360-degree classrooms with display screens visible from all angles, professors and students have the ultimate flexibility. “Students see the content on the screens and professors can teach from the center of the classroom,” states Fernando. This simple move makes learning more immersive and interactive, while ensuring that students come to grips with the latest technologies in a supportive, hands-on setting. 

However, the most impressive part of IE Tower has to be the auditorium, which has the capacity to hold 600 people. Backlights improve visibility while a powerful sound system, excellent stage lighting and advanced technical areas contribute to the overall experience. It’s no wonder that this has become the preferred space for hosting various events and celebrations at the university. 

Built for the future

IE Tower was designed with the future in mind. The versatile design allows for changes to the spaces as the university grows and its requirements evolve. The emphasis on technology accommodates the changing nature of education and encourages students to learn the most cutting-edge tools of their trades. And with the principles of sustainability at its foundation, the institution will continue to give back to the community for many years to come.

A modern icon in Madrid’s skyline, IE Tower stands as a symbol of IE University’s unwavering commitment to sustainability, transformation and innovation, both now and in the future.