Architects: EC Compta Arquitectes S.L.
Location: Barcelona, Spain
Project and Construction Manager: Ana Garcia
Project and Design Team: Joan Cortés, Rubén Férez
Project Year: 2012
Photographs: nieve | Productora Audiovisual
Construction Manager: Alex Compta
Collaborators: Raúl Benítez, David Jiménez
Developer: Fundació de la Santa Creu i Sant Pau
Contractor: Ferrovial Agroman S.A.
SETTING AND SURROUNDING
Situated next to the Port, the Barceloneta District has a privileged position within the city of Barcelona. As part of the urban renewal motivated by the Barcelona‘92 Olympic Games, several and intensive urban interventions were made to revitalize the district and open it towards the sea, making it one of the most heterogeneous, touristic, and culturally rich areas of the city.
During the last few years, most of the renovation efforts have been concentrated in the construction of new public buildings, the reduction of traffic, and transforming streets into pedestrian pathways, improving the quality of living. The amount of quality housing that meets the current living standards and accessibility codes, however, is still scarce.
A TWO-BUILDING COMPLEX
Our project sits on one of the closed street blocks of the district. A lineal building destined for housing reconstructs the perimeter of the block while the interior square is consolidated by a public learning center for children.
The entrance to the learning center’s playground, the apartment building’s lobby, and the underground parking ramp is made through a single, covered, double height passage way in order to allow a better visual relationship between the street and the interior of the street block.
The residential building is a lineal block set between two other buildings. There are small commercial spaces on the ground floor, while thirty apartments are distributed on the upper five levels. There is also a two-level underground parking.
Apartment Building’s Facades
The two different facades are resolved according to their urban condition and orientation.
The south-facing facade is composed by a rhythm of voids made by the balconies, which hollow the volume, protecting the interior from direct sunlight during the summer. On the last floor and on the west side of the building, the balconies cantilever to better harmonize with the neighboring building and finish off the façade’s composition.
The interior facade, which is oriented towards the north and is therefor not as luminous, is made up by exterior runways that allow access to the apartments. A stainless-steel mesh, almost invisible to the eye, is used for the railings to maximize natural illumination and ventilation.
Typical Floor plan
The runways, a key element within the project, presented a double challenge: the need for privacy on the secondary bedrooms, and access from the exterior to the apartment. This was resolved by establishing two levels of privacy: the runway does not lead directly to the apartments, but instead connects the elevators and the stairs to a private terrace that serves as a prelude, a buffer between the runway and the actual entrance while providing space for extra storage and laundry.
Privacy is further accomplished by separating the runway from the actual building, leaving a skylight between the two, which also helps to improve the natural lighting of both the terraces and the interior of the apartment.
A hybrid and exterior space is therefore generated, a threshold between the common areas of the building and the interior of the apartments, that the owner will be able to colonize and adapt to his or her needs. Washing and drying of clothes can be done here, preventing the need of exposing the laundry on the street, as it occurs in most of the neighborhood due to the lack of space destined for such domestic functions.
The building has a total of 30 apartments, 25 of which have two bedrooms while the other 5 only have one. They all have two facades on opposite sides of the building, allowing for cross ventilation.
The typical apartment, with two bedrooms, is completely articulated by a central core that contains the bathroom, a fully equipped kitchen and a series of closets that face each of the resulting spaces. This core divides the living quarters in three different zones, which can be completely adapted according to the owner’s needs, thanks to the fact that the bathroom can be accessed from all three, and that the connections to the living room through wide sliding doors are both symmetrical and equivalent.
The public building, a learning center for children, sits where an old industrial printing house once stood on the interior square of the street block. It is an L-shaped structure, anchored between two party walls, consolidating the interior of the block and simultaneously defining the playground area, which is accessed directly from the street through the exterior, double height passage way. The playground is paved with rubber tiles and a cylindrical volume that allows the underground parking to ventilate naturally, articulates its center.
Learning Center’s Façade
The learning center has two facades that are configured by the rhythm of the skylights that illuminate the classrooms. These skylights are cladded with zinc plates through their entire length, reaching down almost to the floor, leaving more transparent sections between each of them that, depending on the breaks on the glass, create access doors between the playground and the interior, windows for ventilation, and fixed glass panels that allow for better monitoring of children playing outside.
Given that all of the neighboring buildings are much taller, the roof is treated as a third facade. A playful combination of colors and change of heights not only define the composition of the roofline, but also reflect the different parts of the program on the inside of the building. While the tallest parts, defined by the skylight, correspond to the classrooms and the kitchen, a lower height is maintained throughout the length of the corridors that sit behind them. The roofline is once again elevated and covered with zinc above the administration offices that are ventilated and illuminated by means of high windows in the form of skylights.
Learning Center Distribution
The learning center is accessed from a spacious lobby from which two different corridors lead to the offices and classrooms. Each of the four classrooms has their own skylight and a direct visual connection to the playground. These can be transformed into six, smaller, independent classrooms by means of large sliding doors. The rest of the building contains administration offices, a teacher’s lounge, bathrooms, a storage room, and mechanical rooms.
Each of the interior elements is differentiated through the use of materials. The lower ceilings are covered with sound absorbing panels, while the higher parts, belonging to the skylights, are covered with drywall.
The classrooms can be distinguished from one another by the color of its finishes on the floor and wainscot.
Rather than being two different projects, the two buildings are unified on a single operation as a whole, interacting with one another and with the neighborhood thanks to a grand opening on the facade. This intervention has consolidated an emblematic street block within the Barceloneta district, linking neighboring facades from different times, leveling their height, and giving sense and purpose to their interior.