Vallecas Public Housing / Estudio.Entresitio

© Jorge Lopez Conde

Architects: Estudio.Entresitio / María Hurtado de Mendoza Wahrolén, César Jiménez de Tejada Benavides, José María Hurtado de Mendoza Wahrolén
Location: Madrid,
Client: EMVS, Empresa Municipal de Vivienda y Suelo – Municipal Agency for Housing
Project Team: Carolina Leveroni, Stefan Vogt, Jorge Martínez, Laura Frutos, Pablo Sacristán, Filipe Minderico, Anne-Dorothée Herbort, Miguel Crespo y Alvar Ruiz
Structural Engineer: CYPE Ingenieros Estudios y Proyectos, s. a.
Mechanical Engineer: I+G. Pro, Clement y asociados, c. b.
Communications: Inprotel Comunicaciones, s. l.
Quantity Surveyors: Juan Carlos Corona Ruiz, David Gil Crespo, Santiago Hernán Martín
Construction Company: Assignia Infraestructuras
Project Year: 2006-2009
Photographs: Jorge Lopez Conde

floor plans

This project is the result of a competition run by Madrid’s Municipal Housing Agency at the end of 2003. The philosophy of the competition was that each team would offer the best architecture solution that was able to imagine, subject to compliance with the “economic” parameters for the lot; maximum surface to be built and number of dwellings, and always considering that it is a social housing development.

It was the choice of the contestants to decide whether a “measured” solution that would meet the other urban planning conditions of floor occupation, alignments, heights, etc.., or if, as was our case, raised a proposal that needed further planning changes. Our winning proposal was a tower of 22 floors.

© Jorge Lopez Conde

The project can be explained in many ways, but there is one to which we do not like to resign, that has to do with the floor plan’s efficiency and the resolution of a given functional program such as housing. We deal with apartments “for rent” that are characterized by their small size, as they are, from sheltered housing, those most in line with the minimum dimensional regulations. The project builds a total of 132 one and two bedrooms housing units, for a net floor area of 9000 sqm plus 300 sqm of ground floor commercial use.

Above ground, the building occupies 70% of the limit set by the alignment of the façades, with a general setback to liberate more public space on the front sidewalk access and natural relief of ground floor commercial use. This setback can avoid the typical chamfers of the area planning and work with sharper volume geometry.

typical floor plan

For a certain floor area, reducing the footprint of the building necessarily implies growing in height and in this case we propose a shaped volume with a profile proportions, lets say, uncommon. One might think of the building as an aggregation of a tower and a block by a central body, but we are more interested in the idea of a free development in height, where the balance between the parts and the whole is somewhat disturbing.

The floor plan solution is based on the geometric process of “double symmetry”, as in the ambigrams, which are words or figures that can be read alike when rotated 180 degrees. This strategy works to blur the different parts as the order of each one is not clear and becomes associated with the order of the others. It also has to do with the fact that the building, as a free block, is perceived as a piece in which there is no distinction between front and rear or beginning and end, and responds similarly to both the access road as to the green zone that runs lengthwise on the other front.

© Jorge Lopez Conde

Only in a clinical cut of this mixed development, we would begin to understand how diversity has ordered the program. Although all the apartments have 1 or 2 bedrooms, the smallest elements are set in height, and developed on one floor, while the duplex, as repetition of functionally undifferentiated units, occupy the longitudinal development of the plinth. The homes are not the result of an a priori subdivision of the plant but are solved interlaced both in plan and section. The duplex units are composed of two versatile rooms that cross section to enjoy both North and South directions. By having access by the first floor can respond to both, the characteristic use (planning) of housing or to tertiary application, commercial and offices at the first floor and hosting at any level above ground floor.

© Jorge Lopez Conde

As indeed there are many ways of explaining a project, there is another one that deals with the urban character of the building, with the construction of the city and the need to, somehow, characterize new residential tissues, in this case of Madrid, that as many others lack of intention in its definition. In this sense the project works on several levels. The outer shell uses resources of non-differentiation and scale ambiguity. It is a skin of zinc scales set in horizontal bands that slide one over another with a slight offset, and in which voids are inserted with the intention of not making clear the floor levels. We propose a combinatorial system of recognizable types of housing windows which are placed at the best position from the inside of the rooms. On this support structure of unity and also of diversity, are added some projecting crates, that as free forms of distortion, introduce a slight vibration on the elevation.

© Jorge Lopez Conde

The relationship between the concepts of “coexistence of scales” and “scaling ambiguity”, what is big and what is small along with what is not revealed either as large or small, establishes the dialogue that occurs in other settings by the historic city and the successive developments that occur in it over the time. Somehow, duality becomes almost a search method, on the one hand we work with the intention that the city does not only speak of its buildings but the void that they generate, there is a well-defined function scheme in plan and no clear translation in the elevations, the condition of continuous wrapping is enhanced that, despite its lightweight material, contributes to the perception of the building as a solid, and we propose for construction of such a sharp and crisp volume, a scaled and not very smooth finish but certainly homogeneous. In this way we mix day-to-day and extraordinary, the regular domestic window that corresponds to a clear functional order with extraordinary placements, removing the composition and helping to understand the whole as a uniform mass.

© Jorge Lopez Conde

In the hot season, it produces a “chimney effect”, the sun heats the air standing in the chamber, rising by convection and forcing fresh air to enter on the lower part of the façade, preventing the accumulation of heat in the inter layer space. In winter, however, solar radiation is not sufficient to produce the movements of air and ventilated facade acts as a heat accumulator to produce the opposite effect.

View this project in Google Maps

* Location to be used only as a reference. It could indicate city/country but not exact address.
Cite: "Vallecas Public Housing / Estudio.Entresitio" 09 Sep 2010. ArchDaily. Accessed 24 May 2015. <>
  • h.a.

    I would emphasized the phrase “the balance between the parts and the whole is somewhat disturbing”. For me that’s what makes this sharp volume an icon in the middle of a anonymous and mediocre typical Madrid development. The holes layout, pattern and material only give the building the right vibration to make the main idea stronger. beautiful pictures those showing the building from far away in the context!!

  • brb001

    On the one hand, this public housing certainly looks cool and fashionable. But on the other hand, if it is occupied by regular people (instead of artsy photographers and models), I can’t help but wonder how soon before this place devolves into a crime-ridden hell-hole like so many other public housing projects. The environment just looks grim.

    • RGW

      I’ve walked this environment and it is pretty grim (referring to the area in general, not the building). It has the density of the older parts of Madrid, but none of the character that comes from the narrow streets and winding paths. It’s clearly designed for cars, with broad boulevards and a complete lack of peole walking around. Walking from a store to the metro stop felt kind cold and intimidating. The image below the floor plans gives a pretty accurate sense of what its like to walk those streets.

    • bofill

      Very soon. Remember Ricardo Bofill?

      • h.a.

        what about him? It’s surprising that people remember him!!

  • h.a.

    the place is rather ugly, but not that dodgy. In madrid social housing is usually occupied by young couples. That ussually makes the neighbourhoods where those houses are built rather lively (normally). This area will develop further anyway, is still quite unbuilt as you can see in the aerial map

    • bofill

      Bofill is alive and kicking. Saw him at the latest MIPIM (the largest developers’ exhibition in Canne, France) having drinks and chatting with Russian nouvoriches. Apparently they remember him. The man goes where the money and market is. Strictly business.

      • h.a.

        i see…ad least is not as notorious today as he used to be. Although I don’t see the relation with this particular building nor actually with most good spanish architects practising today

      • bofill

        @ h.a.

        Absolutely agreed h.a. – the only relationship is a formal topic “not so successful social housing”. Otherwise no connection whatsoever.

  • Sasha

    Nice buildings makes background different, someone have to start.

  • Lucas

    Looks so MVRDV!

  • charlie

    at least they’ve got their lineweights figured out.

    • deb

      what are you referring to?

  • cl

    Very nice Photos, Jorge Lopez Conde!!!

  • Andrew

    Just because this is public housing does not mean that it should be thought of any different than any other project an architect takes on. Of course, you’re designing ‘normal’ people but everyone deserves the opportunity to live in a safe, comfortable, and affordable house.

    It maybe in a run down neighborhood of Madrid, but it only takes one building, one vision to spark change. It could be similar to the ‘Bilbao Effect’ of public housing. It’s negative to think from the start that in no time after its built it will become run down and crime-ridden, simply because its public housing.

    Give it a chance, this might actually start a movement to reinvigorate that neighborhood and make it more pedestrian friendly.

  • hosein

    I think its looklike a factory.

  • pablo fernandez villaverde

    The buildings look to anchor themselves onto reality via the establishment of physical and conceptual relations.
    The building is located in a mute, boring and and insipid neighborhood, and it tries to become a landmark.
    Very good project, just like everything they make!!

  • house42

    We visited the place and indeed the building is THE landmark of the area. Too bad it is located far way in a corner of the development.

    Additional picturec can be found here: