Architects: P-A-T-T-E-R-N-S & Maxi Spina Location: Rosario, Argentina Principals: Marcelo Spina and Georgina Huljich (P-A-T-T-E-R-N-S), Maxi Spina (msa) Project Team: Rick Michod, Nathaniel Moore and Giuliana Haro, Assistants (P-A-T-T-E-R-N-S) Structural Engineer: Orengo & Associates Construction Company: D.R.S. Construcciones S.A. Project Management: Maxi Spina (msa) and Marcelo Spina (P-A-T-T-E-R-N-S) Project Area: 1,350 sqm Project Year: 2007-2011 Photographs: Courtesy of P-A-T-T-E-R-N-S & Maxi Spina
The vertical apartment building, or so-called PH [which stands for the Spanish phrase “propiedad horizontal,” or horizontal property in English, and is the proper nomenclature for the vertical housing building] is maybe the most intellectually underestimated architectural program in Argentina, an uncanny combination of both economical speculation driven by private developers and construction companies, and the constraints of an over-subdivided urban grid that provides very narrows plots for actual interventions. A major percentage of the city has been and continues to be built according to this typology that celebrates homogeneity and monotony.” From a description of Jujuy 2056, 2003
It is a very rare and perhaps even dangerous situation that an architect interested in innovation and experiment gets a second chance to do a very similar project. While history indicates that expertise is not always a positive aspect, it is certainly an asset from the point of view of experience. As our second commission for an apartment building in Argentina [located also on Jujuy street, hence the name] presented the singularity of working in a corner site within a relatively low-density neighborhood.
Regarding the type, inevitable elements in housing buildings’ envelopes—balconies, projecting slabs, windows strips, etc.—have too often been divorced from one another, either by code or by mere architectural idiosyncrasy. A core premise: to engage these seemingly repetitive systems without suffering their relentless and boring effects, therefore altering the homogeneous perception that typically emanates from the vertical stack of building elements.
The basis of this project was to formally develop the building envelope so as to relate it cohesively with the mass, thus challenging over-assumed notions of fixed scalar transformations within mid-rise housing typologies: play either with the envelope as detached from the units, or with the units themselves. Ever since the time when neoclassical architecture was first built, the local code has “functionally” evolved so as to prevent any volumetric or ornamental projection beyond the construction line.
Our answer to this challenge is to express horizontal strata in a way that produces controlled effects of torsion locally, by turning parapets into horizontal slabs and lintels into eaves. Consequently, these articulations produce two kinds of consequent transitions: from mass to volume and from volume to surface. In doing so, maximum visual and physical distortion is generated with a minimum amount of formal means. As a whole, the torsion of the balconies furrows the building’s mass into projecting volumes. In addition, diagonal deviations peel off those volumes into horizontal surfaces towards the corner, therefore opening up views from the interior spaces of each apartment towards pedestrian activity in nearby shops and cafes. The fact that both facades produce the sequential evolution inversely makes the mass of the building both light or heavy depending on the vantage point.
To be mostly occupied by young couples and students, the project consists of 14 small individual units of 2 bedroom and 2 bathrooms each. The cast-in-place pre-stressed concrete structure of the project follows the typical arrangement of central core housing a main elevator and stair, and perimetric columns that connect to the core through a grid of beams and help support and stabilize the weight of the buildings.