Architecture studio gr-os, led by RIBA chartered architect Juan Gurrea Rumeu, has recently completed a six-unit apartment building in Barcelona, Spain, in collaboration with Joana Argerich of GAR Arquitectura.
The building is located in a semi-pedestrian square known as Plaza Herenni, or Plaza del Sol for most of the neighbours. The square lost its original name in the XIX century, when the village of Hostafrancs was merged with the city of Barcelona, though it has remained intact in the collective memory of the place.
The site occupies the south-west corner, halfway between the food market and the Park of Industrial Spain (formerly an important textile factory) and is a symbolic witness to the transformation of an old industrial neighbourhood.
A strong interest in the rich history of the district, followed by archive consultations and conversations with locals, contributed significantly to the conceptual development of the project.
A neighbour recalled how the beautiful glazed ceramic roof tiles of the market had been replaced by asbestos, a toxic material which still has a strong presence in the urban landscape of Barcelona, and specifically in our site as we found it.
The plasticity of both materials was combined to create the façade of the new building, made of glazed ceramic panels that reproduce the undulation of asbestos sheets. The new facade becomes an element that absorbs the context and interacts with it, changing its tone depending on the light, colours, and textures of the surroundings.
A granite plinth frames the access and helps ground the building in its direct context, paved with the same material.
From the beginning, great importance was given to the entrance hall and the public staircase, looking at the grand lobbies of the “Eixample”, Barcelona’s famous urban plan. The slight inclination of the first flight of steps reproduces a gesture repeated in early 20th century buildings and, at the same time, makes room for the vertical services. The staircase is developed in a sculptural manner and a large skylight at the top generates different scenes of natural light throughout the day. The communal areas are spacious and share materiality with the interior of the dwellings, reducing the barrier between public and private. On the rooftop, a large communal terrace is intended to encourage social interaction between neighbours.
The internal layout of the apartments is organised within a grid, generating flexible spaces which allow for the programme to be adapted to different needs and forms of living. By opening a large patio on one of the corners, all rooms benefit from sunlight and cross ventilation. Services and false ceilings occupy two axes of the grid, and the composite slab is exposed in bedrooms and living rooms, maximising floor to ceiling height and creating an industrial coffered ceiling.
The ventilated façade provides a high level of thermal insulation. In addition, a mechanical air renewal system and ASHP reduce energy consumption and increase comfort in the apartments.