by Sunena V MajuJan 11, 2023
What began in 2015, transformed a horizontal development into a vertical housing project over the course of six years. Reimagining social housing, the project entailed the demolition of 784 Casa Baratas built in 1929 and redefining the concept of 'cheap houses' in the Bon Pastor estate, by converting them into a multi-storey housing project. With its single-storey houses, high-density development, and streets that run through, Casas Baratas emitted a sense of community living, giving the district an atmosphere of a village within the city, with life bursting onto the streets. Preserving this lifestyle of the area, Peris+Toral Arquitectes planned dwellings that, even when functioning vertically, could reflect the same notions of life. The project by the Spanish architects of Peris+Toral Arquitectes in Barcelona, Spain, housed the occupants of these Casas Baratas in a five-storey building with 54 social dwellings. The primary intent was to create the building to be as permeable as possible. Addressing that—circulation, communication, and public areas became integral factors in the building design. Resting near the Besòs river, the development took place in close proximity to the riverfront, separated by a park between them. While transforming the architecture from single-storey to multi-storey, the unobstructed view of the river was an added advantage.
While the 8085 sqm housing takes into consideration the need for public spaces, it also needed to address privacy, where communal space and home could co-exist while maintaining individual identities. In response to it, at the ground floor level, the terraces overlooking the park are spread with the car parking’s ventilation shafts, creating a filter that differentiates public and private spaces. Leaving the possibility to be adaptive and flexible for multiple functions, the car parking space is designed with natural ventilation and light, with the adjacent courtyards facing the street. These communal courtyards at the entrance, present the first glimpse of the building and lead to the foyers.
A unique approach guides the circulation of each dwelling, with the placement of the bathroom at the centre of the plan. Rationalising the decision, the architects state, "that makes the apartment seem bigger, as they are infinite circuits." Furthermore, the layout also presents the possibility for cross-ventilation and connection between the two facades. "These loops of circulation are created not just around the bathroom, but also through the bedrooms by means of a terrace that continues its route through the apartment, minimising self-contained spaces and following the outline of the apartment without interruption,” the architects add. The balcony space provides the inhabitants with an area to visually connect with the outdoors. To provide sun shading, the balcony system uses a metal structure that becomes a mesh to support plants and create a natural screen. On the first floor, spacious terraces of 12 sqm are planned, to act as outdoor rooms overlooking a new park at the riverfront.
Providing housing with an interesting identity, in its context, is the facade design. Along the lines of merging contextual familiarity and contemporary design, lattices become a visual element. Giving the building a porous texture and naturally ventilating the spaces, the lattices take shape in the material selection of exposed brickwork, a material specified during planning. The placement of the stairs' lattice, further aids the building’s vertical communication. In the Spanish architects' attempt to create a new narrative for social housing in Barcelona, these dwellings bring forth a novel concept where communal living—mostly associated with its connection to streets—is achieved in vertical development. The project was shortlisted for the FAD Award for Architecture 2022 and received a special mention at the HISPALYT Architecture Awards 2022.