Built to a rectangular floor plan, the project is based on the traditional archetype of the home built around a central courtyard, but goes beyond this scheme to multiply its benefits. The concepts characterising this residential model, such as visual openness, natural ventilation, privacy and creation of a microcosm favouring interpersonal relations can lose their efficacy when the scale of the building is increased: a limit which it is difficult to foresee. The architects found themselves having to seek out this limit on proportions, creating a combination of residential blocks which could be put together and which created empty architectural volumes that give the whole complex room to breathe. The formal effect is that of an open weave in which people can see out from inside and vice versa, doing away with the side effect of isolation which is one of the risks when the courtyard model is taken too far.
These empty volumes were then interpreted as small plazas which may be shared by more than one apartment, places of transit and relationships in which the benefit of openness to the world outside is underlined with balconies and walkways facing onto it.
The result is a facade design in which the marked horizontality of the floors, underlined by white floor slabs, is interrupted by two weaves: the larger weave of the windows with balconies running along the floor and the tighter weave formed by the windows running the full height of the storey. The transparency of the slender white-painted railings, the glass parapets at the windows and the round openings decorating the top floor plazas with light reveal the project’s mission. And despite the massive, solid bare cement, proudly emphasised with a glossy finish, it is possible to see beyond, so that the building does not become a barrier.
And so we may conclude that large size is important in relation to small size, and that constant dialogue between the two celebrates the composition and balance of the project.
by Mara Corradi
Design: MVRDV (Winy Maas, Jacob van Rijs, Nathalie de Vries with Sandor Naus, Ignacio Borrego, Gijs Rikken, Patricia Mata, Belen Butragueno, Stefan de Koning and Franziska Meisel)
Project partner: Blanca Lleo asociados (Camilo Garcia, Miguel Tejada, Constanza Temboury, Diego Simon, Raquel Martinez, Florian Jenewein, Marjolijn Gudemond, Fabien Mazenc, Nestor Montenegro)
Client: EMV, Ayuntamiento de Madrid
Location: Sanchinarro, Madrid, Spain
Structural design: Estudio Jose Luis de Miguel
Gross useful surface area: 21,550 m2
Project dates: 2001-2009
Completion of work: 2009
Builder: BEGAR, Madrid ES
Reflective polyurethane material covering the facades
No. of apartments: 146
Parking spots: 165
Units for retail sale: blocks of 6
Photographs: Ricardo Espinosa