Social housing, Madrid
Reality check: Vallecas Blue Housing
MADRID (ES) - In A10 #7, our British correspondent Jonathan Pile foreshadowed Peter Cook's design for a public housing project outside Madrid. Gonzalo Herrero Delicado and María José Marcos went to see what has become of Cook's utopian plans.
In 2005, the city council of Madrid proudly announced that the well-known British architect Peter Cook would design a new housing project, together with Spanish architects Salvador Pérez Arroyo and Oscar Rueda. The project, developed by the municipal construction company (EMVS), was to be built in the suburb of Vallecas. In those days, star architects were flocking to the Spanish capital to design big new public buildings as well as the state-subsidized housing projects that colonize the new suburbs. Among the many architects who appeared in the papers shaking hands with politicians and developers were MVRDV, Thomas Mayne, David Chipperfield, Paulo Mendes, Alvaro Siza, Wiel Arets and Arata Isozaki. Today, most of their projects are still at the planning stage, stored in the EMVS archives or halted mid-construction because of the financial crisis, waiting for uncertain public financial support.
As one of the founders of Archigram, Peter Cook is mostly famous for his ideas. However, his Madrid design – his third 'blue' building – has actually been built. The project is structured around four vertical access cores and three courtyards aligned along the plot. The facade was designed as a complex system of double-layered skin with a metallic mesh. Plants were to wrap the building, creating a play of shadows and accentuating the heterogeneous curvatures of the front. The metal frames around the windows were another highlight. The ground floor was intended to promote the continuity of the surrounding pedestrian pathways into the garden under the building.
Unsurprisingly, the built outcome is quite different from these initial ideas. Due to budget reductions, the facade has been transformed into a homogeneous mass with a regular pattern of windows that bear no relation to the sun-adjustable windows proposed by Cook. In reality, the bright blue double skin is a single layer of lifeless grey cladding. And as to the ground floor, what should have been a public space that allows a flow of pedestrian traffic through a green area has turned into private premises for businesses and other facilities for the neighbourhood.
The access corridors have permanent ventilation as they are outdoors. They should have been completed with greenery in order to create a sense of well-being for homecoming residents. But this atmospheric touch also fell victim to budget cuts. Indoors, the design allows for cross ventilation, as all apartments open to both the patio and the street. The patio has an irregular shape and all the patio facades have a different orientation on each level which prevents overlooking. The Spanish guard their privacy carefully and the architects' respect for this cultural aspect is really appreciated by the residents.
Saturday | 28 April | 2012 | Spain | Gonzalo Herrero Delicado & Maria José Marcos