La Carboneria (Casa Tarrago)

La Carbonería, a humble 1860’s collective housing estate in Barcelona, is the oldest building of the seminal Cerda’s Eixample neighborhood, easy to identify by its iconic square urban grid. The Eixample, home to most of Gaudi’s works, is the XIXth century enlargement that paved the city’s way to an urban and architectural success that lasts up until today.

In the pursuit of sustainability, the revaluation of history as well as past social and political conflict had as much impact on the material qualities and performance of our design as the energy simulations we did with our sustainability expert. 

The original stairwell of the building had been demolished by its previous owner following the eviction in 2014 of the squatters that had occupied it since 2008. Also, the Town Hall had catalogued the building recently, and, with this protection, it also imposed the obligation to recover the facade that was supposed to look to the never-built ghost boulevard, which however faced now two party walls meeting at a 90º angle barely ten meters away at its further point. 

Placing the stairwell and elevator in this furthest corner allowed us to unite the desires and needs of the different actors in the process in a more valuable and sustainable solution for all: The facade that explained Barcelona’s enlargement project and its history has been made available for view from the stairwell and walkways and have become part of the local daily life; the small patio is now a tridimensional public space for the neighbours, a more interesting view from their larger windows than the original party walls; and one more apartment could fit in the space vacated by the old stairwell, which helped justify the more complex solution plus it has increasead a much needed housing density in this desirable area of the city. 

Greenpeace Spain Offices

Greenpeace Spain transfers its headquarters to an old warehouse with hardly any light or natural ventilation. The redesign project will have a decisive impact on the ability of Greenpeace to offer a workspace that responds to the philosophy, expectations and objectives of the organization. In some way, Greenpeace has to transfer to the street Valores 1 not only its headquarters and its workers, but its aspirations.

The lack of light in the space does not depend solely on its semi-buried position. The biggest problem is because their facades are very far from each other. The space is very regular, which gives it some flexibility, but too wide and deep. Likewise, despite being an old warehouse, it does not have overhead light, as is the case in most industrial warehouses, originally dedicated to this use. For all this, the space does not seem suitable to us to host, without changes, a contemporary workspace.

It is impossible to incorporate light and ventilation in a “natural” way, through facades or roofs, since the partial rental model of a property, as is the case, does not allow substantial changes in its shape, arrangement or structure. We therefore think that we must incorporate light, air, nature in a somewhat more artificial way, making the most of the signs and facilities provided by the preexistence.

We propose to introduce a “street” inside the space, following the direction of the main entrance. This street will not only distribute people, but also light, air, energy, vegetation and, in general, all the systems that build and condition the space. In some ways it is as if the Greenpeace workers are introducing, with their insistence and will, a glimpse of nature through the entrance.

We propose to reuse all the existing fluorescence luminaries, concentrating them nevertheless on the ceiling of this interior street, in such a way that they illuminate an interior garden. The air is pushed through a fabric duct located on the ceiling of this street, while the extraction is carried out through the northern and southern walls of the premises. The blown air is cleaned as it passes through the interior vegetation, before it is filtered into the work and meeting spaces. In summer, a more humid environment will be in this street, which, in a dry climate like Madrid, helps to lower the temperature by evaporation. In winter, heat accumulated due to the energy produced by outside insolation, interior lighting and heat sources such as computers and kitchens, will take time to dissipate thanks to the few facades and windows, as well as an intelligent use of thermal insulation.

Urban Space Station

A prototype for the general invasion of rooftops and other residual spaces with high biodiversity, redemptive ecosystems, USS-s serve as seeds, catalyzing a natural recuperation of the city’s surfaces. Their uses range from scientific and educative to recreational, while they capture carbon emissions and generate oxygen. ETFE’s double skin allows for the structure to be lightweight and creates a heat exchange. Rainwater accumulates in underbelly bags, while the texture design of the structure itself helps channel the airflow to generate electricity. Secondary use as ultra-fine particulate collector has demonstrated capable of passively cleaning street-level air near host buildings. A 40% of this prototype (USS 1.0)  was built and tested within the exhibition Souls & Machines, Digital Art & New Media, held in 2008, at the National Art Museum Reina Sofía in Madrid. In 2016, a 1:1 prototype was built for the Art Triennial Emscherkunst. Placed on top of an existent building, docked onto the air conditioning of the surrounding buildings, it created a cleaning circulation; the building’s waste air and warmth were filtered by the USSs plants, cleaned, and enriched with oxygen before it was led back into the building.


Greenpeace Relocation

In 2016, Greenpeace Spain plans to move its offices, until then located in a rented first floor in a block on Calle San Bernardo, in Madrid. Greenpeace asked us to carry out a feasibility study to decide between the different options they were considering. After a detailed analysis of the different possibilities, we opted for a disused industrial warehouse, located in Calle Salamanca, for which we carried out different simulations of occupation, organization and operation.


Factoria Cultural Madrid

Factoría Cultural is the adaptation of a hall in Matadero Madrid to house an incubator of creative industries start-ups. We used very few, cheap, and easy to install materials, and we tried to achieve with them as many different and distinct work areas as possible, adapted to different needs. Three volumes near the entrance organize the space, folding and compressing the circulations around it. This creates a gradient, from compact to expansive, from busy to silent, that helps achieve variety in workspaces. In a little less than one month we built a reversible, vacuum-packed, 105-eur/m2 work, adaptable to the multitude of situations the client asked for.

To house the needed 120 workspaces in a 399 sq. m. floor area (that needed to be further reduced to 340 sq. m. in order to maintain a public pass-through) was impossible, unless we found more space using the height of the hall. This created additional problems since there was not enough money to achieve the construction of a second floor by traditional means. We decided to use very simple building systems: the cheapest local pine lumber, all in the same standard size, which simplified the supply and construction of the structure, and multi-wall polycarbonate, very lightweight and in large sheets, which allowed for the walls to be finished in just one day. We were able to achieve 85 more sq.m and crucially to split functions in two levels, which allows for more flexibility in use that the client is now making very good use of.


Civil Registry of Madrid

There is probably no other building with as much pressure from visitors throughout the Campus of Justice as the Civil Registry. The huge flow of users to the Registry makes natural to perceive it as a continuation of the public space of the Campus. It is difficult to understand the Civil Registry as a building of ordinary offices when, unlike the others buildings located on the Campus, most of its surface is for public access. We decided that the Archive of the Civil Registry, by its importance and size, should become the structuring element and the server of the rest of the space, instead of a mere basement. Circulations become clearer and more efficient if public access occurs closer to the center of gravity. The typical offices building, with its repeated slabs and partitions is a riddle for the large number of visitors that require its use. On the contrary, the Archive, manipulated and raised, can serve as a large structural floor at the scale of the Campus public space, simplifying the structure of the building. The façade surface of the building becomes a third smaller than expected, which leads to savings in construction and energy consumption. The building closes to prepare and use a part of the park: it is almost as if the citizen did their paperwork in the Retiro park. The skin is made by a double layer of ETFE cushions, with a heat exchange chamber inside and programmable solar control devices. The continuation of the park and the public space of the Campus inside the building creates an ideal winter garden for the celebration of weddings. They will have an accidental enthusiast audience as they wait to resolve their own issues.