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Apartment block in Madrid, FRPO Rodriguez & Oriol, Photo: Imagen Subliminal (Miguel de Guzmán, Rocío Romero)

A city filter in fibre-reinforced concrete: Apartment block in Madrid

Calle Sebastián Elcano in Madrid is a treeless inner-city street close to Atocha railway station and the museum area around Museo de Arte Reina Sofia. In other words, it is a good residential location, yet for decades the road was lined with simple commercial buildings and workshops, since replaced by mainly residential buildings.

For the new building with the house number 14, Rodriguez & Oriol architects adopted a Janus-faced design strategy. Long rows of storey-high panels of glass-fibre reinforced concrete set apart by spandrel bands out of the same material Iend the street front a primarily grey appearance. On the upper storeys a number of the pre-cast concrete panels pivot on hinges, and being provided with large handles on the rear can serve as shutters for the windows aligned to them on the same grid. On the ground floor these concrete panels give way to painted metal panels with the same size of 90 x 220 cm, while two large apertures with bright yellow walls form more striking divergences from the overall design. One of the openings serves as a passage through to the garden space. The other, located at the first floor level, is to provide natural light to the underground garage, which at 1,380 square metres accounts for more space than the apartments above. As the front of the building faces not only to the north but also onto quite a busy roadway, and since street-side ground floor apartments are always difficult to let, the architects did away with ground level dwellings completely at the front. Rather, the two lower storeys are taken up by maisonette apartments aligned solely to the garden; living units oriented to both sides of the building do not start until the higher storeys.

The verdant garden complete with a swimming pool is the complete opposite to the streetspace, and here the block takes on a totally different countenance, with the southward-looking facade articulated by pale painted steel frames that act as mounts for vertical sunshades and balcony picket railings. Interior fittings and fixtures show that the block is no tenement building. Floors come in the form of polished cement screed, rooms are connected by floor-to-ceiling sliding doors and interior partitions were built in drywall construction. As usual, storage and sanitary rooms are located in the dark central zone of the apartments.

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Planner: Antonio Lorenzo, David Marcos, Pablo Urbano, Pablo Matilla, Grupo AXIOM

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