The Barcelona Housing and Renovation Forum (FHAR), held until Thursday 21 at the MACBA, hosted a work-in-progress session to present six projects for new builds and renovations of public housing, which are being carried out in Barcelona. The projects were presented by their respective architects.
Juan Carles Melero, director of Technical Services at IMHAB, introduced those responsible for each of the projects presented. Melero explained that they are all public projects, with the exception of the Consegal project.
Ana Rigalt, of the Barcelona Housing Consortium, presented the different kinds of aid available for renovation that the Consortium grants to private projects. For 2019, the Consortium has approved a budget of five million euros in aid for the renovation of common elements, and there is also a call for interior renovations, endowed with one million euros, and a third call for high complexity buildings.
As a practical example of the application of such aid, Rigalt presented the Casa Consegal project, a modernist building in the neighbourhood of Sants undergoing a renovation of the façade and the interior. With the renovation aid, 50% of the total cost of the work has been financed, which costs 117,602 euros. Thanks to the renovation, the original pigments, handrails and other heritage elements of the building have been preserved.
The architect Eduard Simó presented the project, which was the winner of a renovation competition, for the work done on three buildings containing 42 flats at numbers 7, 9 and 11 of Carrer Lancaster. The winning team is a joint venture comprised of four teams. It is a large renovation project, as highlighted by Melero.
Simó explained that these are buildings with flats that are very old and deteriorated, which are in a “precarious situation” and are “the reflection of a social problem“. The project presented for the renovation of the Lancaster buildings is meant to be completed while the flats are occupied. The renovation aims to reorder the space, which is now very precarious, and recover the exterior galleries, among other actions.
Another of the projects presented was the new build to be completed in Antigua Quirón, which will create 86 public housing flats for the elderly, as well as a youth centre, a senior centre, and a neighborhood centre. In addition, there will be a pilot test of a shared unit, which is a space similar to a residence for seniors with dependency. It has 10 bedrooms as well as community spaces, with accompaniment 24 hours a day.
The Antiga Quirón project is a joint venture formed by two teams. Pau Bajet, a member of one of the two teams, explained that the space where the project will be carried out is being used by neighbours who already hold activities such as open-air cinema, and who have been demanding a community space in the neighbourhood for a long time. That is why the project includes the construction of several centres and community spaces, such as an auditorium and urban gardens. “The building is viewed as a large container of spaces, adapted to urban geography,” explained Bajet.
Architects Marta Peris and José Toral presented the winning proposal for the new build competition with a lot on Carrer Venezuela, in the district of Sant Martí. The lot is located in a passage, so one of the challenges was to try to find “a swelling towards the interior of the passage.” The solution, explained Toral, involves the creation of five courtyards that are built on different levels and a central atrium that guarantees more hours of sunlight in these homes.
The project also includes shared services such as the laundry room and an urban garden. In addition, a system has been devised that allows the central atrium of the building to be opened and closed according to whether it is summer or winter, and a an installation of fans is foreseen that will move the air to regulate the temperature inside the building. Marta Peris highlighted the solutions to promote energy efficiency that were applied to this project, and also how the space was designed to create community spaces in the future.
Newly built housing projects
Architects Jesús Arcos and Francisco Burgos presented the construction project of 32 newly built homes in block E of Torre Baró. The proposal considered the characteristics of the neighbourhood, as well as the environment and the steep slope of the land where the building will be constructed. This hill will help to structure the building and create a distribution that ensures sunlight will enter the homes. These flats will have two or three bedrooms.
The last project presented was the construction of 83 new homes on Carrer Ulldecona, in Marina Prat Vermell. Architect Jaime Coll explained that the motto of the project, ‘Plein soleil’, aims to evoke the luminous and hedonistic images of the Mediterranean, which is what they wanted to convey through these homes, where the sun will shine all day.
In this case, the layout of the building is divided into different blocks, aiming to take advantage of the wind and breeze in addition to the light, explained Coll.
Presentation of the ‘BCN-NYC Affordable Housing Challenge’ finalist projects
The FHAR was also the scene of the presentation of the ‘BCN-NYC Affordable Housing Challenge‘ finalist projects. In total, three projects were selected from 54 entries received from 17 countries.
The finalist projects are ElasticLiving, Everyday life Housing Networks and CAH-ATRI. These projects share an emphasis on flexibility, as proposed through modular construction systems; the creation of community spaces; and encouraging the involvement of citizens in their design.
The presentation of projects was attended by Anna Majó, Director of Digital Innovation of the Barcelona City Council and Eduard Cabré, Coordinator of International Relations of Barcelona Housing and Renovation Management.
The project ‘BCN – NYC Affordable Housing Challenge’ is a competition of ideas promoted by the municipal governments of Barcelona and New York to find innovative technologies and tools that will reduce the time and costs of construction and housing renovation.
Eduard Cabré explained, to contextualise the origins of ‘BCN-NYC Challenge’, that both Barcelona and New York are facing a similar housing problem, with limited public housing “and rent prices that don’t stop rising“. This is how the idea came about of asking the private sector “to propose solutions to the problem of accessibility.”
“We wanted to find other opportunities to reduce the cost of construction, with building solutions and management that helps make housing more affordable,” said Cabré, noting that special attention has been placed on “innovative solutions that are scalable and that would have a big impact on the cost of housing.”
The aim of the call is to gather proposals that help administrations apply innovative construction methods, use alternative and sustainable materials and implement new management systems to facilitate efficiency. In addition, the initiative promotes a cleaner and more sustainable industry. The proposals presented were evaluated by a committee composed of experts from Barcelona and New York, which included representatives of the social, private and academic sectors.
The winning project will be announced during the ‘Smart Cities New York’ congress, held in May 2019 in New York. The creators of the selected project will receive $25,000 to present their idea in Barcelona and New York, gaining the international recognition and visibility that this implies. Finally, the implementation of the proposed technology on a larger scale will be examined through a partnership with an affordable housing developer.
The three finalist projects
The first of the finalist projects presented is called ElasticLiving. The project proposes the reuse of housing space through a modular system that can be adapted according to the needs of each person at each moment. The project considers the space factor, but also the time we spend on different activities (cooking, resting, etc.), as explained by one of its promoters, Angelo Roventa.
To plan this project, its promoters researched the needs of people looking for a flat in Austria, Germany and Switzerland. “We saw that the most sought-after flats were for one or two people“.
Based on that, they found that the flats they occupy are between 50 and 60 square meters, and they determined that this space could be optimised if it was made more flexible and adaptable to the needs of each moment. “When we are alone we create a space, and if we have visitors we need more space,” said Roventa to explain the idea behind his project.
“It’s about creating a new flexible distribution to save costs with units that can be customised to the dimensions of the lot,” added Rafael Gómez, a member of the same team. Finally, Ignaz Furger said that this project reduces construction time by 50%, improves spatial efficiency, and is a scalable solution.
2. Everyday life Housing Networks
The second finalist project was developed by Col·lectiu Punt 6, a cooperative of architects that promotes architecture with a gender perspective. Their proposal was based on a residential network that “aims to put people’s lives at the centre” by creating a series “of hard and soft infrastructure that highlight the reproductive and care tasks that, until now, have been mainly carried out by women,” explained Roser Casanovas.
“Applying a feminist perspective, we created a housing network that implies people living in modules where they can share community tasks and care, which also reduces costs and makes housing more affordable,” said Casanovas. “The project also contributes to the democratisation of housing policies,” she added.
The project aims to generate a residential network with shared community services, such as a laundry room, a communal kitchen and meeting spaces. This network should extend “beyond the building and into the neighbourhood.” According to the architect, the network will have hard infrastructure such as spaces for young people, a shared kitchen and a food cooperative, and soft infrastructure, such as a school bus, laundry and food delivery services.
The third project presented was the result of the sum of two similar projects developed by two different teams from Barcelona and Medellin. Both projects are based on the idea of reusing existing spaces in cities where there is room to build housing and to do so with flexible modules, that allow future residents to take part in the design.
As explained by Jaime Sarmiento, the idea came through observing that both Barcelona and New York have very limited space for development, but that at the same time, there are already existing spaces and buildings with space available to build; for example, on top of bridges or railway structures, as would be the case of the Fontana metro station in Barcelona.
“The idea is to fill those empty spaces,” he added, with prefabricated modules made of recycled materials, which could come assembled from the factory or be assembled on-site, and where future residents could participate in both design and assembly.
“To create affordable housing, you have to think about how people live, and that’s why you also have to involve people in designing their own home,” added Paula Cobeaga, another member of the project team. According to Cobeaga, “the communities of neighbours live better if they have shared spaces such as kitchens, patios, laundry rooms and gardens, and if they participate in the construction phase.”
Expanding the impact of social and environmental policies
During the presentation of the BCN-NYC Challenge finalists, the work carried out by ILab was also presented, which is a technological innovation tool of the Barcelona City Council. It aims to expand the impact of social and environmental policies through public purchasing.
“As a city council, we want to create a better city to live in, but also to change the internal culture of administrations by searching for new ways of doing things,” explained Anna Majó. In this sense, she pointed out the importance of public provisioning “as the main tool for doing things.” Another function of ILab is to promote the growth of companies.