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Apartment building in Carabanchel, Madrid

March 8, 2010

Just got this from Wallpaper* (a magazine I strongly recommend everyone to subscribe to).

It takes a certain amount of chutzpah to pull off a truly colourful building. One of the sorry legacies of modernism’s largely sterile palette was the post-modernists’ sudden lurch into jarring colour, splashed superficially over façades with little sense of creative composition. Colour application is also the foremost strategy of regeneration – witness HawkinsBrown’s scheme for the rebirth of Sheffield’s Park Hill flats.

Actually integrating colour into form is another matter entirely and still very much a minority pursuit. To date, it’s only firms like Sauerbruch Hutton and Mansilla Tunon who have made a motif out of colour-as-form. Firmly located in this contemporary movement is this new apartment building in the Madrid suburb of Carabanchel by Amann_Canovas_Maruri Architects. With a façade that explodes in a riot of primaries, the new apartments, are an unabashed celebration of colour, made possible by a deceptively simple structure.

The new five-storey building fuses fizzing façades with a generous dose of public space, thanks to the architects’ innovative approach to the slab construction. Rather than express the vertical structural supports, the apartments are read as a series of colour-coded horizontal elements, with the thin floor slabs forming a grey dividing line, like musical staves. Views through the structure create a mix of public and private external space, while the central courtyard has been landscaped as a communal garden.

The architects refer to the configuration of each unit as a ‘house with a yard’. The various units, including two, three and four-bed flats, are simply planned, with a galley kitchen, sitting/dining area and narrow, bunk-like bedrooms. The coloured façade includes folding shutters to keep out the heat and prying eyes. From the street, however, the passer-by gets a polychromatic feast, while the residents have the added bonus of a private interior landscape to enjoy.

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