Refurbishment of a 45 m2 apartment in Barcelona
This early 20th century apartment was composed of a series of dark, linked rooms that had accumulated elements and layers throughout the century. Underneath this historical confusion, we were able to find the defining original elements that enabled us to understand the past. The distribution of the original tiles indicated a hierarchy of use and an original fragmented distribution. Behind the late 20th century drywall ceilings we were able to retrieve the original geometries and rhythms of the Eixample brick vault and metal beam ceilings. We defined a strategy of transformation and recycling that would make the most of the existing historical elements, that would optimize natural light conditions and that would allow for flexible use of the domestic space.
Elements that were added chaotically throughout the last decades of the century were eliminated (1960´s floors, drywall partitions and ceilings from the 1980´s etc). A non “hygienic” cleansing operation retrieved original elements while leaving intact textures and geometries that indicated the historical evolution of the place. The structural elements (load bearing walls and metal beams) were consolidated, treated and exposed, in order to allow for subsequent control and maintenance and the original tiles were restored, polished and sealed.
Storage, kitchen and bathroom areas are concentrated close to the entrance, freeing up space for the living room, dining room and the bedrooms in areas of maximum natural light conditions and ensuring proper air flow and natural ventilation throughout the apartment. Different elements, geometries and textures were homogenised by applying a layer of white paint in order to maximize levels of natural light and create a cohesive environment.
The bathroom is contained within a built-in module. In order to optimize space, functions were merged and separated, the shower and toilet functioning as a single unit separated by translucid sliding doors from the area containing the sink. A soundproof skylight introduced above the shower draws in natural light from the nearby kitchen window.
A series of timber partitions allow the apartment to be constantly reconfigured. The screens provide a series of different arrangements, such as tranforming the apartment into a loft with circular circulation, an L shaped one bedroom apartment, or closing the main timber screen in order to create a two bedroom apartment capable of accomodating temporary uses (visits, etc). Materiality and chromatic considerations play a key part in determining the feel of a room. White sliding panels act as prolongations of the walls in order to close in both built-in additions at the extremes of the apartment (the bathroom insert and the main bedroom), whereas a more elaborate timber screen acts as a key element that changes the nature of the core space, that limits or expands living room space. Design serves to create flexible domestic space capable of adapting itself to changing lifestyle patterns.