132 Social Housing Block by Estudio Entresitio


Architectural photographer Roland Halbe has sent us his photographs of a social housing project in Madrid by Spanish office Estudio Entresitio.

Top and above photographs are by Roland Halbe

Called 132 Social Housing Block, the 22-storey building has two towers of different heights.

Above photograph is by Roland Halbe

It is clad in zinc tiles and windows are scattered across the surface so that the boundaries of individual dwellings are hidden from the outside.

Above photograph is by Roland Halbe

The block contains 132 one- and two-bedroom apartments and includes retail spaces on the ground floor.

The information that follows is from the architects:

132 Social Housing Block
Ensanche de Vallecas, lot 5.16.

This project is the result of a competition run by Madrid’s Municipal Housing Agency at the end of 2003. The philosophy of the competition was that each team would offer the best architecture solution that was able to imagine, subject to compliance with the "economic" parameters for the lot; maximum surface to be built and number of dwellings, and always considering that it is a social housing development.

It was the choice of the contestants to decide whether a "measured" solution that would meet the other urban planning conditions of floor occupation, alignments, heights, etc.., or if, as was our case, raised a proposal that needed further planning changes. Our winning proposal was a tower of 22 floors.

The project can be explained in many ways, but there is one to which we do not like to resign, that has to do with the floor plan's efficiency and the resolution of a given functional program such as housing. We deal with apartments “for rent” that are characterized by their small size, as they are, from sheltered housing, those most in line with the minimum dimensional regulations. The project builds a total of 132 one and two bedrooms housing units, for a net floor area of 9000 sqm plus 300 sqm of ground floor commercial use.

Above ground, the building occupies 70% of the limit set by the alignment of the façades, with a general setback to liberate more public space on the front sidewalk access and natural relief of ground floor commercial use. This setback can avoid the typical chamfers of the area planning and work with sharper volume geometry.

For a certain floor area, reducing the footprint of the building necessarily implies growing in height and in this case we propose a shaped volume with a profile proportions, lets say, uncommon. One might think of the building as an aggregation of a tower and a block by a central body, but we are more interested in the idea of a free development in height, where the balance between the parts and the whole is somewhat disturbing.

The floor plan solution is based on the geometric process of "double symmetry", as in the ambigrams, which are words or figures that can be read alike when rotated 180 degrees. This strategy works to blur the different parts as the order of each one is not clear and becomes associated with the order of the others. It also has to do with the fact that the building, as a free block, is perceived as a piece in which there is no distinction between front and rear or beginning and end, and responds similarly to both the access road as to the green zone that runs lengthwise on the other front.

Only in a clinical cut of this mixed development, we would begin to understand how diversity has ordered the program. Although all the apartments have 1 or 2 bedrooms, the smallest elements are set in height, and developed on one floor, while the duplex, as repetition of functionally undifferentiated units, occupy the longitudinal development of the plinth. The homes are not the result of an a priori subdivision of the plant but are solved interlaced both in plan and section. The duplex units are composed of two versatile rooms that cross section to enjoy both North and South directions. By having access by the first floor can respond to both, the characteristic use (planning) of housing or to tertiary application, commercial and offices at the first floor and hosting at any level above ground floor.

As indeed there are many ways of explaining a project, there is another one that deals with the urban character of the building, with the construction of the city and the need to, somehow, characterize new residential tissues, in this case of Madrid, that as many others lack of intention in its definition. In this sense the project works on several levels. The outer shell uses resources of non-differentiation and scale ambiguity. It is a skin of zinc scales set in horizontal bands that slide one over another with a slight offset, and in which voids are inserted with the intention of not making clear the floor levels. We propose a combinatorial system of recognizable types of housing windows which are placed at the best position from the inside of the rooms. On this support structure of unity and also of diversity, are added some projecting crates, that as free forms of distortion, introduce a slight vibration on the elevation.

The relationship between the concepts of "coexistence of scales" and "scaling ambiguity", what is big and what is small along with what is not revealed either as large or small, establishes the dialogue that occurs in other settings by the historic city and the successive developments that occur in it over the time. Somehow, duality becomes almost a search method, on the one hand we work with the intention that the city does not only speak of its buildings but the void that they generate, there is a well-defined function scheme in plan and no clear translation in the elevations, the condition of continuous wrapping is enhanced that, despite its lightweight material, contributes to the perception of the building as a solid, and we propose for construction of such a sharp and crisp volume, a scaled and not very smooth finish but certainly homogeneous. In this way we mix day-to-day and extraordinary, the regular domestic window that corresponds to a clear functional order with extraordinary placements, removing the composition and helping to understand the whole as a uniform mass.

There is also a third way of explaining the project that could be the titled as "architecture and technique”, which deals with the fitting of ideas to make them buildable. In developing the execution project and during the construction process occurs filtering of legislation, planning, budgeting, constructive feasibility and, above all, the real spatial translation of the topics raised. Thus, the zinc facade becomes the central argument not only for its physical implementation, but also as an energy efficiency strategy. We propose a low maintenance solution, ventilated, which facilitates the transpiration of the facade, protects the building from rainwater infiltration and prevents interstitial condensation. It involves the optimization of acoustic and thermal insulation of the building, which being located on the outside of the brick walls, avoids possible thermal bridges.

In the hot season, it produces a "chimney effect", the sun heats the air standing in the chamber, rising by convection and forcing fresh air to enter on the lower part of the façade, preventing the accumulation of heat in the inter layer space. In winter, however, solar radiation is not sufficient to produce the movements of air and ventilated facade acts as a heat accumulator to produce the opposite effect.

Project: 132 Public Housing Vallecas (Madrid), Lot 5.16
Location: Madrid, Spain
Client: EMVS, Empresa Municipal de Vivienda y Suelo - Municipal Agency for Housing
Dates: Competition - December 2003, Construction - October 2006 / October 2009
Architects: (estudio.entresitio) María Hurtado de Mendoza Wahrolén, César Jiménez de Tejada Benavides, José María Hurtado de Mendoza Wahrolén
Team: Carolina Leveroni, Stefan Vogt, Jorge Martínez, Laura Frutos, Pablo Sacristán, Filipe Minderico, Anne-Dorothée Herbort, Miguel Crespo y Alvar Ruiz
Structural Engineer: CYPE Ingenieros Estudios y Proyectos, s. a.
Mechanical Engineer: I+G. Pro, Clement y asociados, c. b.
Communications: Inprotel Comunicaciones, s. l.
Quantity Surveyors: Juan Carlos Corona Ruiz, David Gil Crespo, Santiago Hernán Martín
Construction Company: Assignia Infraestructuras
Images: Roland Halbe

Posted on Friday March 19th 2010 at 2:36 pm by . Copyright policy | Comments policy

  • kv

    imposing and depressing.

    reminds me of urban renewal projects on the eastern edge of manhattan.

  • Whaouhhh!!
    What a wonderful idea, and so ugly.
    Since the sixty we used to build this kind of building for social housing, and this, with the time, never work and create ghetto.

    I apologize but this is a ridicoulous project, just for nices windows, and no balcony, no way.

    Repeat again and again the same mistake, very stupid.

    Stop to live in your big house and create for other people, live in the real life dummy architects like them!!

    (hopfully, somes architects think in a better way)

  • PY

    To be demolished in 25 years, after it has turned into a getho ?

  • Mister mister


  • gira

    is there anybody that seriously would like to live there? in no sense better than the living blocks in eastern europe

  • TLS

    This is horrible! Spaniards should do themselves a favor and study all the public housing projects erected in the US during the 50’s and 60’s and then raised in the 80’s and 90’s because of there social ills.

  • KaptnK

    I’m sorry but it looks absolutely awful.

    First rule of social housing:
    Don’t make it look a prison.

    I can’t get past that no matter what floor plans are.

    Also, solar gain on a black cladding in spain? Through the roof surely…

  • Booh

    Those window boxes are supa cool. the black is a little cold and the massing is a little corbusian. but. Whatever. i still think its Cool.

  • Christa

    Wow. This looks really mean, but I like it.

  • Piper Maxwell

    interiors and materials are strong, pleasing to the eye, and well thought out. However, looking at the building proposal from the outside, the exterior does not look much different than the depressing, uniform social housing that I’ve encountered before. You know, the kind that makes imagine that those who live inside are stacked like a herd of cattle. If only the exterior look could be perfected, I’d feel more comfortable with the project.

  • AD NY

    This building is more about architecture then people. We still haven’t figured out how to design good social housing. This building looks very depressing. I really don’t like the color scheme of the project.

  • Bongout

    I thought ugly social housing was something best left in the 60s. I suppose this counts as retro? (though by no means chic)

  • Hayashi_Tori

    Why is it that social housing always and surely ends up looking like a typial banal boring slab block ? Is it due to the need to be seen as not being excessive ?

  • lex

    Funny, i saw this project 4 years ago on the bienale of venice.
    I still remember because i liked it, and i still do.
    this building is not screaming for attention like a lot contemporary buildings,
    but is very subtile and nice.

  • carmen rabbi-baldi

    Very, very good this publication………..!.

  • llama

    The text is a bit convoluted in places..and doesnt really talk about the social context of the project. And what was the thinking behind the name “132 Social Housing Block?” Is that what it’s going to say on the sign outside it’s entrance?

  • it could have been interesting to see some interiors pictures of the windows details.

  • DK

    Ohhh MAN this is just wrong…

  • Ze’ev

    two lifts? two staircases?
    OMG, are they mad?

  • Lady C

    First Thoughts….

    ….after a long hard day at a job I can barely stand, the kids needs feeding and the man’s long gone, would I want to drag myself to a place like this to rest my weary head?

    This place looks like ‘suicide towers’, definatly a place for the condemned and scorned.

    Then again, I could just be grateful to have been thought of and for a roof over my head.

  • Jay D

    Geez, that’s rather depressing.

  • birds on thr trees

    some interior pics can be found here http://issuu.com/entresitio/docs/libro_v20_mviv2

  • poster

    it can be depressing to live in there but at least it will certainly be better rather than living in any of the surrounding buildings, at least you will have 4 diferent window types at home so you won’t get bored, …you know…

  • antonius

    ‘won’t get bored because of different window types ‘?? mmhhh.

  • poster

    yes it is super cool having four different window types… you can have four different curtains and so on.

  • gab xiao

    That’s strong! I love the simple massing overlayed with the rich, subtle texture of the facade. The slate gray is really beautiful.

    Its elegance apparently carries on a whole aesthetics initiated by Wiel Arets a while ago. From now on I will love for good Estudio Entresitio!

  • jac_oli

    I completely love the proportions of this thing … So dramatic…
    It make me forget that it looks like a “death star’s” landscape from Star wars …

  • Jesse

    I think it looks clean. I like the contrast and minimal color.
    For those that don’t like it, maybe some hot pink flowers or lacey doily-type ornamentation would help you. :)

  • Jeroen

    We have had our own hand of these sort of social housing projects in Europe. A lot of them are up for demolition now. I really don’t like this building but sadly, it is quite representative for the urge to expand housing in Spain. It is however not the worst piece of architecture there, take a look at what they did to some beautiful coastal cities to get an idea. Nevertheless, that’s about the only positive thing I can come up with. I think star wars and public housing should never be mixed.

  • Jetwax

    If creating something that is reasonably economic to build and with design features for pragmatic running of the building, then as such it is a success. If however, it’s for “social housing”, then perhaps as others have stated, it could fail. For starters, it appears to be built for small family units. In a lot of cases, there are more than 3-5 to that unit, which creates stress within that 2BR domain. Further, where’s the “fun” for the inhabitants: balconies with earth elements (trees, flower beds) where the fostering of community spirit can be engendered? The challenge of a bike, walk trail round the building from top to bottom. Elements that challenge (with safety in mind) the residents of different age groups. If they’re built in to the design, they are more economic overall and people feel pride in their common domain. d;-)

  • Chi

    It reminds me of the film ‘Cube’. Ending up living in there would feel like a punishment.

  • Val

    @ TLS
    North americans should do themselves a favor and start studying about Spanish social problems and “Ghettos”. Maybe u would get surprised

  • Pretty cool, if you don’t mind living in a cube.

  • PeeWeen

    Brutalist & very cool