Circular pine wall creates rooms in vaulted basement home by Raúl Sánchez

Architect Raúl Sánchez has converted the vaulted basement of a Barcelona house into a subterranean apartment, with rooms separated by a curving pine partition (+ slideshow).

Apartment Tibbaut by Raul Sanchez

A stone and pine staircase leads down into the small space below the house, which is located in the La Barceloneta neighbourhood, a finger of land that stretches out from the Spanish city into the Mediterranean Sea.

Apartment Tibbaut by Raul Sanchez

Local architect Raúl Sánchez, who founded RAS Arquitectura in 2005, remodelled the 55-square-metre space – now known as Apartment Tibbaut – by using the curving pine partition to separate a central living space from more private rooms around the perimeter.

Apartment Tibbaut by Raul Sanchez

Layers of peeling paintwork were stripped from a pair of octagonal columns that support the canted ceiling, revealing the original stone surfaces, while the ceilings and walls were resealed with waterproof mortar to offer protection from damp.

Apartment Tibbaut by Raul Sanchez

"The interior of the simply built, very small structure had a real monumental look, presided over by two octagonal stone pillars from which domes and vaults rise to cover the space and bear the weight of the upper floors," said Sánchez.

Apartment Tibbaut by Raul Sanchez

"The client had requested the creation of an open-floor space. However, this monumentality, coupled with the shortage of natural light and view to the outdoors, led to another proposal," he added.

"The single-space concept could be maintained but with greater spatial complexity, by overlapping and intersecting two living spaces: a central, common, multipurpose space and a perimeter of small designated-use rooms."

Apartment Tibbaut by Raul Sanchez

Curving panels of laminated pine create the partition that curls around the central living area and separates each of the rooms. These sections of wall stop short of the vaulted ceiling, revealing snippets of the original architecture above.

Apartment Tibbaut by Raul Sanchez

A glass door opens at street level onto the old flight of stone steps. These stretch down to meet a new flight of hollow timber stairs, which can also be used as a bookcase.

Apartment Tibbaut by Raul Sanchez

The glazed entrance lights the central living space and the gap above the timber walls allows natural light to filter though to the bedroom, shower room and a small study located around the edges.

Apartment Tibbaut by Raul Sanchez

"From the ground level, up to the level marked by where the domes begin, the view is partially interrupted by partitions, creating an anticipation of what lies beyond on the other side, and giving contour to the inner world," said the architect.

Apartment Tibbaut by Raul Sanchez

Sliding doors recede into slots in the wooden partitions to segregate or unify the spaces, while the toilet is wedged under the upper portion of the staircase and is the only completely enclosed room.


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The property's seaside location and subterranean setting means there are few natural light sources and the high humidity levels demanded significant damp-proofing work to be undertaken to make the space habitable.

Apartment Tibbaut by Raul Sanchez

The floor was raised to accommodate under-floor heating and coated with a layer of white microcement, while the walls were resurfaced with waterproof mortar to prevent damp from seeping through. A dehumidifier funnels excess moisture from the air.

Apartment Tibbaut by Raul Sanchez

The limited palette of white plasterwork and pale wood was deployed to help reflect light and to leave the decor open to the client's interpretation.

Apartment Tibbaut by Raul Sanchez

"The laminated pine dividing walls highlight the items in the centre of the space, while contrasting with the white surfaces of the existing walls," said Sánchez.

"This is the serene canvas against which future users will splash the colours and textures of their furnishings and belongings."

Apartment Tibbaut by Raul Sanchez

"When we removed the worksite floodlights in early summer we found that natural light filled the space and bounced on the walls nicely, creating a very pleasant and comfortable humidity-free space which seemed much bigger than its meagre 55 square metres," he added.

Photography is by Jose Hevia.


Project credits:

Architecture: RAS Arquitectura
Engineering: Mares Ingenieros
Structure: Sustenta
Interiors: RAS Arquitectura and Diana Tibbaut

Apartment Tibbaut by Raul Sanchez
Floor plan – click for larger image
Apartment Tibbaut by Raul Sanchez
Section one – click for larger image
Apartment Tibbaut by Raul Sanchez
Section two – click for larger image