SOMOS.arquitectos finishes the construction of 35 social housing units in PAU de Vallecas (Madrid), awarded with the first prize in 2004.

From the first moment we saw ourselves forced to MAINTAIN the VOLUME of the block, since the urban plan had already fixed it in order to establish a dialogue with neighboring buildings that at that time were unbuilt. Our intuition asked to us to reshape the marked volume, especially in the corner, BREAKING IT UP to create an irregular profile in both sides of the plot. The urban fabric of Vallecas follows the typical squared block grid comprising residential units, public facilities and green zones, all tied up by roads. This type of urban fabric falls into monotony: similar built masses, without hardly any variation in their four sides, without remarkable differences between blocks. 

Volume fragmentation gives us the chance to develop buildings with enough identity to be recognizable and absorbed in the city’s memory, and to provide visual richness for pedestrian routes. In our case, a first step to fragmentation is given: the plot is a QUARTER of the original block. We decide to continue with this operation dividing the volume in two HALVES held in tension through a void. We characterize the urban IMAGE through the interplay of space and volume, we establish a dialogue with the neighboring buildings through the VIRTUAL VOLUME (previously defined by the height and width scheduled in the urban plan), composed by means of the void which has been incorporated in the overall composition, improving sun exposure and ventilation. Thanks to the great access space which leads into the patio, we make the block PERMEABLE at the spot where public space demands it most (green area in front of the building), at the same time solving the CHAMFER fixed in the urban plan: the sidewalk is integrated and extended under the great overhang. Translucent polycarbonate panels give shape to a homogenous façade that helps to understand the volumes in an abstract way. 

Thanks to the great access space reaching the inner court, the block is made permeable right at the place where the closest public relationship is needed (green zone in front of the building). This transparency of the ground floor benefits the users, the pedestrian and the city since it proposes more dynamic routes with greater visual richness and connections. Two single communications cores are used in order to save money, grouping apartments on both sides of the corner. The chamfer that usually characterizes the corners of these new developing residential areas is abolished and this detail is replaced with a much bigger sheltered entrance space given to the city, to which the commercial premises opens up, in a privileged position facing the future green area. The program of storage rooms and parking places uses all available plot area, thus being solved in a single underground floor, avoiding further excavation. 

The facade is solved by means of a system of translucent polycarbonate panels. We look forward to use innovating, power efficient and 100% recyclable solutions that until this point had not been applied in social housing apartments. We started to design a ventilated façade but the client finally dropped down this decision and we were forced to use a conventional facade on which we fix a skin formed by modular translucent polycarbonate pieces, each one of them measuring 60 cm in width and 315cm of height. The air chamber thus formed between the two layers offers ventilation and improves sound and heat insulation. This material also allows us to solve a double reading. From the far distance (urban scale) it is perceived like a continuous coating, a homogenous envelope that helps to understand the two volumes in a more abstract way. A slight change in the global tone differentiates a volume from the other. But from a closer point of view (human scale), the existing modulation (the joints) acquires presence, helping to remember the true scale of each apartment unit.