SOMOS.arquitectos finishes the construction of 123 social housing units in PAU de Vallecas (Madrid), awarded with the first prize in 2006.

The project rises eight floors above the ground along one of the limits of the block imposed by the restrained urban planning. The great scale of the building forces it to act as a visual screen for the green area that stands aside, physically protecting it. The volume, specifically fixed according to the rigid city-planning rules that prevail within the scope of the PAU de Vallecas and the optimization of the space to obtain the highest amount of apartments asked by the developer, drove us to respect the enveloped volume determined in the planning, using other tools to give a new urban approach to the intervention. Thus, the façade remains as one of the most powerful instruments to manipulate the perceptive scale. As we will specify later, colors, sizes and displacements for the openings are regarded with attention. The ground floor is a delicate area, as it must deal with the street, separating car and pedestrian entrances. The apartments in this floor are oriented towards the so called green area and they have been raised two meters from street level in order to provide them with some extra isolation from the view of the possible passer-by. The official facade opens towards the hustle and bustle common of a commercial street with a four lane road running along. It gathers the commercial premises and the three accesses (parking in and out and pedestrian). Even though the number of apartments demanded two separated accesses, we decided to create a single welcome space which would be big enough to interact with the scale of the building. This hall area is completely open on both sides and its rectangular shape stablishes a dialogue with the free-form platforms of the mailbox area. Thus, the entrance is modulated by means of generous terrasses finished with vitreous mosaic, prepared for the installation of the mailboxes, which grow in height emphasizing the landing as a highly compressed space, where you’re almost able to touch the plastic semispheres. These transitions of scale are unified through a green ceiling completely illuminated with the so called network of protruding lights-skylight. 

The building poses reflections dealing with the scale reduction, bringing a friendly relation with the surroundings. The façade is splitted in small colored units that combined with each other are able to transmit a changing sensation, a dynamic chameleonlike skin. The volume crystallizes through open celled polycarbonate panels fixed over aluminum profiles, creating a sustainable and recyclable skin, whose properties will be identified later in detail. These panels use the gradation of tones and brightness with a substrate of neutral color determined by the outer shell of the facade, achieving the right combination of both materials in order to make the entire façade to vibrate, entering in resonance with that light so characteristic on the city of Madrid. Instead of the common window roll-up blind, we have designed specific shutters for the project. Three-hundred and sixty-nine openings fixed through six different types. They open outwards and fold until they rest perpendicular to the façade. They have been made in aluminium and finished with the same open celled polycarbonate panels used in the façade. They are designed as an integral solution, pre-assembled in factory, already arriving to the working site as a completely finished unit which comprises all necessary elements (framing, hinges, doors..) to settle it up within the façade, thus simplifying the layout on site. They have two possible positions which change the perception of the volume. Completely closed they seem to merge within a monolithic volume giving continuity to the vertical strips. Completely opened they are transformed into unequal colored fins giving the façade much more plasticity. The ground floor is enveloped by a dark grey metal skin which gives weight to the changing green volume. The building is topped by the penthouses finished in white which seem to blur with the clear skies.