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La volteta del Carmen

December-2019 - September-2020

Milena Villalba. Photographer

A very long corridor giving access to three bedrooms, one for the parents, two for each of their children, a large and comfortable bathroom and a small toilet that is used when the other bathroom is occupied. A closed kitchen is also attached to the corridor so that the smell of stew does not reach the rest of the rooms, a living room where you can eat daily and a large dining room to receive guests.

Standard distribution of the 70s. Based on a strict compartmentalization with which current users are not comfortable because they don’t find the feeling of being at home. They have the impression of living in a gloomy labyrinth that is uninspiring to spend time in, so they continually look for excuses to be outdoors.

Both Maria and Thomas convey to us their feeling of pigeonholing with a pre-established type of life, and they do not want a distribution for that type of life at all, neither for the one they lead now nor for the one they will lead ten years from now. They need an apartment in which many types of life fit: receive friends, host family, be able to study, be able to work, be able to play,… All this with the constraint of demolishing and building as little as possible.

Our task as architects begins with the revision of the inherited hierarchy. We had to update and modify the established structure to stimulate the interest of the users and shorten the distance between the new layout and their way of living.

In the first place, we did the exercise of disassociating the spaces from their mere functions: transit, reception, living. We wanted to get a spatial framework without hierarchies, without instructions for use and, above all, without an expiration date. Secondly, in order to be minimalist in the intervention, we will carry out a study of the necessary fractures to be carried out in the partitions to shorten or even cancel the corridor from which we started while creating new circulation paths for users and natural lighting.

The strategy consisted in the partially removing the kitchen partition, controlling the new openings in the existing partition and creating a cubicle that does not reach the ceiling in the central area.

With these modest actions we achieve a grid of concatenated spaces, a faded corridor, multiple circulations, infinite visuals and light inputs that reach all corners of the house. A non-hierarchy in which users can use the spaces at their own pleasure.

The volume centrally located is the fundamental piece of the project, because not only hosts the washing machine, pantry, cookbooks, cleaning products, ironing kit, microwave, and part of the kitchen, also, has the function of distributing the rooms. Sometimes even works as the extension of these rooms. The fact that it does not reach the ceiling is also important since it allows a connection and visual understanding of the new organization. It is what gives the project its name, “la volteta”.

“La volteta”, is, at the same time, surrounded by cabinets and shelves, an equipped corridor that strengthens the idea of blurring its limits.

The kitchen is the core of the house. Thomas tells us that he doesn’t spend too much time cooking, however, locating the kitchen next to “la volteta” means that this space is not a mere server space, but rather the main meeting point. Such is the assembling capacity of this point that it welcomes the visitors from the entrance and keeps its view from every point of the public area of the house. This allows the person cooking feel always accompanied.

A single bathroom resolved with three entities that can be added and coordinated using sliding doors. This strategy allows to relate, uniting or separating the three environments. Thus, users have the famous en-suite bathroom and the essential guest toilet. At the same time, the space has a storage area for dirty clothes and a dressing room. A single bathroom can be used by four people at the same time.

The existing materials and the means of construction are not the best quality, even so, we do not want this remodel to prevail over the original, for which reason a subtle intervention is proposed so that it becomes confused with the existing one.

We maintain the existing terrazzo, and we patch with a new one the areas where there was ceramic and the cracks resulting from the removal of partitions. A light terrazzo that helps to provide lighting and remove the gloomy character that clients complained about so much.

We deliver personality to the intervention with a glossy green wall tile that resolves the volume of the shower, the tray that welcomes people when enter the house and an area of the new bench in the living room. Same coating in three zones that helps to find the balance between the inherited material and the new one introduced.

There is an important carpentry work, in which every detail will be taken care of in order to both, give quality to the apartment and contribute to the understanding of the multiple functions of the house.

La volteta del Carmen