Some projects just make you sit up straight in your chair, stop whatever else you were trying to do at the time, and pay close attention. This is exactly what happened when Adriana Hanna sent me an Instagram message a couple of weeks ago and said – “Not that you have any problems finding awesome content, but couldn’t help thinking this would be awesome to feature on Yellowtrace.”
My response? “Holy mother f*cking $hit! I’m on it. Thank you for the tip.” Crass and not elegant, sure. But I was excited. And being excited is basically never elegant (at least not the way I do it).
Anyway, enough about me. Let’s talk about this killer building already!
Designed by Barcelona-based MAIO Architects, this housing project aims to celebrate and embody everything the architects consider valuable from the traditional housing in Barcelona’s affluent Eixample district. Devised as a series of apartments without a hierarchy, 110 Rooms sees a distribution of equal (or almost equal) sized rooms traditionally seen in late 19-Century apartment blocks in the local area. A sense of formality is precisely what has allowed these grand old homes to continue to be relevant for decades without substantial architectural changes and modifications.
According to the architects, the building has been designed as a “system of 110 rooms which can be used as desired. Each apartment could be potentially expanded or reduced, adding or subtracting rooms, in order to accommodate future needs of its inhabitants. With that flexibility in mind, rooms are similar in size eliminating any type of spatial hierarchy and program predetermination.”
Each floor contains 20 rooms, with each one divided into four five-bedroom apartments. Rooms are connected in such a way the need for corridors was entirely eliminated. A kitchenette is placed in the middle of the plan, while all other rooms can be used as either bedrooms, living rooms, etc. This flexibility is further enhanced by positioning the bathrooms at the centre of the floorplan.
But for me, it’s the striking design of the ground floor that’s the main hero of this building. It makes a statement by referencing a popular design language of old Eixample’s halls, where, through furniture and large objects, spaces were organised for different uses. Instead of placing expected furniture pieces within the lobby, MAIO Architects devised oversized marble volumes placed in the middle of the large open space (it can literally rain in the middle of the lobby, making the space feel like an extension of the street). Bold use of geometric shapes, materials and colour creates a feeling that’s more akin to an art installation than a residential lobby.
In the meantime, the building façade responds to local vernacular compositions, mimicking the rhythm of the surrounding buildings with its vertical openings, balconies and timber shutters. This unassuming stucco façade, designed as a mere reproduction of the context, is the very reason the impact of the radical lobby design must feel all the more arresting in real life.
[Photography by José Hevia.]
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