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Monday, February 18, 2008

34 Apartments

34 Apartments in Cambrils, Spain by Guallart Architects

One of the projects feature in this week's book review, Patent Constructions -- a book that presents buildings and landscapes in Catalonia per their innovative architectural elements or products -- is this pair of building with 34 apartments in the coastal town of Cambrils. The square buildings designed by Guallart Architects are intended to take advantage of the project's proximity to the sea.

Given the linear site's parallel relationship to the shore, one's immediate response might be a linear building giving each unit frontal views of the water, rather than square buildings with geometrically less "frontage." But the architects' decision works in a few ways: the space between the buildings is more usable than if a linear building landed on the site, internal courtyards bring additional light to units, and the units are laid out so each unit has living spaces with views of the sea.

Additionally, the wraparound terraces give each unit generous outdoor space, in effect extending their homes towards the water. It's in these terraces that the appearance of the building becomes important, and the architects responded by making the glass guardrails a canvas of pixelated colors extending around each building. The elevations indicate an orientation to the colors: stronger reds facing the shared open space with more subdued yellows and blues facing the water.

The overall effect is an building more successful from the inside than the outside; the view through the colored glass is appears more interesting than the view towards the colored squares. The liveliness of the facade is undeniable, but the skill in its handling is questionable. In this sense, the view from the apartment is less active than the overall facade. Ultimately it's the way the outside is colored by the panels that makes living inside the more appealing alternative.

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