Public housing in Madrid.

In Carabanchel, a suburb of Madrid, I recently took a look at some of the housing schemes there, some impressive, and some not. What struck me most however was how this area seemed so dead, like a ghost town. Much of its surrounding streets are slightly run down, but have shops and people walking around. As soon as you enter the collection of new apartment buildings however, the place was empty, and these vibrant and interesting buildings, probably designed to create an exciting new place to live, look forlorn, with no connection to the street.

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Bright buildings like these just seem to stand there, looking like they have been trying too hard to make the community more vibrant or alive, they look out of place in such a quite area.

The next photo is of a separate housing block, which also employed colour, but achieved a community vibe more successfully with its layout of a courtyard in the middle, with the balconies all facing in towards it. Seeing everybody else’s laundry hanging up must help make the building feel more relaxed and friendly to live in.Image

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My favourite apartment block which I found in Carabanchel was luckily feathered in COAM (Madrids centre of Architecture) which I visited a few days later so i have some more information about it than the others. Designed by Alejandro Zaera-Polo, this bamboo clad facade was built for €5200000! It was in my opinion the most successful scheme in the area. Modern and interesting, it was walled in with a heavy duty concrete wall, softened with wild foliage and flowers growing over it. The actual bamboo facade was made up of shutters, so that when closed, the building became a box with no openings or windows, but when people woke up, and opened their shutters, the building too awoke with them.

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Hotel Puerta America-Madrid

Recently I spent a few days in Madrid on a University field trip, and thought I’d share what I found to be the highlight, the Avant-Garde, luxurious to the extreme, Hotel Puerta America. On one of the last nights, six of us keen students decided to join our lecturers on this optional extra visit. It worked out for the better that most of the class didn’t join us, because the exclusivity of the Hotel surely would have burdened our attempts at seeing all of the private floors if there had been a large group.

Hotel Puerta Americas 12 floors are each designed separately by some of the worlds most famous Architects, resulting in an eclectic and surprising combination of designs. However, unless you are a guest at the Hotel, the lift will only open at the top floor, the bar, or the bottom, the lobby. So basically me and a friend Maria batted our eyes, and along with the rest of the group, blagged our way into seeing 9 of the 12 floors, we even managed to get into someones room! Its amazing what you get if you just ask!

Talking at length about every floor I saw would take too long, so here’s some photos and some quick thoughts of mine, enjoy!

Floor 2 -Norman Foster. In comparison to other floors, this design was a disappointment from such a famous name. It was basically a circular room with a sculpture in the centre!Image

Floor 6-Marc Newson. A shiny, dark, red plastic corridor with dim lighting. The first photo is taken without flash, the second with. Neither really show the effect very well!

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Floor 7-Ron Arad. A very womb-like, circular hub.

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Floor 8-Kathryn Findlay. A light, energetic space.

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Floor 10-Arata Isozaki. A japanese style interior

ImageFloor 11-Mariscal and Salas. In my opinion, a really tasteless floor!!

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Floor 12-Jean Nouvel. Another dark floor, which also seemed oriental.

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And I’ve saved the two absolute best for last:

Floor 1-Zaha Hadid. A futuristic, curvy, and intriguing place to be.

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Floor 4-Plasma Studio. A metallic, angular, completely imaginative floor.

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