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.
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.
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.