RESIDENCE FOR PEOPLE WITH SEVERE PHYSICAL AND MENTAL DISABILITY IN MARINA DEL PRAT VERMELL, BARCELONA
Residence Esclat is located in the new Marina del Prat Vermell, a neighborhood under urban renewal transformation in Barcelona near the har- bor. The building, in front of a future park, completes a plot designated for public facilities. Centrally positioned in the neighborhood, the front of the residence has a lighter and more open façade and faces the future park with collective support spaces. The majority of the bedrooms face south to display the interior block’s more domestic face.
The main design strategies respond to the challenge of designing a home for residents with physical disabilities by matching the Esclat institu- tion’s requirements of maximum accessibility with the dimensional and geometric constraints of the narrow and small plot. Other criteria of the Esclat institution regarding adaptability, flexibility, individuality, and integrity to improve the quality of live of the residents drive the spatial config- uration of the project.
Mobility and accessibility are crucial in the configuration of the building. In this configuration, a vertical access core with a central ramp connects the different half-story levels in which the program of the building is distributed. These half levels alternate between spaces of individual use-–the dorms--and the spaces of collective use–living and dining rooms. In this way the collective areas are equally distributed to all users, and resi- dents only have to move half a floor up or down to enjoy these shared spaces.
The slabs with different levels and functions are separated by gaps, double spaces that become sources of light and color in the interior and are also apparent in the exterior facade. Through them we achieve visual connection and transversality between uses and levels and avoid rigid and closed spatial structures that cause isolation of the residents. Visually connecting private areas with collective ones invites residents to integrate in the community.
The collective areas are spatially continuous to avoid fixed physical barriers and to provide flexible use of space. Only two wooden boxes (the kitchenets) break the scale of the common area into a more domestic one.
The corridors leading to the rooms, avoiding the conventional image of a closed hallway (with doors and rooms side by side), are left open to the ramp and to the collective spaces, becoming themselves spaces for social exchange, with natural illumination and views to the exterior. The concept of threshold is also tested here. The portals of the rooms are paired to change the scale of the threshold and to avoid individual door reiteration. These portals give thickness to the transition between individual and collective space, also providing wardrobe space at the top and space for parking wheelchairs below, freeing space inside the rooms.
The ramp and the railing. The structure of the ramp also favors visual connectivity. Instead of having partitions or columns that interrupt the view, a metal pedal structure holds the suspended ramp flights to allow for cross-visual connection.
We synthesized the sequence of multiple railings by combining corridor and ramp railings into a single sloped plane, giving continuity to both elements and reinforcing the connection between individual and public areas. The railings made of deployé lattice (with different transparency regarding directionality of the stretch) overlap to become subtle veils.
To allow residents in wheelchairs visibility, windows are horizontal and set at 75 cm, the same height as the veiled surfaces of the railings.
In the interior, we search for a contrast between roughness and warmth in the materials by using concrete, metal, and wood. In the bedrooms, the combination of color with different window patterns makes the individual spaces unique. The association of reiterative elements and the combination of material and color are strategies that achieve personalization and individualization, making the facility feel like home, despite its large scale.
In the exterior, different volumes and appearances, separated by vertical surfaces of colored glass, distinguish different levels and activities. The volume of the dorms, with a less perforated ventilated stone façade, leans on the floor., while the volume of the activities area, lighter with its microwave metallic skin, seems to be lifted, like the containers in the nearby harbor.