Public Housing in Carabanchel

A group of low-rise housing blocks in an area of new development of Madrid.

When the project was drawn up, the area was not even partially urbanized. This made it possible to treat the site with a degree of autonomy, erecting low-rise buildings (three-storey high) spread evenly over the entire area, unlike the high-rise developments nearby. This autonomy was taken as far as possible. Fences and railings define the outer perimeter, making a clear public-private divide, creating an area in which to locate the buildings.

The houses were to be small and low-rise. This fact, along with the requirement of combining different housing programs, led to unique design problems. The idea was to avoid the somewhat harsh architectural styles often associated with the suburbs, and substitute them with a more user-friendly architecture, more concerned with certain ideas of comfort and welfare. The architects did not want the blocks to be traditional boxes, but created shapes which present different facets as one moves around them. Special attention was paid to the lateral headwalls where the blocks meet, so that what might have been mere consequence -the gap between the blocks- could also be understood, paradoxically, as having originated the design.