Building Communities


Trip to Barcelona and Vallcarca, FS20

Visits of Housing Projects in Zurich, FS20

Visits of Housing Projects in Zurich, 20th November 2019

After the 2nd Mid Term Crit, the Studio went on a one-day-trip to visit different housing projects in Zurich. This was a great opportunity to discover some interesting examples of housing buildings and other forms of living, but also an additional source of inspiration for the housing projects of the Studio. The focus was laid on projects which are exceptionally well integrated in their immediate surroundings and which react to the city through their architecture as it is the case of Wohnüberbauung Rigiplatz by Knapkiewicz Fickert; are working with existing structures, combining old with new as it is the case of Genossenschaft Dreieck by Fahrländer Scherrer Architekten among others; are based on a communitarian ideal and exploring cooperative forms of living as it is the case of Genossenschaft Kalkbreite by Müller Sigrist Architekten. The Studio was accompanied by the architects of each project, which made the visits particularly insightful and very instructive.

We started our day by having breakfast all together at the bakery Stocker in the eastern block of the Rigiblick housing project, completed by architect Kaschka Knapkiewicz, who had already accompanied us as a guest critic the day before, and her partner Axel Fickert in 2010. Kaschka Knapkiewicz walked us around the whole building with 16 apartments, commercial and communal spaces, telling us about its history, from the competition in 1997 organized by a building cooperative until its realization less than 10 years ago and how this time span changed their understanding on working with the existing.

We noticed how the building is changing in a very coherent way its morphology along the perimeter, reacting to the slope and the city, creating a complicity with the neighboring existing house. Through the outside staircase, we reached the top floor of the western block, where we got the chance of entering an apartment through a very impressive terrace, thus capturing the whole complexity and richness of the project: from the delicate urban setting towards a very busy road on the north side, the buildings are disclosing themselves to the city on the south side, in an endless generosity of details, materials and colours.

We continued our tour by taking the tram towards the city center, making our way to the Housing Cooperative Dreieck. We seized this moment to clarify some of the comments and remarks from the guest critics of the day before, discussing about the strategy to approach for the four weeks left of the semester.

At the Dreieck (i.e. «triangle», referring to the shape of the block of buildings), we got welcomed by Kaspar Fahrländer, architect of one of the newly added housing blocks, who completed the project on Gartenhofstrasse in 2002. In the Kantine, Kaspar Fahrländer gave us an historical introduction on the Cooperative, telling us how a collectivity of architects, which developed a thorough urban and economical study, managed to save the whole plot from being torn down by the city in the 1980s. The overall approach of the project was to follow the principle of a gentle restauration, replacing parts only when needed, through a series of limited but necessary interventions. The project connected old and new houses with communal terraces, improving the existing and generating new typologies to embrace different users with larger apartments for families or shared flats for a total of 60 flats.

Guillaume, an inhabitant who had lived here for more than 10 years, told us more about the communitarian way of living and functioning of the Dreieck and how the residents regularly meet to discuss about the Cooperative’s future. We then all went up to visit his house, where confined nuclei of bedrooms with bathrooms are connected by a very large common space. We got intrigued by the way the new building is sharing not only a detached terrace, but also the staircase with the restored old building. From the terrace, we could notice how old and new are forming a unit and how the courtyard welcomes different shared uses of the cooperative.

After lunch, we met architect Pascal Müller at the foot of the outside stairs of Kalkbreite, who introduced us the history of the project. The plot of land was leased to the Cooperative Kalkbreite to certain number of conditions (clear concept along with a financial security, 2% of area for the needs of the city, no speculation ...), which then organized the competition in 2006. The winning entry by Müller Sigrist was characterized by a courtyard type with cut angles, where all housing functions start at a level of 8m, on top of the depot for trams underneath.

The project stood out with its density: not by getting higher and larger, but by mixing uses and proposing a compactnessofactivitiesonitsinside. Inthemainentrancehall,wegotapeekatthemultifunctionalspacewhichis both used by inhabitants for coffee breaks or as an office space for meetings. The building accommodates in a ratio of 60% housing and 40% other activities a total amount of 90 apartments. We were very impressed by the palette of units that Kalkbreite is proposing, from 25m2 till 250m2 big apartments, where at least one person should occupy a room as a rule. In the large corridors, we got an insight of the complex circulation logic of Kalkbreite, working as a street, promoting the social interaction between the residents on different levels with other kinds of meeting spaces: extra living-rooms with balconies, rooms without defined function, ... We finally ended up again in the remarkable courtyard, which is considered to be a common terrace or park for the whole cooperative.

We concluded our one-day-tour by visiting another depot for trams at Hard, next to Escher-Wyss-Platz. The captivating hybrid from the early XXth century construct mixing housing with infrastructure is soon to be extended by a large-scale building with high-rises. We reflected about the innovative of the solution and we compared it the visit to Kalkbreite. With that on mind, and the important value of existing buildings, the Studio grasped the chance to reflect on the future project, that is to be built here in the next years, followed by a critical discussion among the students about the complex issue of dealing with existing structures.

Trip to Barcelona and Workshop in Poblenou, HS19

Walking in Barcelona (28th September, Day 1)

As a starting point of the Workshop, we dedicated the first day to a walk in Barcelona. This walk was an opportunity to present the city to the students; to get familiar with its history and culture through its built fabric and to drive them to the area of Poblenou where they will be working for all the semester.

The identity of this area was also to be unfolded through the presentations on different research topics that the students prepared and dealt with the social and cultural aspects of the area.

The walk also allowed to observe the city together and think about ways of looking at its buildings and survey the public space.

Meeting at the Cathedral: The Roman walls and the historical city

The walk started in la Plaça de la Catedral with an introduction of the history of Barcelona from its Roman past. We observed the ancient city wall, the reconstructed water system that supplied the city, its topographical implementation and the traces that remain still visible from the ancient Barcino.

Walking around the Cathedral, the history and configuration of the medieval city became also present. We stopped at Plaça de Sant Iu in order to talk about the Montjuic stone that builds facades and floors of the old town from different times. Sitting on the long bench, the narrow profile of the streets, the public configuration through steps and places to sit and the different methods of construction opened the reflection on elements and dimensions that define precise characters in the city.

In Plaça del Rei, the relation of the Medieval city built on top of the Roman walls became evident and showed the continuity and layering in which the city has been developed.

Via Laietana

The walk continued to the Plaça de Ramon Berenguer el Gran where the relation of Capella de Santa Ágata with the Roman wall became very present. Also, its confrontation with the street of Via Laietana that triggered the discussion about how architecture has dealt in the past with preexistences.

Sta. Caterina Market

The following stop was at the Mercat de Santa Caterina where Magdalena, Jingfan, Zelda and Laura talked about the figure of Enric Miralles, the urban value of the project and its relation with its associate housing development.

The presentation opened the discussion around how typology could respond to specific parts of the city and how new urban masterplans can develop a rich dialogue with the medieval structures of the city.

We walked through the market to Plaça de Sant Agustí Vell following the explanation on the masterplan of Avinguda de Francesc Cambó and its different qualities than the early XXth century cut of Via Laietana.

Fort Pienc

Following El Rec Comtal we arrived at Fort Pienc where Alessandra, Senga and Lorena presented the work of Josep Llinàs and the definition of public spaces he undertook in Fort Pienc. We visited the ensemble of different public facilities and we stopped at the terrace of the library and the market hall. In terms of housing, it was also interesting to compare the typological values between the project of Enric Miralles in Ciutat Vella and the ones of Josep Llinàs in Eixample.

Pere IV – Eixample – Superilla

From Fort Pienc, we walked down Carrer de Sardenya until reaching Pere IV. We noticed how this important diagonal cut in the grid creates all kinds of building corners: the sharp edge, the irregular corner, the fragment of chamfer in Cerdà's grid, among others. In that sense, some buildings end up here almost free standing, having three distinct facades: towards the grid, an inner passage and Pere IV street. This is at this very unique situation in the Barcelona grid that Stefan, Gent and Livie presented the urban extension project of Eixample, introducing hereby its author Ildefons Cerdà, the history of the competition and the development of the project.

We passed by the Superilla, or Megablock project, initiated by the city of Barcelona, which promotes complete pedestrian streets within a perimeter of 3 by 3 blocks. Students and professors stopped to discuss the potential of this idea and to address the question of public transports in Barcelona in a more general manner.

Sala Beckett

After having lunch all together, the students got to visit Sala Beckett, an old cooperative building which in 2017 was repurposed into a theatre by Eva Prats’ and Ricardo Flores’ office. In front of Sala Beckett, Leonce, Joel and Airas gave us an insight in the industrial history of Poblenou and the cooperativism culture which was deeply inherent to this place through the XIXth and early XXth century.

Marià Aguiló

We walked further down in the heart of Poblenou towards the sea, following Marià Aguiló, the village's old main street that many students had drawn in their observational documents in the two first weeks of the semester. First measurements of the street width were taken in order to get an understanding of scale of Poblenou, of its urban and architectural elements.

Cemetery of Poblenou

Strolling along its seemingly never-ending blind wall, we slowly arrived at the Cemetery of Poblenou. In its interior Jana, Maria and Ioana introduced us to its history. We asked ourselves about the possibility of the cemetery being another kind of public space, that would open to the city, potentially acting as kind of garden. Behind the high walls of the cemetery, Poblenou, its chimneys, pitched roofs of industrial times along with the many cranes of today, revealed their strong presence. With Stefano, Giacomo and Siyi we got to know about Carmen Amaya, who lived in the old barracas nearby in rather precarious conditions before becoming a world-famous flamenco dancer.


The last step in our itinerary was the Plaça de Prim, in the historic center of Icaria. Under the trees of the square, Anne, Alexane and Taka told us about Etienne Cabet, an utopian socialist who highly inspired a new social living in the very regular urban layout of the old workers houses around Plaça de Prim. After, we walked Avinguda d’Icària and reached the Parc de la Ciutadella, passing by the many housing projects which were built for the Olympic Games in 1992.

Apero at Studio Flores Prats

After an intense day of walking, presenting, sketching and discussing about Barcelona and Poblenou, the students get to visit Flores & Prats' studio, along with a well deserved apero. 

Workshop in Barcelona (from 27th September to 2nd October)

Sunday 29th, Monday 30th September (Day 2 and 3)

After a Saturday of presentation and walks, from Sunday on, the students started drawing to get to know the elements and scales that configure Barcelona and the Poblenou neighbourhood, its dimensions and distances, by means of notes, drawing and measuring in the street: observing the relation between a tree and a house, recognizing the different typologies, finding out where the people meet, measuring the width of a passage... Here, the students could gain a certain feeling of scale of the place, that should later serve as a reference for the development of their own projects.

While drawing and measuring out in the streets, the different groups also met the neighbours that showed interest on what they were doing and led interviews with them, documenting the life of the neighbourhood with the help of short films. In that way, they got to know real stories and profiles of local neighbours, which could be the possible future inhabitants for whom to design the collective housing projects. Just to quote some of these encounters, some students met Asumpta, who showed them their house and confronted them with the different scales of the area. Others talked with Lucas, who explained them about the transformations of the public space around his block and how they affected positively the relation of his window to the street.

The work on site was combined with work in a provisional studio in the centre of Poblenou where the notes, observations and measurements were translated into scaled and precise drawings. Through sections of street profiles, details of doors, windows, balconies or pavements, and axonometric drawings of a public space, the students brought together all the information that they had been collecting in the street. The aim of this work was to create an understanding through a collection of drawings that working from the distance can provide them with an insight and a base of knowledge of the area they will be working on.

In the studio the work of the students was reviewed daily in order to reflect about the data collected during the day and the way to translate it into a working document. The students working in groups started to develop common interest and discuss what topics of their observations could become relevant for the development of their project. They approximations focused on the places of the neighbourhood where people meet and how architecture constructs the scenario for that to happen.

Tuesday 1st October (Day 4)

On Tuesday, groups started developing a Master Plan, a draft document that transformed the initial ideas of the observation documents of each student of the group and the data gathered on site into the definition of an area with the potential to accommodate a new community. This document was to provide and define an area where the new proposed community could take place, relating and improving the existing. These new communities were meant to define a stretch bound with what is already there and use that as an opportunity to define its character and identity.

Students started working at 1.2500 scale and progressively looked closer in 1.1000 and 1.500 in order to identify the values and the configuration of the places where they will be working. They visited those places and completed its measurements and found new clues towards its understanding. Back in the Studio, the work was reviewed table by table by the professors.

Wednesday 2nd October (Day 5)

On Wednesday, students finalized their drawings and presented in front of all the group the work done during the workshop. They explained the interests that the walk aroused on them and the areas and architectonic elements that they surveyed. They also shared the recorded interviews with neighbours and presented their first idea for a Masterplan. The presentations brought a general discussion about the area of Poblenou, its qualities and potential of transformation in order to be developed in tune with what already exist there. Topics that students will have to reflect during all the semester.



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