According to the U.S. Census Bureau, 34 million Americans who lived alone in 2013, a number that has radical implications for the way we conceive of dwellings and the layout of domestic spaces. Considering the economic crisis and the rise of mobile and transactional living, the near future may see drastic social and cultural changes in how and why we settle down.
Three Spanish architecture practices have developed flexible models to organize and redesign existing apartments, converting them to respond to contemporary needs. The interiors become a contemporary “machine for living,” optimizing the space and reducing cost by using sliding walls, plywood panels, and a playful approach to personalized interiors. The three proposals investigate in the relation between the inhabitants and the space and its contents to maximize the flexibility of the apartments.
Didomestic by Elii
“Every house is a theatre,” notes Elii:oficina de arquitectura, the Madrid-based studio behindDidomestic, the refurbishment of a 60-sq.m. attic. The domestic stage is organized around two elements: the staircase to the mezzanine bisects the space, while rooms on either side hold functional elements like the kitchen and bathroom.
Movable plexiglass/wood panels run along guide rails to define the space and allow natural lighting to come through the façades and the roof. Everything you need is stored in the ceiling. Tables, benches, and shelves — as well as a hammock and a swing — are integrated within the floor and the ceiling, accessible at the user’s whim.
Internet and technology have transformed the bedroom into an office and the living room into a meeting space. PKMN fulfilled the request of graphic designer Yolanda R. Pila to create a space that could accommodate her home place and office in just 50 sq.m. in the 40’s former house of her grandparents. According to Enrique Espinosa, co-founder of the practice, “All I Own House deals with two of the major issues in contemporary living: change and identity.”
“The space allows continuous change, and so adaptation to new needs, to new familiar and social structures, to new jobs, to new domestic spaces where living, resting, working, meeting, partying, sharing continuously mixes in time and space. All I Own House allows the user to define this boundaries in a customizable system able to hold new uses and technologies. On the other hand, the space should have the capacity to integrate user memories and objects, but also to represent his or her style.”
In a mid-century residential building, studio TallerDe2 has designed the POP-UP House by removing partitions to create a “domestic infrastructure” inside a 70-sq.m. space. The room doesn’t contain furniture or appliances, but these ultimately define and delineate the space. Arantza Ozaeta Cortázar and Álvaro Martín Fidalgo, founders of the practice, have worked in the concept of mobility like social and cultural change, as well as driving force to conceive domestic space. “Our lifestyles definitely assume mobility, due to our work and also leisure,” said the Spanish architects.
“The displacement sensation is reflected in the condition that we must leave our main-houses and stay in foreign living spaces. The scale of the space is not the issue any more, but those other elements such as the furniture and certain leisure characteristics that make possible to live the space in an hedonistic way, an easy, fun, and helpful design concept for the sake of user as opposed to the designer. We can track more valuable clues about what is essential in contemporary living spaces in which the stay, as a kind of consumption, is quicker and intense, as in some hotels, hostels, or apartments that are temporary rentals.”
The system affords an increase of available free space: from 50% of a traditional apartment to 77% in the new configuration. As in the previous projects, the main home furnishings are folded inside the infrastructure modules. The structure is mostly made of plywood panels to uniform the exterior and covered internally with ’70s graphic tiles and wallpapers.
Photo courtesy of PKMN