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Via Laietana


Andrew Friedenberg & Sergio Salas

University of Oregon, USA & University of Tecnologico de Monterrey, Mexico.

The project was an entry to an ARCHMedium competition which proposed the transformation of an existing office building from the 20th century to social housing. The existing 18.000m2 was to house 160 homes and small scale businesses. Inviting entrants to explore new typologies about social housing in a consolidated environment in the center of Barcelona.

The objective of the competition was to guarantee the social function of housing through rethinking the housing space. Proposals were asked to explore new typologies and urban ways to respond to the program and improve the scope of intervention.

Our project OBLIQUO (which means "incline or slant" in Spanish) uses the existing structure and inserts this new social housing into the old structure. We intended to give the residents a unique and modern space within an old structure that can also become a destination for the neighboring residents.

Above: The Original Structure to be converted

Could give us an introduction to yourselves, where you study or have studied, what stage you are in your architecture degree and also any of your interests or specialities?


Andrew Friedenberg: I graduated with my B.Arch at the University of Oregon in the USA and recently worked for nearly 2 years for the architecture firm Behnisch Architekten in Germany. This September I will be attending the AA in London for my M.Arch in the DRL (Digital Research Lab) which really follows my passion of rationalizing architecture using digital systems.


Sergio Salas: I started my studies in the University of Tecnologico de Monterrey in Morelia, Mexico and finished my B.Arch at the HFT Stuttgart during which I did a six month internship in Tokyo at Sou Fujimoto Architects. Currently I have been working nearly 3 years at Behnisch Architekten where I got to know my teammate Andrew. I as well am planning to study a Master, most likely in Stuttgart, after which I want to start my own projects.


What persuaded you to enter the competition?


We entered the competition in order to challenge ourselves. Neither of us has any experience with housing and being able to focus on the more societal aspect as opposed to the more publicized luxury housing intrigued us. Also the competition being in Barcelona, a favorite city of ours with a long diverse history of architecture, allowed us to use prior knowledge to inform the best design. Especially after examining the site in its urban surrounding, we recognized the potential this place had to create a sensible space not only for the inhabitants of Obliquo, but also for the city itself.

The existing 20th century office building is beautiful in its own right and representative of the intricacy of Barcelona's Architectural style, how did you approach converting the space?


The existing facade in its surrounding already enhances the overall image of the street Via Laietana.

Breaking that image was in our point of view the wrong thing to do so we focused on creating spaces inside this shell that would contribute to integrating new families into the area. Setting our new housing back a distance from the old structure, allowed us to create two tilted spaces that provide light and shadow (depending on the need) and a vertical public space which allows for every unit to have privacy yet still feel a connection to the street below.Given the opportunity to efficiently repurpose an existing structure rather then erecting an entirely new structure should always be the choice to make in this situation.



Were there any difficulties in attempting to retain the existing structure whilst trying to provide a number of social housing units?


The problem we faced with strictly reusing the existing structure comes from the fact that typical office spaces are large general spaces surrounding large central cores. Reusing the cores and repurposing these free plans to accommodate the massive number of apartments needed, created deep dark units with minimal facade frontage. By scaling down the circulation and service area around the cores, we could eliminate the floor slabs beyond a reasonable depth for the units creating the variety of tilted spaces between the existing facade and our new second facade.


Carving away the existing building to insert new housing sculpted an object. What challenged us next was to bring an identity and language to this object. In order to represent the new purpose of this building, we solved this through contrast. What’s more bold than a pink building?

You have delicately introduced a public market place on the ground floor of the structure what was the purpose of this?

With the housing resting above, we needed to create a space that would feel at home in Barcelona a city where the life happens outside in between the narrow streets, and in plazas. Somewhere where people can meet up, interact, participate in cultural events, all in one. A market was perfect. It would serve as a filter between the street on one side and the plaza on the other creating a permeable space where before there had been a monolithic government office building. We appreciate your use of the word delicate.


Your graphical style combines isometric drawings and photorealistic renders with splashes of colour, who or what has influenced your style?


There’s no one specific person that quite influenced us. What matters most is telling a story through the imagery which means every project will be unique requiring different pieces to complete the story. In this project we needed to the show the contrast between the traditional existing structure and contemporary housing and how the people would be able to inhabit this new space.


I’m sure a lot of our readers will be keen to know what software you use to produce your drawings, could you give us an insight into your process?


For this project we mostly used CAD, some Rhinoceros, and plenty of Adobe products to make it shine!

Site Location Barcelona Site Map

An example of the housing units nestled within the existing facade of the existing structure

If you could offer one piece of advice to our architecture student followers what would it be?


Have a plan to finish what you need to tell the story of your project and be open to explore new ideas and not afraid to commit to a decision in order to move forward.


Architecture (especially that found in competitions) is very subjective and particular to every person so be unapologetically ready to take risks in order to better yourself as a designer. Also write the text for the project WELL before the deadline!!!!


Finally, where can people find out more about you and your projects?


We are both currently setting up a website so for now you can find me at @arch.ologist on Instagram.

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