Berlin-based Heim Balp architekten complete two new urban infill projects in Barcelona
The newly completed Carrer de la Diputació and Carrer de Nàpols residential urban infills engage with the city’s rich architectural and cultural sphere, all-the-while responding to its dense urban environment.
Left. Heim Balp Architekten. Exterior view of Carrer de la Diputació residential building in Barcelona, Spain. Photography with Filippo Poli. Courtesy of Heim Balp Architekten. Right. Heim Balp Architekten. Exterior view of Carrer de Nàpols residential building in Barcelona, Spain. Photography with Filippo Poli. Courtesy of Heim Balp Architekten.
HEIM BALP ARCHITEKTEN, the Berlin-based practice founded in 2006 by Michael Heim and Pietro Balp, have completed the Carrer de la Diputació and Carrer de Nàpols residential developments. By conceiving them as urban infills, the architecture and urban design team, whose vision is rooted in a distinct notion of architecture as social incubator, demonstrates its sensitivity to and engagement with the local architectural, cultural, and urban context. These completions, each with its distinct architectural language, will be followed by the Carrer de Gombau and Carrer de l’Aurora projects, also addressing Barcelona’s compact urban sphere through context-specific infills, due to be completed in 2022. With projects across Europe from Berlin to Barcelona and Milan, Heim Balp’s multifaceted designs include, and often merge, residential and cultural projects with commercial and work environments. Cultivating space’s considerable potential to shape social interaction, influenced by its founders’ experience of 1990s Berlin, they create inherently social, diverse communities that respond to and expand on the existing urban dynamics at play.
Above. Heim Balp Architekten. Exterior view of Carrer de la Diputació’s façade in Barcelona, Spain. Photography with Filippo Poli. Courtesy of Heim Balp Architekten. Below. Heim Balp Architekten. Exterior view of Carrer de Nàpols’s façade in Barcelona, Spain. Photography with Filippo Poli. Courtesy of Heim Balp Architekten.
Looking to seize and develop the full potential of the given urban space, Heim Balp’s designs for the Carrer de la Diputació and Carrer de Nàpols build on the applied notion of urban infill. Both located in Barcelona’s dense Eixample quarter, erected in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, Carrer de la Diputació is a seven-story building situated on a 7.5-meter-wide and 28-meter-deep site, entirely covered by the building, while Carrer de Nàpols occupies a prominent corner site with a singular 45-degree oblique floor plan. Both conceived as vertical extensions of the city in response to a limited ground area, they reflect the studio’s creative and pragmatic understanding of local planning policies and constraints, all-the-more in a city advocating for reduced density. Intent on retaining a contextual essence, the local culture guides the material and aesthetic choices of the Diputació and Nàpols projects, noticeable in particular on the façades. Circulating local restrictions for a classical, hierarchical floor division, the cladding of both multilayered façades – complementing windows with filtering panels – is folded in and out, reflecting Barcelona’s playful architecture, each through its very own, singular architectural language. At Carrer de la Diputació, the hybrid façade is clad with openable red stretch steel panels, boldly calling to the brick colors of the historic Plaza de Toros. Set vertically, they extend upwards, emphasizing the verticality of the slim building while serving protection from sun and glare. Fixed over a first partly concealed window front, the terracotta panels of the Carrer de Nápols play with the color of the city’s traditional plaster façades, replacing them with beautifully crafted ceramics tiles instead. Continuously referencing the surrounding culture, Heim Balp expose a porous building, where visible French windows and hidden loggias coexist: a filter through which residents communicate with the rest of the city.
Their designs are conceived as an inherently mixed-use space, allowing for a plurality of functions to cohabit. Building on their experience of Berlin’s urban revival in the 1990s, during which they founded and managed DELI – a 1,000-square-meter warehouse-turned-alternative event space for creative interventions and social exchange – Heim and Balp consider these two buildings as rife with spatial possibilities. In both cases, fostering the notion of community while responding to the limited size of the individual units, they turn shared spaces into a common resource, distributing communal spaces throughout the building. At la Diputació, the main common area is the basement, equipped with a kitchen and a shared laundry room, as well as leisure and work areas. The other two, a mezzanine and large rooftop space, open onto the luminous atrium, the facing street, and over the rest of the city. Based on mobility and connectivity, the resulting designs act as intelligible contemporary urban living spaces. Co-founding partners Michael Heim and Pietro Balp expand: “Our shared time in Berlin in the 1990s has led us to conceive of space as inherently raw and full of opportunities. As a core part of a space, architecture has a considerable potential to shape the experiences within it. By fusing various functions – the public and the private, the social, the commercial, and the cultural – these two Barcelonian designs cultivate endless interactions with and between the individuals that inhabit them, ultimately generating a new, essential social energy.”