Redesign of a shop into a coffee to read in Plaza de España. Madrid
Libros.com is an independent publisher that operates exclusively online. Along with the sale of books, they finance the projects collectively through crowdfunding, a democratic management model that seeks to establish a community between patrons (readers) and authors. However, the members of this community have rarely met personally.
When Roberto, one of the four partners, calls us at the beginning of the summer of 2017, he proposes us the challenge of creating a physical space for the publisher after finding a place of just 10 m2 near the Plaza de España in Madrid. The result of this ‘materialization’ is La Berlinesa: a place with an aim to be a meeting point between patrons and authors that is articulated as a hybrid business model that unites three of the common passions of its partners: books, coffee and the city of Berlin.
The initial conditions of La Berlinesa are, as usual in architecture, two: time and money. The project requires opening the premises to the public in a record time of two months and with a budget of just 8,000 euros. Our answer was clear: we will not do anything (or almost nothing). As in Ockham’s navigation, in the equality of conditions, the simplest explanation is usually the most probable.
From precise actions, we tried low-cost actions to activate this obsolete space covered completely by gotelé. With a hammer and a chisel, we recover the history of the place present in its walls, bringing from the past a load-bearing wall of brick and two walls painted with a blue-greenish color from when the space was an electronics store.
Despite the small size of the place, the regulations require providing the space with a toilet for staff. What at first appeared to be a disadvantage became a virtue and an opportunity to solve the internal organization of the library; thus, we build a minimum volume located in the entrance, which we cover with a mirror to make it disappear and also builds a threshold, giving more depth to the space.
On this mirror are reflected, in addition to the city and neighbors of the area, the different books placed on linear shelves of wood that we tend on the opposite wall and, as if it were a panopticon, saves space while allowing to the user-client to see all the available titles at once.
We conserve the existing hydraulic tile floor and place on it the element in which most of the budget is invested: a table. Beyond being a piece of furniture with legs like open books upside down, it is architecture; it has the ability to organize and articulate the space of La Berlinesa establishing the boundary between inside and outside, between the dependent and the client. In other words, the table acts as mediator of the place.
We also paint the brick wall in the background white to make the space wider, and the roof in black to achieve a lower volume.
Finally, in the left corner we make a door to another world through a mirror that distorts and transforms the place. A door that summarizes the magic of La Berlinesa. We don’t know if it leads us to the past or the future, but for sure this new space will be full of books. And coffee.
Architects: gon (Gonzalo Pardo) y Ana Torres
Collaborator: Alejandro Sánchez
Carpentry: Mariano García. Alma Ebanistería sl
Photography: Imagen Subliminal
Surface: 10 m2
gon is an architecture office headed by Gonzalo Pardo. His practice focuses on the research and development of multi-scale projects whose common denominator is a ludic, experimental, critical, and optimistic point of view of contemporaneity. Its interests focus on the creative processes of architectural design and construction, but also on the role that mediation and communication play in architecture as fundamental vehicles for transforming the world into a more sustainable, dignified, and free place.
Gonzalo Pardo graduated as an architect from ETSAM and holds a PhD cum laude since 2016. His doctoral thesis “Body and House. Towards the contemporary domestic space since the transformations of the kitchen and the bathroom in the West” was also awarded the Extraordinary Prize of Doctoral Thesis 2016-2017, and an honorable mention at the XI Contest of the Thesis Contest of Arquia Foundation.
Associate Professor in the Department of Architectural Projects at ESTAM, since 2007 he teaches at different universities and institutions covering different subjects related to the process of architectural design. Deputy Commissioner of the Spanish pavilion at the 16th Venice Biennial, he has won 41 national and international awards since 2000, including the first prize for the renovation of the AZCA block in Madrid in 2007; the second prizes in the international skyscraper competitions in New York and Velux in Denmark in 2007; COAM prize in 2004 for the curatorial cycle Paréntesis, and Runner-Up price in Europan 14 competition at Barcelona site.