Utopicus Clementina, Coworking space for Utopicus in Barcelona
by Izaskun Chinchilla
Until the 18th century, Gràcia neighborhood was a rural town articulated by “masías” (typical Catalonian rural housing), religious convents, and high-society manor houses. From the 19th century, with the second industrial revolution and the destruction of Barcelona’s medieval walls, the neighborhood became key to the urbanistic expansion of the city. All ancient cultivation fields became terrain to construct and install new industries. Paseo de Gràcia, being the bourgeoisie’s favorite Sunday walk path, soon propelled Vila de Gràcia to be permanently annexed to Barcelona in the year 1897.
Despite new industries, the neighborhood maintained its rural character for about two centuries, and today, highly rural fountains, patios, houses, and buildings serve as evidence of its past as a small semi-agricultural municipality. In addition to its rural essence, Gràcia contains a Modernist patrimony of great interest. It extends all the way from Lesseps until Jardinets, passing through the “rambla” of Prat or of Carolines street. There exist buildings unknown to the vast majority, filled with undeniable beauty and uniqueness.
At only 150 meters of our site, within two minutes of small pleasant and shadowed streets, we find the recently repaired Casa Vicens, a UNESCO world heritage designed by Antoni Gaudi. Casa Vicens, built between 1883 and 1884 when Gaudi was only 31, is considered the architect’s first full construction. The house is wondrously rich with nature-inspired deco, demonstrates a varied catalogue of ceramic artisanry, and establishes a gorgeous relation with a garden, through a sunset-protected tribune.
Our coworking has been inspired by the Gràcia neighborhood: its rural preexistence, modernist architecture, and Casa Vicens. One of the most evident footprints linked to this inspiration are the traces of ceramic scattered throughout the façade and the interiors. Our team of architects have done an exhaustive research to acquire ecological ceramic of easy maintenance but at the same time of great artisanal quality. Pieces of natural aspect have been collected, many times in clay-colored tones that resemble their raw origins. As well, semi-vitrified protections have been applied, making resemblance to the artisan workforce and ceramics fabricated when Gràcia was annexed to Barcelona.
Natural inspiration in our interior spaces is another aspect that links our coworking to the local modernist tradition. Illumination, electrical cables, railing, wall finishes, and way-finding techniques are inspired by the geometry, color, and material logic of trees. Visitors entering the facility will slowly discover all hidden trees throughout the space, inviting others to come and explore as well. However, this connection to nature is not just limited to visual similarities: the overall design has kept high sustainability standards as one of its principal priorities. Many solar panels and passive ventilation techniques have been implemented, drastically lowering energetic requirements with the need of less local electricity and air-conditioning. The staircase, centered in plan, consists of a wide crystal skylight and a solar chiminea that guarantee natural form of air renovation without much noise-pollution.
All these elements, alongside the building’s small scale, are destined to host a select community and establish close ties. They provide a unique interior atmosphere: relaxed, cozy, and naturalistic. Clementina seems to be very far from the productive stress typical of other spots in Barcelona. The secret garden, oriented towards the south, is graced by a clementine tree, giving its name to the project: Clementina. With its richness, this spot completes the offer, ideal for those desiring a space with the conditions for passionate work, and moments of calm and decompression. It is deal for those convinced that understanding innovation requires a return to the roots of what we once were as a community and culture.
Architect: Izaskun Chinchilla
Collaborators (Architects): Alejandro Espallargas, Guillermo Sánchez, Jesús Valer, Mercedes Zapico, Roberto de Vicente
Intership (Students): Cristina Traba, Ismael Fernández
Main materials: flower lamps with Sunbrella fabrics; Cinto lamps / Mantra by Santiago Sevillano; Façade / Customed pieces of Vives Ruhr; Decorated railing: Arquicosturas
Location: Barcelona, España
Surface: 384 m2
Photography: Imagen Subliminal (Miguel de Guzmán + Rocío Romero)
Izaskun Chinchilla. Graduated Architect since 2001 from Universidad Politécnica de Madrid (Spain). She is driving her own office since 2001 in Madrid. She has a long and deep experience in education. She is Senior Teaching Fellow and Researcher in Barlett School of Architecture (UCL London, UK). She has also teached in Ecole Special (Paris, France) and in HEAD University (Geneva, Switzerland). She was Studio Professor in the University of Alicante (Escuela de Arquitectura Universidad de Alicante) from 2002 to 2007 and she is at the moment in Madrid University (Escuela Técnica Superior de Arquitectura Universidad Politécnica de Madrid, Spain) and in Instituto de Empresa (Madrid, Spain). Her designer activity is acompanied by a research project called “Social and Aesthetic Repercussions of technical topics and solutions which take ecology into account” and that has taken her as visitting scholar to Columbia University in New York (2002), Ecole de Mines de Paris (2003) and Princeton University in New Jersey (2004) and also to the Institut d´Arquitectura Avancada de Catalunya (Barcelona), in a Postgraduate Master (2003-2007).
As speaker she has participated in forum, lectures and debates in more than 80 international destinies and more than 90 different magazines and publications has talked about the proposals from her office. Her work has taken part of the exhibitions in 8ª Biennale di Venezia, 10ª Biennale di Venezia, V Bienal de Arquitectura y Diseño de Sao Paulo in traveling exhibitions as New Trends Europe-Asia, Panorama Emergente Iberoamericano or Europan 7 and in different museums and LIGA (México DF), Galeries including Gallery “mad is mad” (Madrid), Arquerias de Nuevos Ministerios del Ministerio de la Vivienda (Madrid), la Casa Encendida (Madrid), Museo de Teruel (Teruel) and several Profesional Associations for Architects in Spain and several Universities in the same Country.
She is at the moment supervising construction of her project for a Mediatheque in Garcimuñoz Medieval Casttle in Cuenca, Spain (a public cultural building including the refurnishment of the existing infrastructures with social purposes); the refurbishment of a Vernacular house in Toledo, Spain; and other smaller projects. She is also involved in the design of digital interactive exhibitions with social purpose like encourage the reading between young children (Fairytale Park Museography in Málaga) or appreciating the effort after some sports (Centro de Arte Canal).
As an architect, she claims for a strong compromise with innovation. In her project she proposes multidisciplinary exercises in which, through ecology, sociology or science, architecture goes beyond stylistic distinctions and meets again the complexity of real life in our contemporary world.
She has won more than 20 different prizes in professional competitions. Some of these awards follows:
2001: First Prize for the UNED Pavilion Competition in Madrid Book Fair.
2003: First Prize, Europan 7 Competition, Site: Santiago de Compostela. 2006: Third Prize, “Contemporary Art Centre Competition, ARCO Collection, Matadero of Madrid”.
2007: Second Prize in the Competition “Pavilion of Spain at the Shanghai Expo 2010”. 2010: Runner Up in the Competition “Extension of the Museum of Modern Art in Medellín”, Medellín, Colombia.