Architects: Ricardo Boffil Taller de Arquitectura
Location: Sant Just Desvern, Barcelona, Spain
Project year: 1975
Sant Just Desvern is a locality on the northwestern border of Barcelona. Its position isolated from the noise of the city yet still connected to the center by public transportation made it the perfect location for Ricardo Boffil´s utopia of a “City in Space” – Walden 7.
Walden 7 dominates the neighbourhood both by its size and excentric design. The complicated volume of the building might look way too extravagant and almost random, but it is actually perfectly thought through. It is a combination of few different types of buildings – it is accesible by galleries as a gallery house, but also has inner patios and terraces – all of it in the form of a cluster building. It consists of 18 “towers” which are enclosing 5 large-scale patios.
The site of a building is a part of a larger area around “La fábrica”, the old cement factory Ricardo Boffil rebuilt to serve as his office. Walden 7 belonged to a larger urbanistic plan including other buildings, but in the end, it was the only one getting built.
Large vast space of the site let Boffil fulfill his ideal. As mentioned before, Walden 7 was nothing short of an utopia. The name of the building itself references two of the philosophic works of two utopian authors – Walden by H. D. Thoreau and Walden 2 by B. F. Skinner. While the first one praised the life in solitude, the other was dedicated to the life in community. The creators of Walden 7 felt the need to connect both of these different views and ended up designing a building that was “between the community and the solitude”. That is why Walden 7 provides various different readings on the separation of private and public.
The complicated clustered volume actually works as a “city in space”. Monumental gate leads to the inner patios reminiscent of squares, the apartments are accessed from galleries, “streets”, that actually have names and numbers as regular streets. Abundance of public space is topped by the roof terrace with two swimming pools. Other than that, the interior features many other terraces and balconies and also bridges, which can again reference to the “connection” of individuals in the community.
The building has a central core used for the elevators. From there, the “streets” are accessed.
schema of the “streets” and patios; schema of the structure
section; floor plan – level 9
Apartments themselves are a combination of a basic modul of 30 m2. They vary from the small one-modul studios to the luxurious 4-modul apartmets. Some of them have only one floor, some of them are duplex apartments. The modul system creates a big variety of options for people of different backgrounds and social groups, which adds to the diversity of the community. The buildings consist of 446 apartments in 14 floors.
floor plan – level 6 and level 14; schemas of access
3-module duplex unit
1 and 2-module studio units
different types of apartments
As far as I am concerned, the public spaces are the alfa and omega of Walden 7. Providing perfect opportunity to meet the neighbours and socialize, they are really what makes Walden 7 a community and – no doubt about it – something very special. It seems like the utopia of the small town life in the great city came to life here – proven only even by the fact that the residents call themselves “Waldenites”
Photographs and images courtesy of Ricardo Boffil Taller de Arquitectura/author´s own