At the most recent edition of the ‘bulthaup – the kitchen as a living space’ competition, the jury panel unanimously granted the award to the Loft in Ciutat Vella, a project by Estudio Vilablanch —with a kitchen designed in collaboration with bulthaup barcelona— for its success in "highlighting the original space by combining new and existing materials, and using the kitchen as a key element in the layout of the family home.”
The surprise element in Ciutat Vella
The old quarter in Barcelona is full of surprises. Closely guarded after its failed resistance to the troops of Philip V, it was not until 1858, with the construction of the Eixample, that the city was finally able to expand beyond the confinement of its 14th-century walls. That is why the early days of the industrial revolution, with its textile factories and exponential population growth, required adapting to the limited available space in the medieval city.
The Loft in Ciutat Vella project is a paradigmatic example of these changes. Located in a building right inside the line of the former city walls, the space was initially a textile factory, and then converted into a Modernista residential building in 1890. Later on, when the wealthier classes left the old quarter and moved uptown to the wider, airier streets of the Eixample, the space was repurposed as a warehouse. Now, at a time when memories of urban pasts have regained value, it has become residential once again.
A project that honors the past
The Estudio Vilablanch team decided to approach the project by asserting the history of the space, underscoring the character of elements from its former lives without attempting to downplay or tame the vicissitudes and scars of the passage of time.
The loft was reconceived as a family residence using both the elements from the industrial period –cast iron columns, structural beams, vaults and joists which endow the overall space with an open, almost Spartan character– and the few surviving art nouveau features: certain parts of the original joinery and the tile floors, where the missing sections were replaced with cement as in the most respectful of archeological restorations.
The floor plan, spanning a 220 m2 interior space and a 45 m2 terrace, unfolds between the façade facing the street, where the bedrooms are placed, and the back of the building overlooking the inner courtyard, where the dining room and living/library areas are located. The layout heightens the play on perspective and the open, light feel of the space as a whole.
The kitchen as a connecting element
In this project, the kitchen truly fulfills the bulthaup notion of emerging as the heart of the home. Fully acknowledging the unique character of the space and in keeping with the philosophy of respect and rigor underlying the project as a whole, the Vilablanch team chose a bold solution that involved placing the kitchen right across from the entrance to the residence.
In this bulthaup b3 kitchen with a laser-edged laminate finish in an anthracite hue, the preparation and water points are located in an island that faces the hallway connecting the two wings of the home, right by the front door. A black Calatorao marble ledge hides the island from the view of arriving visitors. Behind it, against the wall, the cooking and storage areas are lit by the huge matte black metal-framed windows that face the terrace.
Memories of the past, pleasures of the present
The kitchen is austere in its color and layout, in keeping with the industrial architecture into which it merges. Its understated protagonism arises from its central position, articulating the different areas in the home. The project is respectful of the past, yet opens up to the future, breathing new life into the spaces of memory and engaging with the pleasures of the present: sharing flavors, aromas, and the best of company.
Photographer: Eugeni Pons