NET_ Physical and digital community construction

International ideas competition “Self-sufficient social housing block in La Marina del Prat Vermell”, Europan 13.

Author / s: Ana Belén Fuentes(architect), Inés Fabregas(architect)

Collaborators:Erika Börjesson (cultural manager)

Location: Neighborhood “Sants‐Montjuic“, Barcelona

Client: Town Hall of Barcelona and Europan organization



The social character of housing should be, par excellence, a direct benefit for a society group that needs access to it for lack of own resources. However, this benefit is understood, so far, in economic terms and has not covered the quite complex reality that complements the “social” concept.

Traditionally, with the economical approach directing the urban planning and the architectural approaches, the social housing concept is geared toward the premise that housing is a basic human need and a critical element of the development of its inhabitants. However, according to contemporary humanistic reflections, that understand development as an interaction between several factors favoring quality of life, it is necessary to integrate other areas of reflection that, along with economic, constitute a true approach to social housing today.

Social Sphere: The consolidation of a social space is not only given by the sum of individuals who are grouped, but is achieved as far as they constitute a community based on common nodes.

Environmental Sphere: The environmentally conscious architecture is not just the result of the application of new technologies but employing a logic of appropriateness of resources and a positive use of the environmental conditions.

Economic Sphere: We are currently questioning the ownership society and hyper consumism in many areas because it result unsustainable. The trend is clear: “access is better than property”

The interplay of these three spheres seeks the balance and the maintenance of the new model of social housing, where every action, infrastructure, service or system is linked to the overall objective of the project: improving the quality of life of citizens, ensuring the self-sufficiency of the ecosystem. Each sphere is extrapolated to various aspects or subtopics that, running on a network weave a replicable and exponentially expandable proposal. Thus, accessing social housing, isn´t only to access to inhabit a physical space but also to a lot of resources that cover, strategically, the basic needs for everyones development.

Moreover, we should be conciouse that human interactions does not only focus on the physical plane. Today, the digital world complements our offline life and satisfies the shortcomings of the analog structure. That is why we propose a combination of architectural and urban elements with digital content and digital tools. A contemporary social housing centered on the individual as the core of the rhizome, taking into account his needs and possibilities

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Townhall urban plan

Aerial pohotograph of the site

The plot purposed for the social housing, it is located in an obsolete industrial area with an strategic location in the city. This exhisting neighbourhood is expected to be regenerated by an Urban Plan that purpose to mix of uses and a 20Ha Central Park. Meanwhile, this mentioned plan, hardly preserves the industrial buildings that caracterisize the neighbourhood and the idea of a Park, placed in the center, might foments a neighbourhood closed in itself. Having the goal of overcome those limitations detected, our urban purpose the following main ideas:

Connections with the surroundings


By a Diagonal Park, instead of Central Park, A More elongated space will propitiate an urban path inside the neighbourhood and at the same time will connect it with the green areas at the surroundings (such as Montjuic). Moreover, its longitudinal form will allow to have more buildings closed to the Park, enjoying the benefits of being in direct contact with a green area.

By crossing the coast freeway in two points. The first one, by extending the Zona Franca’s Avenue under the railway, and previewing a public space at the end. The second one by the prolongation of the Diagonal Park, and crossing the infrastructure with an elevated plataform.

By restablishing the visual contact with the sea. An Elevated Public Walkway will connect part of the roofs of the future buildings. The historic chimney preserved in the area, will be introduce in this aerial route.

The pedestrian’s Victory

In order to minimize air pollution, and to stimulate community life at streets the area will be traffic restricted. A Carsharing Building Equipment is preview in a perimetral plot. Close to the new subway station and to the Coast-freeway.

In the pedestrians’ areas, two different kinds of streets are purposed: The Market streets and the Green Streets. The first ones, that communicate the neighbourhood with the Fira de Barcelona, are the ones where temporal market stands can be placed by any neightbour. This strategie might contribute to the economic regeneration of the area.

By the other hand, the Green streets that link the Green Diagonal Park with the Montjuict, are the ones that collect the raining water from public space. By the bioswale system. The recollected water is stored in underground deposits, to be re-use in public spaces. .

An Slow Growing Plan:

A whole neighbourhood construction is a long process in time. That’s why it is necessary to prioritize the different interventions, identify stages and preview flexible uses for the empty plots while the urban process takes part.


To design a Real Self-Sufficient Social Housing involves to rethink the current traditional use of housing spaces. Thus, no social houses can be designed without including a variety of collective spaces that stimulates socialization between neighbours. To do so, our physical proposal for the building is to minimize individual spaces in benefit of more collective areas .

Pro-community life

A thin perimetral band of private space enclose an spacious comunal courtyard provided with collective terraces, that are considered as an extension of the inhabitants housess Different kinds of activities can take place in it depending on the communities desires.

But comunal areas are not just placed in the courtyards. An Underground floor is preview, with several social spaces such as multipurpose-room, a coworking area or a Kindergarden.

Moreover, to stimulate sharing goods it is purposed, for exemple, a co-library, where neighbours can leave their books and a Health Consultant Area with health equipments to be shared .No car parks are preview in the building, because the carsharing park equipment will already satisfy that requirement.

Ground floor

Ground floor

Another collective space is the roof. The block has to different heights attending to sun conditions. As a result, the roof is divided in 2 levels communicated by a grandstand. The bottom part is occupied wiyh a co-laundry and comunal orchads. A Medicinal Garden is preview in the grandstand area, and the upper roof it is used as part of the public elevated Walkway that connect different blocks.

Roof plan

Private spaces: Diversity and Flexibility

The family concept has changed. Families are each day less numerous and many people live alone or shares a home with colleagues. Demographic studies point out that approximately just 30% of the population lives in a families of 3 or more members. So big apartments are nowadays less demanded. In order to reflect this reality this building porposal has considered Floor Plan division where most of the apartements have 44m2, althought it is possible to join them in order to have larger apartments.

Apartments in singular situations as the Groundfloor or the last floors have especial home typoligies. Houses-Workshop, are placed on the Groundfloor and Duplex apartments are preview in last floors.. Inside of all these apartments mobile kitchens and bathrooms are purposed in order to allow completly free interior space distribution.

Self-sufficiency and enviromental strategies.

To stimulate a communal way of life it is already an strategy to create self-sufficient bulidings. If neighbours know each other they might, more easily, interchange services and knowledge. The mentioned idea of sharing instead of owning, can reduce the individual expenses. But to achieve self-sufficiency it is necessary some other extra actions.

In this building rain-water and grey water are recollected, cleaned and re-used to irrígate plantsor other cleaning funcitons.


The toilette waste is transformed into compost in the mobile bathrooms, and used for the roof-garden.


Electric energy is catch by Photovoltaic Modules and produced with Sport equipements placed in the Elevated Public Walkway.


A Biological Concrete facade is purposed to create living green walls that will absorb C02 in the atmosphere and acts as an insulating material.


In the economic sense the building offers different types of working spaces so, inhabitants will have easier conditions to run their own bussiness or to work at home (if they need to).


In order to minimize communal costs it is also purposed 2 economical and optional measures: a Pro-Common Apartment that can be rent to obtain community incomes and the possibility of allowing Public Access to the Common Underground Space by paying a tax to the community


In the context of an intelligent social housing, we develop a human centric digital structure that uses the technological advances as support and tool to improve the quality of life of the inhabitants. For this, we will develop a digital platform that integrates existing digital proposals, which are currently dispersed, fusing them to ensure access to social, environmental and economic services, because these themes should be covered in the logic of the new model of social housing.