Slab, point-accessUrban villa
Las Cocheras
José Antonio Coderch | Barcelona, Spain | 1968-73
Image of Las Cocher...
View of one row of blocks seen through the Gaudi gateway

ProjectLas Cocheras
ArchitectJosé Antonio Coderch
AddressPaseo de San Juan Bosco/Paseo Manuel Girona (Sarria)
Building TypeSlab, point-access
Urban villa
Number of DwellingsC.500
Date Built1968-73
Dwelling Types3BR Flats
No. Floors8
Section Typeflats
Exterior Finish
Construction TypeRC frame
Ancillary Servicesbasement parking

Many of J. A. Coderch’s buildings and projects from the late 1950’ made use of a distinctive organization of stepped elements. Coderch and his partner Manel Valls designed a hotel and apartments project for the Costa Brava that was presented to the CIAM Congress in Otterlo in 1959 that is an early example of a type of stepped housing. About the same time, Coderch designed several vacation houses that had similar plans where a repetitive row of bedrooms was attached to a perpendicular suite of living spaces. At first the bedroom windows were small punched openings but later the bedrooms were staggered in plan and windows were used to articulate the offset between individual bedrooms. This plan type evolved from Casa Ballve of 1957 with the bedrooms all aligned along one outside wall to later plans such as Casa Rozes, 1962, with a staggered row of bedrooms and corner windows. Cocderch’s designs for apartment buildings also evolved in similar fashion and there is some evidence of the stepped plan idea in buildings like the courtyard housing in the Barceloneta, 1951 and the Girasole Apartments in Madrid, 1966. By the late 1960’s, Coderch was experimenting with apartment blocks that were made by backing two smaller versions of the house type up to a vertical stair and elevator core. This idea was fully developed in the 6 Blocks that were built in Barcelona in 1967 and is the precedent for the Las Cocheras project shown here that is the most recent built version of Coderch’s terraced apartment blocks.

Las Cocheras is named after the site that had once been a garage area for taxis. The Modernismo gate by Gaudi is still intact, and marks the pedestrian entry to the site. Las Cocheras represents the mature version of Coderch’s designs for multi-family housing. 500 luxury apartments are contained in about 20 buildings basically arranged in parallel rows on a trapezoidal site in the Sarria district, north of the enschance. While the building plans are very similar, variations of the house typology used in the 6 Blocks project, they are not free standing, the rows are closer together without the shared interior garden areas, and the buildings are 8 stories rather than the 5-6 floors of the 6 Blocks site.

The first two buildings were built following the current zoning restrictions that would have dictated a condition of freestanding buildings. Subsequently, the architect managed to get the zoning restrictions changed to allow a system of 8-story blocks arranged in parallel rows. Individual blocks are connected only along a very short party wall and this results in a complex stepped building form with 3 apartments per floor and rooms that have small corner windows and balconies. The resulting aggregate form is one of continuous undulating walls of apartments stepping back at the top, with public walkways between. Some shops occur at the ground floor and there is a level of basement parking. The ground floor level is a few feet above grade and sets back a few meters from the pedestrian walks creating a landscaped zone around the base of the buildings and a degree of privacy for the ground floor apartments. The development of the corner balcony idea derived from the houses and especially 6 Blocks, results in two typical facades, each a stepping form that admits natural light deep into the building and the spaces between buildings. One façade occurs where corner balconies separate two apartments in the same building. that step back from the outside face of the building. The other wider space occurs between buildings, and steps much more deeply into the mass of the building. With each type, a set of window and balcony details are used for sun control, privacy, and security, that includes overhangs with integral planters, awnings above balconies, and integral roller blinds above windows that are applied if different combinations for different orientations. The result is a very dynamic, stepping, articulated surface that forms deep cutouts in the building mass along the walkways. Subsequent versions of the Coderch stepped plan idea use different typical plan arrangements to get either an “east/west” or a north/south” orientation. The individual apartments are all of a similar 3 or 4 bedroom type with 3 apartments organized around a central circulation zone. Coderch designed several other similar stepped housing proposals up into the late 1970’s in projects that are much larger including some that were organized as long undulating walls that stepped in both plan and section.

J. A. Coderch, 1945-1976, Xarait Ediciones, Madrid, 1978, pp. 128-35.

Architecture + Urbanism, Feb. 1976, p. 114.

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