Perimeter block, courtyardSlab, point-access
Coop Obrera
Joséé Antonio Coderch | Barcelona, Spain | 1951-53
Image of Coop Obrer...
Street facade, showing balconies and solar louvers

ProjectCoop Obrera
ArchitectJoséé Antonio Coderch
Addressc. La Maguinista/c. de Sant Josep (Barceloneta)
Building TypePerimeter block, courtyard
Slab, point-access
Number of Dwellings70
Date Built1951-53
Dwelling Types3 BR flats
No. Floors6
Section Typeflats
Exterior Finish
brick, concrete, wood
Construction TypeRC frame, masonry walls
Ancillary Servicesshops, parking

This is one of the earliest Coderch housing projects but one that has been largely overshadowed by his more highly-publicized Casa la Marina tower which was also built in the Barcelonetta at the same time. Both buildings provided tiny dwellings for the low income population in this part of the city, but they are radically different buildings. The tower is an infill condition on a corner site overlooking the harbor. It was 8 stories high with only two apartments per floor, but the irregular form, ceramic surface and continuous wooden screens distinguished this building as one of the earliest examples of the new architecture emerging in Spain in the period following WWII. By comparison, Coop Obrera, is a 6 story perimeter block built around a minimally landscaped courtyard. The repeating pattern of “t”-shaped towers result in even greater densities since the perimeter surface is much increased over a typical perimeter block. Building finishes are brick, and concrete, with wood windows, tile roofs, minimal balconies and no fancy blinds or awnings. This is the epitome of low cost social housing in a tough neighborhood next to a factory.

In spite of the obvious economic restrictions, Obrera is exceedingly well planned and incorporates many of the ideas that Coderch experimented with in his earlier houses and would later develop in later housing projects in Barcelona and Madrid. The perimeter form, which is open at the south end, is made with repeating “t” shaped tower elements, each 6 stories high and organized with three small 3 bedroom apartments around an interior stair. These towers are simply connected to form the larger courtyard Each tower has its own entrance and stair. Two of the dwellings on each floor back up to the outer wall, while the third, has bedrooms in that leg of the “t” which extends into the space of the courtyard. The living space of each apartment has a small triangular balcony overlooking the courtyard. Thus, the building presents a very dense closed exterior but is very open on the courtyard. The outer surfaces are made with continuous vertical concrete fins which are attached to the outer brick wall and angled for privacy and sun control. These elements which start at the second floor, give a definite vertical quality to the organization of the exterior walls and hint at the tower formation of the plans. These canted elements also define small windows and balconies for the bedrooms which are located in a zone around the outside of the block. There are no dwellings at the ground floor which is used only for the entrances to each tower service and a few small shops. The courtyard is filled with trees, however, so that in spite of the intense activity which occurs in public spaces like this in a dense neighborhood, there remains the impression of quiet and green. Obrera is a good example of how a clear site idea, thoughtful planning, uncomplicated details and the selection of durable materials can result in buildings of enduring value. The building today looks almost like it did when it was built 50 years ago.

J.A. Coderch, J. A. Coderch, 1949-1976f, Xarait Ediciones, Madrid, 1978, pp. 34-35.

J.A. Coderch de Sentiment, 1913-1984, Gili, 1989.

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