World Design Spotlight: Espai Verd
22 Mar 2022 /

World Design Spotlight: Espai Verd

Built in the 1980s by architect Antonio Cortés Ferrando in the middle of what was then Valencia’s closest fertile, irrigated region, the Espai Verd building established a milestone in the city by creating a housing cooperative that merged homes and common areas in a single space and filled them with lush vegetation. 

Another of its peculiarities was how the architect took bioclimatic criteria into account when building and orienting the houses. He changed the original layout of the plot, i.e., he altered the urban planning – which left him open to later criticism – so that the building would face south-east and none of the gardens due north (which orientation implies virtually no sunlight). 

There were three types of homes: ground floors, duplexes and triplexes, all of which included a private outdoor space of 95 square metres which allowed them to obtain as much sunlight as possible, even if this meant a somewhat peculiar positioning on the 8,000 metres of land that the building occupies. 

Located in Benimaclet, one of Valencia’s oldest neighbourhoods and one that still looks and feels like a village even today, the building was born out of Cortés Ferrando’s determination to build something akin to Habitat 67, the housing complex that the Israeli-Canadian architect Moshe Safdie designed in Montreal, which was based on landscaped housing on different levels. Other references he took into account for its construction were Bofill’s Walden 7 in Barcelona, and the utopian movements of the 1960s, such as Superstudio, Archigram or Archizoom.

Today, with its imposing, brutalist outline and its innovative architectural style – a pioneer in environmental sustainability in the city – this community of neighbours is made up of 108 homes distributed over 15 floors. The lush gardens, with abundant vegetation in both common and private areas, are its most characteristic hallmark. 

This ecological component that defines this place was the dream come true of a group of friends who wanted to live in the city but surrounded by nature and who were the driving force behind its construction.

The Espai Verd building established a milestone in the city by creating a housing cooperative that merged homes and common areas in a single space and filled them with lush vegetation.

Espai Verd participates in and connects with the city’s other green areas – it has even been documented how migrating birds have included the building and its vegetation in their routes. Numerous species visit and nest in Espai Verd, and this study is reflected in a mural, created by the neighbours, which adorns the imposing entrance to this magnificent building.

Although the vegetation is the backbone of this project – thanks to which it enjoys an enviable microclimate – it is also important to highlight the technological aspects of the building. 

Antonio Cortés was a technology and computer enthusiast who designed and installed a broadband telecommunications network in the building thirty years ago, when hardly anyone else had even heard of such a thing.

The community component was also of paramount importance to Cortés, and this is reflected in the building’s amenities, which include an inter-faith oratory. In addition to a community swimming pool and a social club. 

Photos: Eduardo Manzana.