Apartment building in Carabanchel, Madrid

A deceptively simple structure
The primary-hued façade of a new apartment building in the Madrid suburb of Carabanchel by Amann_Canovas_Maruri Architects
(Image credit: Press)

It takes a certain amount of chutzpah to pull off a truly colourful building. One of the sorry legacies of modernism's largely sterile palette was the post-modernists' sudden lurch into jarring colour, splashed superficially over façades with little sense of creative composition. Colour application is also the foremost strategy of regeneration - witness HawkinsBrown's scheme for the rebirth of Sheffield's Park Hill flats.

Actually integrating colour into form is another matter entirely and still very much a minority pursuit. To date, it's only firms like Sauerbruch Hutton and Mansilla Tunon who have made a motif out of colour-as-form. Firmly located in this contemporary movement is this new apartment building in the Madrid suburb of Carabanchel by Amann_Canovas_Maruri Architects. With a façade that explodes in a riot of primaries, the new apartments, are an unabashed celebration of colour, made possible by a deceptively simple structure.

The new five-storey building fuses fizzing façades with a generous dose of public space, thanks to the architects' innovative approach to the slab construction. Rather than express the vertical structural supports, the apartments are read as a series of colour-coded horizontal elements, with the thin floor slabs forming a grey dividing line, like musical staves. Views through the structure create a mix of public and private external space, while the central courtyard has been landscaped as a communal garden.

The architects refer to the configuration of each unit as a 'house with a yard'. The various units, including two, three and four-bed flats, are simply planned, with a galley kitchen, sitting/dining area and narrow, bunk-like bedrooms. The coloured façade includes folding shutters to keep out the heat and prying eyes. From the street, however, the passer-by gets a polychromatic feast, while the residents have the added bonus of a private interior landscape to enjoy.

A deceptively simple structure

The new explosively colourful apartments have been made possible by a deceptively simple structure

(Image credit: Press)

A series of colour-coded horizontal volumes, with the thin floor slabs between forming a dividing line

Rather than express the vertical structural supports, the apartments are read as a series of colour-coded horizontal volumes, with the thin floor slabs between forming a dividing line

(Image credit: Press)

A communal garden

The central courtyard has been landscaped as a communal garden

(Image credit: Press)

A galley kitchen, sitting/dining area and narrow, bunk-like bedrooms

The various units, including two, three and four bed flats, are simply planned, with a galley kitchen, sitting/dining area and narrow, bunk-like bedrooms

(Image credit: Press)

The heat and prying eyes

The coloured façade includes folding shutters to keep out the heat and prying eyes

(Image credit: Press)

Public and private external space

Views through the structure create a mix of public and private external space

(Image credit: Press)

Ellie Stathaki is the Architecture & Environment Director at Wallpaper*. She trained as an architect at the Aristotle University of Thessaloniki in Greece and studied architectural history at the Bartlett in London. Now an established journalist, she has been a member of the Wallpaper* team since 2006, visiting buildings across the globe and interviewing leading architects such as Tadao Ando and Rem Koolhaas. Ellie has also taken part in judging panels, moderated events, curated shows and contributed in books, such as The Contemporary House (Thames & Hudson, 2018), Glenn Sestig Architecture Diary (2020) and House London (2022).