Vitápolis is a residential complex whose services are tailored to the social and welfare needs of senior citizens. In addition to the development’s 35 fully-accessible independent apartments, it has community space which covers a surface area of than 1,500 m2 and includes gymnasium s, workshops, cafeteria, meeting rooms, lounges, gardens, pools, sports facilities and allotments. The Vitápolis project looks beyond architectural considerations and sets out to deliver a solution adapted to the emerging physical and emotional needs of this section of the population.
Studio Name: Romero & Vallejo
Design Team: Mariano Vallejo & Sara Romero
Area: 5.860 m2
Location: Toledo, Spain
Photography Credits: Angel Segura
The development does not merely provide a set of accessible housing units. It aims to create an environment which reflects the way in which users wish to live their lives: pleasant spaces that promote social interaction and spaces where users can learn, keep active, share special moments and receive treatment, while maintaining their privacy and independence.
With that in mind, we have formulated a special community space program based on their needs and put together a package of stimulating services and activities in response to their personal concerns.
THE BUILDING. Architecture. Setting.
The building is located at the heart of the residential neighborhood of Santa María de Benquerencia in Toledo; it is surrounded by green areas and is served by several amenities including the health center, the municipal library, and the civic center.
From the very outset of this project, location was one of the major challenges faced by the team .
A strong emphasis was placed on helping users to integrate, to the extent possible, within the locality and the urban setting, with a view to maximising their day-to-day independence and, in the process, presenting opportunities for interaction and keeping active, beyond the confines of the building itself.
Erected on a virtually flat rectangular plot of land, the building runs lengthwise from west to east and is surrounded by various plots of land.
The green areas, initially covering a surface area of more than 1,000 m2, are shared with two adjoining associations and accommodate two pools and sports facilities.
While the five storeys of the building’s longitudinal structure above ground are reserved for the privacy aspect of the project, the ground floor houses the community space (cafeteria, reception, gym, meeting rooms, etc.) and is fully integrated into the urban setting, providing access to the various neighbouring spaces.
The upper floors accommodate the residential units which have access to other communal facilities (laundry rooms, lounges, etc.); topping it all off is the large terrace on the roof, a square in the air, if you will, which affords 360-degree panoramic views of the surrounding areas. This part of the building also boasts an infinity pool, storage areas and bathroom s which are available exclusively to residents, friends and family members.
Composition, structure and construction.
The building’s exterior takes the form of a series of raised continuous horizontal strips which open and close according to orientation, to combat the harsh effects of the sun. These strips are, on the one hand, the exterior representation of the communal or community space of the building, which stand as the centrepiece of the proposal, and, on the other, the domestic “transition” space (“heated terraces”).
The whole exterior enclosure and the supporting structure of the residential levels consists of a system of ready-mixed concrete panels. On the ground floor, for the purpose of freeing up space, the concrete load-bearing walls (which provide effective sound insulation) become a continuat i on of metal pillar frames. This structural assembly is supported and reinforced on the outside by the three free-standing core areas, two stair cores and the lift core.
Sustainability and energy efficiency.
The use of ready-mixed concrete elements to construct both the exterior enclosure and the structural elements has significantly reduced construction waste during the building work.
The building meets the most stringent energy-efficiency requirements, based on a combinati on of passive systems, such as the arrangement and orientation of openings in façades, increased thermal insulation in enclosures, the use of the building’s shadow projections, etc. and active systems. An aerotermia air conditioning and domestic hot water production system has been installed to optimise energy consumption and provide excellent thermal comfort both in residential units and in community spaces.
On the other hand, all the building’s installations (electricity, plumbing and telecommunicati on s) have been designed in such a way to facilitate maintenance and to promptly adapt to the requirements of future energy-saving regulations, without the need for any work. A system of access cabinets located throughout the building, both in the community spaces and in the residential units, provides immediate access to the installations.
DESIGNING A WAY OF LIFE
Common areas and apartments.
The building programme has been designed to accommodate and promote a way of life that seeks to optimise the quality of life of users into the future, while adapting naturally to the changes and limitations that the passage of time will inevitably bring.
Quality of life is, first and foremost, about emotional aspects.
Karl Wilhelm von Humboldt remarks: “…Human relationships are all that really matter in life”.
The aim is to create a set of community spaces within the building, offer a package of activities that promote cohesion among residents and present opportunities for interaction (lounge, cafeteria, gym, layout of circulation areas, furniture, etc.), and enhance the potential of the domestic space (library, workshops, galleries, etc.).
The aim is to design a welcoming and timeless space that connects more than 1,500 m2 of community space to create welcoming spaces for residents and visitors.
Several environments have been created via a combination of neutral colours and high-grade materials (such as beechwood or hand-crafted tiling) and a mixture of other more contempor ary and cosmopolitan elements (such as ready-mixed concrete and exposed installations) all of which work in harmony to form an elegant and comfortable interior setting.
The entrance reception area is given prominence by its furniture which is custom-designed by Romero & Vallejo and lined with beechwood. It is set against a large background, also made of beechwood, that serves as a partition between the reception area and the main lounge.
Another of the reception area’s principal features is the large retro-illuminated mirror.
The ground floor also accommodates the main lounge with its chimney, the cafeteria-cum – restaurant, the gym and the physiotherapy, meeting and infirmary rooms.
The entire ground floor is enclosed by a glazing system which affords clear views of the outside areas and gardens.
As a way of promoting balance and health, and a greater connection with nature, large flower pot s and plant stands with a variety of vegetation are in all interior and exterior spaces.
As far as the interior furniture is concerned, contempor ary items designed by Romero & Vallejo, such as the Ruff pouf for GAN or the Palma carpets for Now Carpets, complement classic designs such as the Cesta table lamp and TMM lamp of Miguel Milá for Santa&Cole, the Rattan chairs of Jaime Hayon for Expormim, the Ensombra parasols of ODOS for GandiaBlasco or the Pet Lamp of Acdo.
On the upper floors, the benches and bay windows located in the access corridors to the housing units around the entire building make for ideal meeting points. On the fourth floor, a private lounge enclosed by large, glazed panels affords stunning views of the city.
The solarium is located on the roof of the building. It includes an infinity pool from which users can enjoy the amazing views of Toledo.
Apartments. “Simultaneously living apart and together…”
Residents can enjoy privacy in their own apartments which are designed to provide a pleasant, fully accessible, well-lit and multi-purpose living area, and in such a way that they can be adapted to the individual needs of every user.
There are two kinds of apartment: 1 bedroom with 60 m2 and 2 bedrooms with 80 m2. As they
are arranged according to an open-plan concept (no hallways), all areas are fully accessible. They include the living/dining room, the bedroom, the bathroom and a terrace with underfloor heating. The terrace area extends the living area and serves as a transition point with the exterior. The enclosure between these spaces, representing a window and a sliding partition from floor to roof, involves a carpentry system fully integrated into the floor’s surface (custom-designed for this project) to make it easier to pass from one area to the other.
The various areas of the housing unit are also fitted with a 24/7 emergency-call system so that residents can bring any incident or emergency to the attention of staff members.
Thermal comfort and energy consumption are optimised by an aerotermia system installed in all rooms, and by the configuration of the building’s enclosures, with their enclosed galleries in the southeast and their open terraces in the north east. On the other hand, the terrace simultaneo usly acts as a thermal mattress by trapping heat in winter and providing protection against it in summer.
While the members and residents of Vitápolis live in their apartments in a completely autonom ou s fashion, they have access to a personalized care service should they ever need it.
About Romero & Vallejo
Romero Vallejo is an architecture, interior design and product design studio.
Founded by the architects Sara Romero and Mariano Vallejo, the studio operates international ly and specialises in cohousing and coliving projects.
For Romero & Vallejo, Vitápolis is the latest initiative in a series of cohousing projects dating back to 2004 when the studio undertook its first special project for young people in Toledo: Canónig os. The project set out to deliver a solution to the housing needs of young people, at the peak of the housing bubble, i.e. at a time of high prices and poor architectural quality.
The studio adopts a comprehensive approach to these projects by assembling a multidisciplinary team consisting of lawyers, economists, designers and architects, so that the project is effectively managed every step of the way.
The studio’s architecture and interior design projects cover technical approach and conception, as well as execution, while also focusing on the landscaping and graphic elements applied to spaces. By bringing all these aspects together, the studio can provide its desired level of coherency in conveying a project and ensure its financial viability by managing the planning process from the very beginning, which includes controlling costs, completion deadlines and procurement.
To bring this cohousing project to a successful completion, Romero & Vallejo has assembled a multidisciplinary team (Vitapolis Gestión), consisting of architects, surveyors, designers, lawyer s, engineers, economists and health personnel, to oversee every aspect of the initiative.
As part of a special management, information and consultancy service, the firm now offer s support and advice to groups and investors in relation to the design and construction of cohousing and coliving developments.