URBAstudios creates one-room open-plan apartment in the heart of Porto
Nuno Alves de Carvalho, the Founder and Principal Architect of URBAstudios was reached out to revamp an apartment in building from the 60’s located in the old Historic Centre of the city of Porto, Portugal. The task was to design a totally new apartment with a very tight budget, maintaining the original typology of the flat, with one room only.
“The existing with a total area of 35 square meters was divided in 5 distinct areas, as are: the entrance hall, the kitchen, the living room, the sleeping room and bathroom. All of these areas are accessible through door openings. With just two apartments on each floor, one facing the front and the other facing the rear, the building has a particularity of having an inner courtyard linked with the common stairs. Thereby, the apartments benefit both from the light and ventilation of the open courtyard as well as from the windows of the façades. The challenge launched by the client was to create a totally new apartment with a very low budget, maintaining the original typology of the flat, with one room only. However, the project was conditioned since the beginning by the structural issues of the existing building. The infrastructures like the water supply and drainage were stable and could not be changed. The initial intention of the proposal was to create a space capable of transmitting the sensation of being in a retreat, far from the Historic Centre of the city. According to the existing restrictions and the reduced dimension of space, uniquely the walls of the sanitary unit were maintained; the remained partition walls were totally demolished. The main intention was to create a continuous, open space, to maximise the use of natural light; for this reason, new walls were no erected. From the empty space, the proposal starts to promote the kitchen integration, designing it to be open to the main room, creating a unique space. The result is an open area with plenty of natural light, bathed with natural light from two fronts. Conceptually and visually the apartment was divided in two parts: one in light grey and in other white – to explore the contemporary and simple language of the materials, with the intention of being simple but bold. The “light grey” refers to a pure volume defined as a monochromatic parallelepiped, with all faces coated with microcement. Within this space are the entrance hall, the kitchen and the sanitary unit. The “White” appears as an ample space of appropriation, either a sleeping room within a living room or a living area within a sleeping room. In this way, the intention is to take advantage of the reduced space of the apartment, combining versatility with lightness. A unique curtain barely divides the sleeping and living areas, creating privacy when necessary. The transition between these two main spaces, the “White” and the “light grey” is outlined with a detail, an edge around the entire ceiling of the part coated with white. Despite its small area, the apartment shows distinct spaces and it is characterized by a strong image and identity. In the same way, it can be defined as neutral and versatile as a result of contemporary way of living which is more and more personalized. The materials include simple finishes with neutral colours to express the sensation of retreat. The dominant material is microcement, as is used on all surfaces of the volume, including the sanitary unit. The main room/ sleeping room has timber floor of pine, walls and ceiling are coated with white painting. The kitchen is an exception to the neutral colours as it shows a strong blue which confers a specified personality,” explains Nuno Alves de Carvalho