Architecture Professor Designing Innovative Low-Income Spaces

Turó del Sastre Social Housing by Xavier Vendrell

Xavier Vendrell, a Professor of Architecture in Auburn’s School of Architecture, Planning and Landscape Architecture (APLA), recently collaborated with dataAE to design a public housing project in Spain that could easily be mistaken for vacation condos in the United States.

Having joined APLA in 2013, Vendrell currently divides his time between Auburn and his home city of Barcelona, where he has completed numerous projects, the most recent of which is titled Turó del Sastre Social Housing.

Turó del Sastre Social Housing by Xavier Vendrell

“It’s affordable housing with a view of the sea,” Vendrell said.

The 39 units are divided between two buildings. In the upper building, positioned 55 feet above the lower, the apartments are arranged in a row along a central corridor, while the lower building bends in the middle to follow the topography. This design choice allows every unit to face the sea, with windows spanning the full width of the unit to maximize the panoramic effect.

“The units are all alike, yet different, and all available to people of lower income,” shared Vendrell.

These open spaces maintain their affordability by using the Venturi effect to cool the buildings, with openings in the corridor ceilings, above the entrance doors and on each side of every apartment.

The project received Class A status for energy efficiency, the highest rating offered, due to the orientation of the units and the shell’s low rate of transmission.

“For me, the quality of the design is in the space, not in the materials,” Vendrell said.Turó del Sastre Social Housing by Xavier Vendrell

The water-facing façade elements not only enhance the visual appeal of the units but also contribute to energy efficiency. In cooler weather, sliding glass features close to seal the apartments from the cold and capture the warmth of the sun. In summer these windows retract to maximize ventilation, while specially designed curtains can be positioned to block the sun.

Turó del Sastre Social Housing by Xavier Vendrell

Vendrell’s work embraces a range of scales and extends beyond architecture to include landscape architecture, urban design and interior design, but it does have a common thread.

“Most of my work is public,” Vendrell notes. “From public space to public buildings to public housing, I find immense value in contributing to the shared spaces that shape communities, foster a sense of connection and enrich the human experience.”

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Xavier Vendrell