melon district cafe

Location: Parallel 101, Sants-Montjuic, Barcelona
Year: 2007
Program: cafe
Client: Catalonia Gebira S.L, Barcelona
Photos: bruno helbling

melon district cafe

"In the past few years the city of Barcelona has started to buzz with a lively multinational student life. This includes Erasmus exchange students, post-graduate students, and language students in a melting pot of cultures differing in interests and duration of their stay. Unlike other European cities where students reside in university campuses outside of the central core of the city, in Barcelona, due to the scale of the city and the proximity of the academic institutions and universities located sometimes within the centre, students opt for either sharing flats or residing in some of the few students residences in town.

This phenomenon has lead to big student-population growth in recent times and has stressed particular attention on the availability of adequate accommodation for students from the municipality and local institutions, liberating the students from the difficulty of finding places to stay in a town where rents are on a constant rise.

Located in Poble sec, a low-profile neighborhood of Barcelona that is nonetheless very interesting in terms of activity and a mixed community of local people and immigrants; Melon District is a student residence that presents itself as “miniurbanization”. This is quite an interesting concept to make a residence “homey”. Its scale and implantation dialog directly with the surrounding urban context, establishing a familiar relationship with the neighborhood public space and the built-scape.

Designed Gus Wüstemann, a Swiss architect based in Barcelona, the Melon district is an urban concrete sculpture whose sharp volumetric volumes contain-ing the public and private entities of the program are constituted of plain, raw surfaces of almost monochromatic colors providing luminosity and clarity to the interior and enhancing the connection with the polychromatic exterior through wide glazed openings. The game of contrast of this new urban block with its adjacent edifications grants it a particular identity.
A precise and careful choice of materials with the intention of exposing them in their nature, contributes to a comfortable sense of the space. Sheer simplicity grants subtlety to the spaces where light and sharp volumetric wall-partitions are the main actors of the space. A certain fluidity of the space runs over the smooth white painted and varnished plastered walls, raw concrete ceilings, and white polyurethane floors. The lighting concept reinforces this fluid perception, consisting of inner façades lighting and cubic indirect lights that dilute the limits of the space, transform-ing in a continuous visual experience. In the attempt to escape “artificial” design that overwhelms a space, a complex kind of “absent design” is achieved where use is suggested and not imposed.

In this sense, it is not strange that the concept of the residence ends up in creating a freedom-ambiance in the place, liberating it from any dissonant note or manieristic design gesture; it is in a way democratic, the free-plan accepting multiple uses, insuring intimacy as well as exposure and lacking of any imposing centrality.

While the building as a whole communicates with its surrounding; always insuring from private or public perspectives a connection with the exterior, it also insures an intimate haven in its inner space. The interior spatial experience seeking calm and neutrality allow for the different identities of the students to be displayed; resulting in the only “colorful” touch to the lived-space. " by Darine Choueiri