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NEW EUROPEAN BAUHAUS AWARDS: existing completed examples
Project title
Full project title
Co-design and co-fabrication of rehabilitation solutions to improve the quality of life in El Raval

This project articulates a methodology of assisted rehabilitation in vulnerable residential communities through the co-design of replicable, small-scale projects and their further co-fabrication and implementation in five multi-family buildings in the Raval neighbourhood. Efficient low-cost, recyclable, license-free solutions that can be self-constructed with the assistance of local professionals and entities respond to the local and global urgency of improving living spaces in deprived areas.

What was the geographical scope of your project?
Catalonia, Metropolitan Area of Barcelona
Does your project address mainly urban or rural issues?
Mainly urban
Does your project refer to a physical transformation of the built environment or other types of transformations?
It refers to a physical transformation of the built environment ('hard investment')
Has your project benefited from EU programmes or funds?
Has your project won an EU prize?
Your project is fully completed?
When was your project implemented?
How did you hear about the New European Bauhaus Prizes ?
On whose behalf are you submitting the application?
As an individual in partnership with other persons
Please provide a summary of your project

This project addresses the urgency of improving living conditions in multi-family housing communities in deprived neighbourhoods through the bottom-up method of guided self-rehabilitation.

Barcelona’s Raval neighbourhood combines a high population density of inhabitants at risk of poverty and residential exclusion with a degraded building stock that fails to fulfil habitability requirements and is in need of expensive rehabilitation and heritage preservation.

This project consisted of the participatory design of a catalogue of small-scale solutions aimed at improving habitability in keeping with six principles: (1) sustainability, (2) interior air quality and sanitation, (3) inclusion, (4) care and health, (5) safety and (6) resilience. Low cost, perfectible, recyclable solutions designed in collaboration with residents meet urgent needs while respecting heritage protection. Several of these solutions were implemented in five multi-family buildings in the Raval. In each, we tested the feasibility of a guided self-rehabilitation process where residents worked on architectural solutions with help from local professionals.

The impact of the project is based on two characteristics: its bottom-up nature and its scalability. First, it relies on the capacity of residents and local entities to reconquer their right to housing and proactively transform their living spaces. Second, it is scalable thanks to the design of ‘plug-in’ solutions that were implemented in pilot cases and can be replicated in the rest of the neighbourhood or in similar contexts. We found that small-scale, participative socio-architectonic transformations can have a big impact by exploring the limits of simple and efficient constructive solutions that are low-cost, permit-free and do not require complex property agreements. Such projects can be easily managed and built by the residents themselves with help from local professionals.

Please indicate the main themes of your project with 5 key words
Guided self-rehabilitation
Improving living conditions
Community-led design
Perfectible rehabilitation
Vulnerable multi-family communities
Please give information about the key objectives of your project in terms of sustainability (including circularity) and how these have been met.
Please highlight how the project can be exemplary in this context

The rehabilitation and adaptation of the existing housing stock to meet residents’ needs and offer comfortable, safe living spaces plays a central role in the achievement of the Green European Deal. Specifically, it contributes to Sustainability Development Goal 11: making cities and human settlements inclusive, safe, resilient and sustainable.

These aims have been addressed with the co-design of standardized solutions that are:

1. Easy to build. They can be implemented with guided self-construction involving residents and local professionals.

2. Perfectible. They are based on dry construction systems and are easily detachable from the built support so they do not compromise heritage protection and do not require complex building permits or property agreements.

3. Adaptable. They can be replicated and have an impact far beyond the pilot projects. They would work in most buildings in the Raval and in similar contexts (Mediterranean historic centres, vulnerable multi-family historic residential buildings).

4. Recyclable. The use of dry attached components through standardized solutions ensures circularity, attached solutions—or at least their components and materials—can be recycled, and no waste is generated if they are dismantled.

5. Participation. The involvement of residents helps to train them in the management, maintenance and re-use of built solutions, and it fosters the transformation of their habits into more environmentally and socially responsible practices.

The search for standardization, replicability, circularity and perfectibility in rehabilitation is a mandatory path towards the sustainable adaptation and improvement of existing living spaces. Furthermore, the incorporation of community-led design in rehabilitation and the formal architectural approach to self-construction practices that are common and involve large populations in many contexts are key to advancing towards a more sustainable involvement of residents as proactive rehabilitati

Please give information about the key objectives of your project in terms of aesthetics and quality of experience beyond functionality and how these have been met.
Please highlight how the project can be exemplary in this context

The projects’ key aesthetic goals are based on the socio-architectural and multi-scalar nature of the proposals.

First, participation by residents in the co-design of solutions and implementation processes calls for an open system that can embed multiple aesthetic configurations to meet the desires of different residents and communities. Solutions must deal with historic heritage elements and spaces with deformations and degradations caused by the passage of time and intensive use; as a result, open systems must be able to adapt to fit irregular shapes, and prefabrication is nearly impossible.

Although design solutions take shape on a small scale, the goal is for them to be applied to the transformation of the shared spaces of entire residential communities. These solutions can be applied to most—if not all—buildings in the Raval. As a result, a shared aesthetic can lead to transformations on an urban scale.

The proposed aesthetics simultaneously meet requirements on diversity, adaptability, scalability and universality. Each project was seen as part of a larger whole involving universal, open designs based on standardized constructive systems and local—often recycled—materials. Implemented solutions are replicable and recyclable and their shared aesthetics provide common ground for participative and adaptable formal configurations. This system is based on:

1. Industrialized components of adjustable size based on dry construction systems that can be adapted to fit different physical supports (irregular roof slopes and shapes, different types of stairs, irregular windows, etc.).

2. Open structures that can incorporate variable plug-in components (plants, shades, storage compartments, furniture, services, etc.)

3. Open designs that rely on the conceptual, methodological and tangible universality of open support structures to provide a design base that can admit variable and adaptable finishings (colours, materials, textures, etc.).

Please give information about the key objectives of your project in terms of inclusion (equal opportunities, public participation, citizen engagement, co-design, universal design, accessibility, affordability, etc.) and how these have been met.
Please highlight how the project can be exemplary in this context

This project applies the “design for all” concept in terms of both target and proposed actions.

First, it addresses vulnerable households—communities living in multi-family housing in deprived urban areas who can barely improve their living conditions due to complex economic, social and technical impediments. Public rehabilitation programs have difficulty targeting the communities and residents who need them the most. It is even more difficult for them to do so in a quantitative way that can simultaneously benefit many communities in the short and medium term. This project contributes to research on low-cost, efficient solutions that can be self-managed and self-built proactively by residents with the support of the local productive and associative fabric. It is based on confidence in and appreciation of local capacities.

Another of the project’s guiding design axes is inclusion; it seeks to improve accessibility and habitability for a diverse range of residents in all stages of life with variable needs and aspirations. Common residential spaces are key to inclusion, as they provide intermediate spaces between private homes and public areas. Often, the lack of private spaces for certain domestic activities can be compensated with flexible, more resilient spaces for care and health, comfort, diversity and cohabitation. For example, exterior common spaces for residents to meet spontaneously and practice co-appropriation or more comfortable, safer circulation spaces that foster continuity and communication instead of acting as barriers.

Finally, inclusion was ensured by embracing citizens and residents’ participation in all phases of the project. Co-design and co-fabrication processes provided an environment and pretext for citizen empowerment and organization and turned into powerful experiences of community mutual support and proactive learning.

Please explain how these three dimensions have been combined in your project.
Please highlight how this approach can be exemplary

This project addresses sustainability, aesthetics and inclusion in its attempt to improve living conditions through tangible and intangible transformations according to six axes:

1. Sustainability: improvement of interior comfort and energy efficiency.

2. Interior air quality and sanitation: improvement of ventilation and illumination in common spaces.

3. Inclusion: improvement of the accessibility and adequacy of common spaces for all ages and diverse needs.

4. Care and health: improvement of residents’ habits of use and the adequacy of common areas to serve as spaces for care and health.

5. Safety: adequacy of circulation spaces, accessibility, and the removal of polluting materials from common spaces.

6. Resilience: increase in the flexibility and versatility of spaces for different uses and needs.

Although some of the proposals concentrate on one axis through tangible actions, most combine at least two or three approaches through intangible transformations focused on residents’ habits and formation. To this end, they use a participative method involving residents’ needs and capacities in the design process and aesthetic configuration.

The safety and accessibility of staircases are improved with interventions in steps and railings. The lighting is also improved; energy consumption is reduced using more efficient LED technology, and residents’ perception of comfort and their experience of colour and light are improved. Air quality is improved with greater ventilation through selective openings throughout the building; this also brings in more natural light and provides greater views. This is done in keeping with residents’ desire to dignify entryways and staircases without compromising their privacy. Finally, pollutants and obsolete installations are removed from rooves, and new structures are added to provide a flat surface, additional storage, more shade, greenery and new furniture; this addresses all six conceptual axes.

Please give information on the results/impacts achieved by your project in relation to the category you apply for

This project addresses the needs of vulnerable areas, communities and individuals requiring specific, urgent attention. As a results, its results and impacts are both methodological and applicable.

Thanks to the collaborative methodology used, alliances were created between different sectors: organized an non-organized residents, owners and renters, associations, local professionals, academic researchers and students. 17 local businesses with more than 30 professionals took part in the co-design and co-fabrication processes. Four local non-profit entities informed and assessed the project, with one being part of the team. Eleven communities were studied in detail, and five communities consisting of 61 dwellings and a population of 95 residents were chosen for pilot projects. 30 residents were involved in the co-design and co-fabrication of solutions in their shared spaces. Gender equality was achieved throughout the process and in different participation teams, with more than 55% of women overall.

Regarding the materialization of solutions, two pilot communities prioritised an intervention adding a pergola to the shared rooftop space to promote well-being and cohabitation. Two different versions of the same adaptable dry construction structure were built with recycled, local materials; they included greenery, shade and storage space. Two other communities chose to improve ventilation and illumination through the selective replacement of existing openings and light systems throughout the entryway and staircase. Finally, one community agreed on an intervention to make the stairs more accessible, beautiful and safe. With costs ranging from 5,000 to €15,500, built solutions required little or no maintenance and simultaneously improved sustainability, inclusion and aesthetics. They are directly replicable in most vulnerable multi-family housing communities in the Raval (up to 17.300 dwellings and 22.466 inhabitants) or in similar contexts.

Please explain how citizens and civil society were involved in the in the design and/or implementation of the project.
Please also explain the benefits that derived from their involvement.

The project is a pioneering experience in capacity-building and cooperation between academics, non-profit local entities, the local productive fabric and civil society, with the financial support of the public administration. It was carried out by a team of architectural researchers, including members of a local non-profit who work hand in hand with the local population on a daily basis.

Citizen participation was included in all phases and consisted of:

1. A focus group of three local non-profits (a neighbourhood association, an entity that supports vulnerable populations and an organization of local professionals) accompanied the development of the project, offering a global view on both local needs and potentials for the implementation and replicability of solutions.

2. A first round of participatory processes where the needs and aspirations of residential communities were collected informed a draft catalogue of micro-projects. These were further co-designed, criticized, transformed and assessed in a second round of participation.

3. Residents of five pilot communities, together with local professionals, were involved in a deeper phase of co-design and prioritization of solutions to be implemented in their common spaces.

4. In the co-construction phase, residents who had building experience and skills helped to execute parts of the transformation with the assistance of local professionals, while others helped to organize, clean, cook and, in general, apply self-organization, mutual support and community-sharing.

Regarding sustainability, residents learned how to use and maintain their common spaces in more environmentally and socially responsible ways. Regarding inclusion, residents’ diverse needs and aspirations were negotiated and consensual agreements were reached; this resulted in more diverse aesthetic configurations. Residents’ satisfaction with their everyday living spaces and communities improved significantly.

Please explain what kind of global challenges the project addressed by providing local solutions

The need to improve sustainability and living conditions in deprived areas of cities is a widespread global need, emphasized by an increasingly severe housing emergency in both the Global South and the Global North. In this context, the existing ageing housing stock provides more than 90% of available living spaces and contributes greatly to energy consumption. The urgent need to develop efficient, sustainable, affordable and far-reaching rehabilitation techniques and actions is more than justified globally.

In parallel, the field of architecture is experiencing a turn towards more collaborative and socially responsible practices that enhance citizen participation and empowerment and foster cohabitation and mutual support. The urgent need to improve quality of life in multi-family-housing in vulnerable urban communities can only be effectively approached through this transversal and collaborative approach to design.

Barcelona’s Raval neighbourhood—where a housing emergency and a population at risk of residential exclusion meet a degraded historic housing stock mainly consisting of multi-family, privately owned buildings—provides a wonderful pretext to locally address these global challenges.

The design of small-scale, low cost, standardised solutions does not only respond to global sustainability and affordability needs; it also meets specific local needs for heritage preservation and urgent self-manageable action in the short term. The proposed socio-architectural transformations are adaptable, replicable, and can have an impact on different levels and in contexts far beyond the pilot cases.

Proposed solutions are based on the capacity of local professionals, non-profit entities and residents to reach consensus and implement affordable, sustainable and replicable solutions co-designed with the help of applied academic research in architecture. The integral, scalable nature of this methodology is key to providing local answers to the exposed global challenges.

Please highlight the innovative character of the project as compared to mainstream practices in the field of the project.

The rehabilitation of shared spaces in multi-family housing is a common practice that requires community agreements, a technical project and a building permit. In the Raval, these actions usually involve investments ranging from €50,000 to €150,000 depending on the building and the complexity of the required intervention. Although there is a widespread need for large-scale rehabilitation, the communities that need it most face strong impediments to carrying out self-financed and self-managed interventions. This proposal provides an exploration of the limits and potential of alternative, affordable, small-scale solutions (€5,000-€15,000/building) with an impact throughout the building thanks to the combination of many small interventions in common spaces.

This project uses a bottom-up, collaborative methodology that not only includes citizen participation in decision-making but is also based on local capacities for the materialisation and replication of solutions. There are increasingly common experiences of assisted self-rehabilitation, but most consist of repairing specific or partial damages. Here, rehabilitation is seen as a multi-scalar and multi-faceted opportunity to transform and improve living spaces not only to meet technical requirements but also to offer more sustainable, inclusive, beautiful spaces that enhance new living experiences and cohabitation practices.

While there are great examples of improving shared spaces in cooperative communities and public social housing, common spaces in existing privately-owned multi-family buildings are neglected in the academic world of architecture and design. Furthermore, low-cost, perfectible and standardised solutions are often limited to temporary or furniture-like elements in domestic or public urban spaces. Research on the design and implementation of small-scale affordable systems that can permanently attach to existing spaces (at least in the medium term) and improve their performance is less common.

Please explain to the potential of transferring the projects’ results or learnings to other interested parties and contexts.
Please provide clear documentation, communication of methodology and principles in this context.

The methodology of this project was designed to be applicable in vastly different residential contexts and in communities facing management, economic and technical difficulties. The participative design of a catalogue of solutions provides ready-made, open designs that could be adapted and implemented in most multi-family historic buildings in the Raval neighbourhood or in similar contexts (Mediterranean historic centres and other vulnerable, existing multi-family buildings).

Previous fieldwork and research show that close to 40% of entryways in residential buildings in the Raval lack basic ventilation and natural light. About half of buildings in the neighbourhood have serious technical and spatial impediments to adding lifts and require improvements in the safety and accessibility of staircases. Almost all shared rooves are misused and lack adequate, safe, comfortable spaces. These are spaces where the pilot projects could be replicated as soon as they are adapted to meet the residents’ needs and desires.

The replicability and adaptability of the projects have already been tested in the pilot interventions. Different adaptations of the same open-system pergola were implemented on two community rooves, while the interior air quality of two staircases was improved through the implementation of the same micro-projects in entryways and staircase openings.

On a global level, the common ties formed between public administrations, academics (researchers and students), non-profits and civil society (neighbourhood associations and communities) allow for capacity building and the dissemination of the results and the technology used. The project will soon be exposed in a massive online, open course within an Erasmus+ project, and it will be part of the Barcelona City Council’s science sharing program and the UPC’s citizen science program.

Is an evaluation report or any relevant documentation available?
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By submitting your application, you understand that all the applications that meet the eligibility requirements will be shared for the purposes of the selection processes, and notably published on the secured platform and for the purposes of the promotion of these on the New European Bauhaus website and/or other European Commission communication channels. In this sense, the applications would be widely available. Applicants should ensure that they present their ideas, concepts, projects, in such a way that they could be shared without giving rise to intellectual property related concerns. If your submission is selected as one of the finalists, it will additionally be shared for the purpose of the public vote that will take place. The European Union is granted a licence to use and share your application with the general public and the official external experts for the purposes of the selection process, including the voting. The European Union has the right to use the images and visual materials and the description provided in the application for communication purposes related to the contest and beyond. Rights granted comprise the right to store, reproduce, display, publish and communicate or distribute copies in electronic or digital format, including, but not only, through the internet. Unless you have disclosed your name, the European Commission has no obligation to share your name when using or disseminating your contribution to the public. The European Union cannot be held responsible in case any submitted idea, project, concept is found to infringe third parties rights. The European Union shall be neither responsible for the use that third parties may do of the applications or related content.


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