The Mirador Building is a postmodern architecture building located in the Sanchinarro neighborhood, in the north of the city of Madrid (Spain). Mirador is a collection of mini neighbourhoods stacked vertically around a semi-public sky-plaza. The building acts as a counterpoint against the massive uniformity of the surrounding housing blocks. It frames the distant landscape of the Guadarrama Mountains through a large ‘look out’ located 40 meters above the ground. This also provides outdoor space and community garden for the occupants of building, monumentalising public life and space. It was developed by the Dutch architecture studio MVRDV in collaboration with the Madrid-based architect Blanca Lleó, and completed in 2005. Its construction was managed by the EMV (Madrid municipal housing company), and included 156 homes allocated based on the appraised value method.
Sanchinarro is a large and relatively new residential area on the outskirts of Madrid characterised by its excessive uniformity and mono-functional land use dedicated to housing. Between 1998 and 2007, Sanchinarro grew in the form of large and desolate avenues that moved the introspective blocks away from each other, until the meaning of the word neighborhood was smashed into pieces. “This rapid growth produced an excessively homogeneous architecture”, explains architect Blanca Lleó. More than architecture, “they are square meters of production in the form of buildings that do not make a city.” At least on a human scale, because “the streets are roads, there are no meeting spaces like commercial premises, the endowments are appearing little by little but the neighborhood is still very devitalised”.
In contrast to the rationalist and serial repetition of the standard family unit in the area, the Mirador wants to break the excessive uniformity of the local planning, which in almost all the residential plots. The project proposes a set of solutions that are more in tune with the contemporary ways of life and that favors variation and mixed types.
In the Mirador two plots are destined for development as a possible ‘escape’ from the uniformity and claustrophobia of a surrounding filled with six-story blocks.
In the first, the typology of houses surrounding an inaccessible patio is turned sideways creating a communal space with a view of the city, and the Guadarrama Mountains. The tower preserves open space needed by the modern city. The large lookout space, 40 meters above the ground, provides occupants and neighbours with a community garden and a space to contemplate the skyline.
While the success of the Mirador as a space for interaction could be argued, there are some learnings from the project. The Mirador could be understood as a criticism of the government’s housing allocation model, “which does not cover the real needs of the people and promotes uniformity instead of difference”, because “it reproduces the idea that we all respond to the same type of home” says the architect. But “the one-fits-all home no longer exists”, she says.
The wide variety of home types in el Mirador advocate for this idea. “It was what we wanted to offer to the real variety that exists in society. In this building there are older people who live on the 18th floor and young people who live on the second. They would surely want to exchange their homes,” she believes. “When you can choose your home, you identify with it. When it is allocated to you, you will always disagree.”
“The housing allocation system in Spain is based on a lottery, so that people are deprived from the opportunity to choose their homes. And since they cannot choose, this system does not work,” says Lleó. That is why the 35 types of housing that were designed for el Mirador did not fit the current model. “We also proposed it as a criticism to that system,” she says.