The Sanchinarro neighborhood of northern Madrid is full of nondescript six-story apartment blocks. But among them stands a truly distinct construction, rising up like a massive postmodern LEGO project. With a little imagination, it also looks kind of like a Transformer, if Transformers turned into apartment blocks.
The building is the Edificio Mirador (“Lookout Building”), a 21-story, 208-foot-tall structure with a large, rectangular opening built into it about 131 feet above the ground. It was designed by MVRDV, a Dutch architecture and urban design practice, and completed in 2005.
Rather than follow the standard concept that unites most apartment blocks, the Edificio Mirador was envisaged to be a collection of “mini neighborhoods stacked vertically around a semi-public sky-plaza,” according to the architects.
To give these vertical neighborhoods their own distinct character, the building was built in nine distinct blocks, with each block containing a different type of compact housing aimed at integrating different social groups and lifestyles.
To further differentiate the various small “suburbs” within the building, each block has a different façade using one of a variety of materials such as stone slabs, mosaic tiles, and cement in various shades of gray, black and white. This makes it easy to see the individual blocks from outside the building.
The orange sections that can be seen on the exterior are access zones, conceived as vertical alleyways connecting various areas of the neighborhood. And like any good neighborhood, the building has its communal outdoor area. Like a small park in the heart of the building, the open-air “sky-plaza” provides a communal space as well as views of the city and the Guadarrama Mountains beyond.