Gaudi housing development was the Taller de Arquitectura first experience of urban design on the grand scale. The commission called for the construction of a very economical, low cost residential development aimed at alleviating the housing shortage created by the influx of large number of immigrants during the 60s, in terms comparable to those of innumerable projects elsewhere which resulted inhabitable peripheral suburbs.
The basic premise was to steer clear of the dormitory-suburb model by means of a wealth of shops, bars, leisure facilities, supermarkets and large public spaces. The inclusion of the greatest possible number of services was to lead to the creation of a city within a city, thus minimizing both the need to commute in and out and the marginalization of the new neighborhood.
An attempt was made to reproduce the atmosphere of communication fostered by the urban network of long-established towns, creating three independent road systems. The principal network consists of major peripheral expressways for high-speed traffic. The secondary network is for slow-moving vehicles, public parking and pedestrians, while the third system is exclusively for the use of pedestrians.
Geometrical patterns were of primary importance to the solution of the scheme. In this project an ars combinatoria of spatial “cells” simultaneously allows for open growth and hierarchical composition. The purpose of spatial organization is to facilitate man’s orientation. Orientation presupposes that the individual possesses and environmental image, that is an understanding of the spatial structure of the surroundings. The spatial organization of the Barrio Gaudi proves that this is so while satisfying the demand for order as well as the need for discovery.
The 500 subsidized residential units are concentrated over eight-storey towers, which communicate with each other by means of terraces that permit pedestrian circulation between the different buildings. The north-oriented spaces are primarily used for circulation, thus leaving the spaces with greater sun exposure for housing. The scheme incorporates various residential typologies: two, three and four-bedroom apartments.
The typical floor with twelve apartments, each one different from the other, is arranged geometrically around a patio. Spectacular open air vestibules provide access to the vertical communication elements, staircases and lifts and facilitate horizontal communication with the dwellings around the other patios on the same floor; pedestrian public circulation is maintained on all levels. On the fourth floor circulation becomes elevated streets and plazas.
The construction system employed a structure of concrete with brick cladding. The economic constraints and the lack of available technology dissuaded general use of industrially produced construction elements, although where these were tried the results were found to be very positive, and are clearly visible in the completed scheme.