Life (in common) in La Borda: shared washing machines in a Mies van der Rohe

The number of bikes of all sizes parked in the inner courtyard of the entrance is a social thermometer and a letter of introduction. So are the mailboxes, on which a dozen colored helmets rest. They are wooden mailboxes (the star material in this private community); and made by the neighbors, like so many other things here (practically everything that is physically possible self build). They are open too. They are not only mailboxes without a key, but directly without a door. “It’s very practical when we have to leave things & rdquor ;, he jokes Carles Baigesworking partner (and founder) of cabbage, architects cooperative who a decade ago dreamed of another way of living and coexisting and whose star creation, The board, this building is not only a reality, but a reality that does not stop reaping awards.

The last one, the prestigious Mies van der Rohe 2022 in the emerging category, recognition of which baiges, also a neighbor, he speaks naturally and modestly, in the same way that he explains patiently -this must be the millionth visit to the building- how they organize to put the washing machines.

The dignity of care

They have four -two industrial and two ‘family’- in a pleasant and extremely bright space, next to the open multipurpose roomwhich, like almost everything, they share among all.

next to the washing machines, a kitchenette, stories and colorful chairs have turned this multipurpose room in a toy library. “For us it was important that the washing machines were in a pleasant place. The spaces dedicated to care have historically been dark and hidden places, we wanted to break with that, dignify those spaces. here is nice put the washing machine on while the children play. It is a spacious, bright, central place”, explains the architect in front of the spinning washing machines.

The children’s rebellion

“We make self-criticism in that, when we think about the whole project, we do not incorporate the gaze of children; they were the ones who they have made the space theirs& rdquor ;, point Baiges. behind the multipurpose room, converted to practice in a games room, a small staircase leads to two rooms: the guest rooms, also shared between the 28 “living units” that are part of The board. As with the washing machines, they reserve them ‘online’ when they need them through a questionnaire. Like the rest of the spaces, to ensure the well-functioning community there is a (consensual) protocol for its use: they cannot book them for more than two weeks in a row.

During confinement, at which time they could not receive visitors, these rooms became coworking spaces, and, at specific times, when they have been empty, they have also welcomed an evicted family from the neighborhood as an emergency shelter for a few days.

The challenge of ‘democratization’

At the time of its construction, The board It was the tallest wooden building in Barcelona (and in Spain), although its main singularity was never that. The building, inside Can Batlló -in whose recovery La Col also played an important role-, is up in municipal land qualified of Official Protection Housing (VPO), on loan to the cooperative for 75 years in surface right.

The VPO access criteria they made aspiring cooperative members stay out above -the least- and, above all, below -the most-, something they keep thinking about, since they do not want this other way of living to be only accessible to a few. One of the possible entry routes is open to those lower rents the floors that remain empty when some current partner (and neighbor) decides to leave.

The houses -the great majority of them facing the future great park of Can Batlló, these days converted into an archaeological camp- are small -there are three sizes, those of 40, those of 55 and those of 70 meters, depending on the members of the family unit-; but the common spaces are huge. That is the charm of a construction that has already received the award City of Barcelona 2018 and the prize of Built Work in Architecture of the BBConstrumat 2019.

The kings of recycling

In addition to the guest rooms, Another of the most successful venues in the enclave is the community kitchen and dining room. A beautiful industrial kitchen in which the neighbors have dinner together once a week -they cook in shifts- and that families can reserve to organize their family gatherings or with friends. This last space is still in construction. The tables – wooden, needless to say – are new. They made them themselves – almost a no-brainer, here – to present the draft The board on the Venice Biennale. They are tables with glass on top, under which they showed the plans at the congress.

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They are also pending to hang some curtains for the multipurpose room that they also did for the Biennial. Here, reusing and recycling is not just a slogan.

The 28 dwellings of the building, whose green cover overlooking the Tibidabo has 20 photovoltaic panels– are owned by the cooperative —not individual— that makes a “use transfer” to the different partners, “which prevents the flats from being resold at a more expensive price, or rented for profit: the price of the flats is always the same and is decided collectively by the cooperative”. Neither rent nor buy, hence they speak of a “access to non-speculative housing”.


One of the goals of cabbage when they started the project The board was to demonstrate (to the city) that it was possible to access housing with other logics and achieve extend the model, something that they have more than fulfilled. They were the first to sign the contract for the surface right of one municipal lot to lift one cooperative housing in regimen of transfer of use, but today there are already 20 similar projects underway in the Catalan capital that have followed in his wake. La Balma, in Espronceda street, in it poblenou, is now also a benchmark, just like La Xarxaire de la Barcelonetain Joan de Borbó, whose works are nearing completion.

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