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FIRST LOOK

Space Popular completes Spanish space-frame prototype house

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The steel structure of Brick Vault House served as scaffolding during construction and continues to provide a unifying element between interior and exterior

Located in the suburb of Valencia known as New Santa Barbara, the house, which was planned as a protoype for a developer, is formed out of a modular space-frame structure. The frame creates a unifying element between the interior and exterior as well as expressing the structure simply, and sits on a grid of 10 x 10m.

The slabs between the grid are formed of brick vaults, floating over the steel structure, which also served as scaffolding during the construction of the building. The vaults were made without using formwork: the bricks stuck together with gesso just at the right stage of drying.

UK-based Space Popular has recently designed Freestyle: Architectural Adventures in Mass Media at the RIBA – the first virtual reality (VR) exhibition at 66 Portland Place, which explores key moments in the evolution of architectural styles over the last 500 years.

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The floor plates shift between floors to create solar shading and large covered outdoor areas on a tight plot. Large windows bring light deep into the plan.

Built on a sloping site, the landscape allows for the house to be revealed slowly. As one arrives, it gives the illusion of a semi-sunken, two-storey house with the shifting floor plates creating a sequence of viewpoints.

A central staircase is at the heart of the layout with rooms organised around it to minimise the use of corridor space. Sliding doors allow areas to be separated off as required.

The house has been inspired by materials and construction methods common in Spain, both old and new. The colour green, used for the structural frame, was chosen to blend in with surrounding vegetation. 

The interior was designed by the developer based upon simple, affordable finishes, although Space Popular have experience designing furniture – such as for Infinity Spa in Bangkok where they founded their practice in 2013 and taught for five years. Directed by Architectural Association graduates Lara Lesmes and Fredrik Hellberg, Space Popular is a multidisciplinary design and research practice that make architecture, products, graphics, interfaces and research.

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Architect’s statement

The brief for the house called for something that was ‘different’ but still fulfilled the usual expectations of a medium-scale detached home. This first house was to serve as a prototype for a larger plot, where the client plans to develop more in the future. We suggested a grid system, with which we could resolve the typical details that would allow them to create different configurations in the subsequent houses, avoiding replication but still maintaining some level of standardisation.

The space-frame is the structure of the building, together with the vaults. We wanted to create a unifying element between interior and exterior, as well as reveal the way the house is held up. We think one feels more at ease living in spaces where the way it all comes together can be easily discerned. The green blends well with vegetation, works against the sky and is a colour that is often found in domestic interiors in small amounts, through plants. The space frame’s steel grid is 10 x 10m with spacing of 3.75 x 3.75m and a 3.16m floor-to-ceiling height.

Lara Lesmes and Fredrik Hellberg, Space Popular

Space popular 2019 brick vault house drawing 02

Ground floor plan

Project data 

Start on site October 2018
Completion date
 December 2019
Gross internal floor area 235m²
Gross (internal + external) floor area 280m²
Construction cost Undisclosed
Architect Space Popular
Local architect Estudio Alberto Burgos and Javier Cortina Maruenda
Client Private
Structural engineer Estudio Alberto Burgos
Energy consultant Javier Cortina Maruenda
Project manager Raquel Gimenez Ibañez
Approved building inspector INCOSA
Furniture Teulat
Main contractor Vicente Bolinches
CAD software used Rhino, Unreal Engine, VRay

Space popular 2019 brick vault house drawing 05

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