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La Borda and the conversion of a former wine warehouse into housing, winners of the inaugural European Collective Housing Award.

2024 May 31
  • The jury, headed by the architect and winner of the 2021 Pritzker Awards, Anne Lacaton, announced the jury's decision after their meeting at the Basque Country Architecture Institute in San Sebastian.
  • The conversion of a former wine warehouse in Basel, Switzerland was selected as the ‘Best Collective Housing Development’ in the category of renovation, for “demonstrating that transformation of what is already in existence creates a new and unexpected quality of housing which defies standard typologies”.
  • La Borda, in Barcelona, the tallest wooden building in Spain, was selected for the new build category for “being an outstanding example of the development of collective housing through all phases of the process”.
  • The inaugural edition of the award attracted a high level of participation: a total of 171 entries were received from 19 European countries, of which the jury had to decide on their winners from between 18 finalists.


The international jury of the European Collective Housing Award has announced today in San Sebastian the two winning projects of its inaugural edition: the conversion of a former wine warehouse into housing in Basel, Switzerland, which was selected as ‘Best Collective Housing Development’ in the renovation category, and La Borda, a housing cooperative in Barcelona, as winner in the new build category. The award, promoted by the Department of Territorial Planning, Housing and Transportation of the Basque Government, is based on projects that have a positive impact on communities and contribute to sustainable urban development, while promoting quality architecture.

The award is sponsored by the Basque Country Architecture Institute (San Sebastián) and arc en rêve centre d'architecture (Bordeaux). The international panel of judges met this Friday at the Basque Country Architecture Institute, to make their selection from the eighteen finalists, taking as its starting point the importance of housing as a fundamental human need and social asset, as well as the promotion of innovation, inclusion and environmental responsibility in the design of collective housing.

The conversion of the old Coop wine warehouse in Basel, Best Collective Living Development in the Renovation category.

This project by Esch Sintzel Architecture was finished in 2023 in Basel, Switzerland. It consisted of the conversion of a former wine warehouse into 64 apartments, a café-bar, a commercial space, rooms, a collective space, a roof terrace, music practice rooms, car and bicycle parking.

The protagonists are the pre-existing columns of the old Coop wine warehouse which, according to the studio, “tell the story of the building’s history in an impressive way”. “They are the most striking elements of the existing structure and form an important starting point of the design. In order to keep their effect tangible despite the small-scale nature of the new residential use, they are exposed and staged in various ways: In the apartments, which span the width of the building, their bulky monumentality is an experience in itself – whereas in the two ‘rues intérieures’ (indoor streets), that run lengthwise through the building, they appear as a sequence.”

The columns also form the starting point for the internal organization of the house: the current housing project is defined by the existing building – but along the ‘rues intérieures’, a city within the house takes shape. This system not only provides access to the stairwells, the communal rooms, and the laundry rooms, they also enable a variety of apartment typologies for all generations and lifestyles. On the mezzanine floor, the domestic sphere links up with the urban one – here the rues intérieure opens into the transverse entrance halls and invites one into the house via stairs and ramps. The commercial spaces and the café are located at ground level at the front of the building, directly facing the city. The network of paths ends in the community room and the shared roof terrace

In addition to the design-defining expressiveness of the existing columns, ecological sustainability also motivates the careful treatment of the existing structure. In fact, 42% of the buildings grey energy was saved by continuing to use the old structure. The photovoltaic system and the groundwater heat pump also make the building two-thirds self-sufficient in terms of total energy consumption.

“The project demonstrates that ordinary, utilitarian buildings have value and can support new creative projects that bring something positive to the neighbourhood and the city. It brings not only quality, but additional life. It is sustainable thanks to the reuse of the existing concrete structure, which absolutely must be taken into account in the carbon balance. This existing structure is complemented by a new construction that densifies and gives a new identity and new life to the site. In terms of architecture, it shows a new way of living and the imagination needed to reinvent an existing structure. It demonstrates that transforming the existing creates a new and unexpected quality of housing that defies standard typologies. In terms of the building’s collective infrastructure, it has collective spaces that celebrate and facilitate communal living”, the jury stated.

In the renovation category, as well as the winner, the following conversions were selected: Hospital Felix Platter (Basel, Switzerland), by Müller Sigrist Architekten; La Carbonería (Barcelona, Spain), by Ángel Borrego Cubero; Qville (Essen, Belgium), by B-architecten; Nekkersput (Gante, Belgium), by DBLV architecten; La commune (Liège, Belgium), by he-architectes; social housing in Rua da Vitória (Porto, Portugal), by MAVAA arquitectos; phase 2 of the Park Hill renovation (Sheffield, United Kingdom), by Mikhail Riches Studio; the renovation of a 1970s social housing complex (Trento, Italy), by Campomarzio+Studio Bombasaro; and SchloR – Schöner Leben ohne Raiffeisen (Viena, Austria), by Gabu Heindl, Elena Mali, Lisa Schönböck, Hannah Niemand, Stana Marjanovic, Fabian Liszt, Petko Grablij, Maura Schmitt, Anne Altmeyer, Sebastian Christiansen and Lucas Bogunovic.

La Borda, Best Collective Housing Development in the new build category

La Borda is a housing cooperative which forms part of the social housing stock in Barcelona. The Lacol team and the La Borda cooperative prioritised creating a building with minimum environmental impact, both in its construction and in its useful life, while reducing the risk of energy poverty for its inhabitants. Finished in 2018, it is a wooden construction with 28 housing units plus shared spaces, in which corridors and walkways become spaces for living, relaxing and socialising. In fact, La Borda is currently the tallest wooden building in Spain.

According to Lacol, “the community model of La Borda, as opposed to more traditional public and private projects, has made it possible to overcome some significant limitations imposed on collective housing architectural projects. In the public sector, the fear of the future user, who is totally unknown,  makes it impossible to introduce changes that may affect the standard way of living. In the case of the private developers, the logic of the market that impoverish housing are imposed to facilitate their assimilation to a consumer object. The innovation of the process of developing housing was key in order to create architecture beyond its mere design. We identify five characteristics of this model that have a direct response in the project: self-promotion, right of use, community life, sustainability and affordability”

The 28 homes measure 20, 60, or 75m² and also have shared spaces which allow the act of living to move from the private to the public space, enhancing communal living. They are based around a central courtyard, kitchen-dining room, laundry, multi-purpose space, guest space, health and care space, storage space on each floor and outdoor and semi-outdoor spaces such as the courtyard and the roofs. “The participation of future users in the process (design, construction and use) is the most important and differential variable of the project, generating an opportunity to meet and project with them and their specific needs”, Lacol adds.

In addition, the building sought from the outset to reduce energy demand by optimising the programme, forgoing the underground car park, grouping services and reducing the surface area of the dwellings. The six-storey structure is made of cross-laminated timber, a lightweight, high-quality and renewable material. Passive bioclimatic strategies were also developed for nearly-zero energy consumption and therefore comfort in the homes for the lowest associated cost, such as covering the courtyard with a greenhouse glass to capture solar radiation in winter and have a chimney effect for ventilation in summer, or a centralised biomass boiler to optimise the energy production infrastructure and improve performance and technology in the service of the entire building.

“This is an outstanding example of collective housing development in the city at all stages of the process. The ambition goes beyond the scale of the building, being part of a bottom-up process of regeneration of the whole neighbourhood.  The housing concept brings a new vision of living and cohabitation.  It is about successful cohabitation between individuals, communal living and public engagement. The architecture brings generosity and demonstrates that the transformation of the limits of contemporary living turns technical challenges into resources, which together with sustainability can be approached in another way, prioritizing quality of life. The introduction of the cooperative system as an alternative model to housing production combines affordability and quality in the right way”, the jury emphasized.   

In the new build category, the following entries were also finalists: La Chalmeta (Barcelona, Spain), by Vivas Arquitectos; Maierhof (Bludenz, Austria), by feld72; Ekko (Bordeaux, France), by Duncan Lewis, with special mention; Spiegelfabrik (Fürth, Germany), by Verena von Beckerath and Tim Heide; Kuppe Estate (Horgen, Switzerland), by Esch Sintzel Architekten; A House For Artists (London, United Kingdom) by Apparata Architects; eight public rental housing units in Palma de Mallorca, Spain, developed and built by a team from the Balearic Housing Institute; and Zollhaus Kalkbreite (Zurich, Switzerland) by Enzmann Fischer Architekten.

The decision was made by renowned figures from different disciplines: Anne Lacaton (France), architect and winner of the Pritzker Prize in 2021, who chaired the jury; Kristiaan Borret, professor of urban design at Ghent University and maître architecte (BMA) of the Brussels Capital Region (Belgium); Emanuele Coccia (Italy), associate professor at EHESS (Paris, France), author and visionary thinker; Fernanda Canales (Mexico), architect and founder of Fernanda Canales Arquitectura; and Christian Hadaller (Germany), architect and co-founder of KOOPERATIVE GROSSSTADT eG.

High participation in the inaugural edition

The organisations behind the award have valued the “high levels of participation in this first edition, which shows that Europe is not only the stage for socially and environmentally responsible architecture, but also has professionals with great capacity and innovative vision to face the challenges that lie ahead”. In total, 171 entries were received from 19 European countries:  Austria, Belgium, Croatia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Italy, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Serbia, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, the Netherlands, and the United Kingdom.

Thus, representatives from the Basque Country Architecture Institute, arc en rêve centre d’architecture and the Department of Territorial Planning, Housing and Transport of the Basque Government believe that the purpose of the Award, to generate debate between agents and citizens on the architectural part of housing, its quality and its impact, across all its angles, has been fulfilled.

The Director of Territorial Planning, Housing and Transport of the Basque Government, Pablo García Astrain, thanked the international jury for their work, and emphasised “the complex task they have faced, as the bulk of the applications received stand out for their high technical quality and, in turn, reflect the diversity and plurality of alternatives to respond to the housing problem”.

“The applications received have more than met our expectations. The level of the proposals in terms of typological diversity, re-consideration of the collective condition of housing and constructive quality has been exceptional”, highlighted the Director of the Basque Country Architecture Institute, José Ángel Medina.

The director of arc en rêve, Fabrizio Gallanti, underlined that “the range of attitudes and architectural solutions allows us to interpret the clients’ intentions on the one hand, and on the other, the intentions of architecture professionals to explore innovative solutions on different topics, such as attention to environmental issues, the inclusion of people from non-European backgrounds or the questioning of the current family model”.

The prizegiving ceremony will be held on 20 June at the arc en rêve headquarters in Bordeaux. Both finalist and winning entries will be displayed in an exhibition, which will be installed in autumn at the Basque Country Architecture Institute and will then travel to arc en rêve.


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