La nave del topo

Pía Mendaro. Spanish architect Pia Mendaro defies convention and reconfigures the requisites of a modern home in the design of Topo’s Shed – a home-cum-studio for her artist friend Clara Cebrian in Madrid.

Cebrian’s brief was simple – she does not like overly designed things and thus, wanted something that could adapt to the needs that appear over a period of time. Something like a ‘Ron Weasley house’!

Mendaro was asked to transform a 100 sqm warehouse into a flexible workspace and housing for her friend. The site had a gable roof held by two steel rafters, a façade with two windows and a door. Responding to Cebrian’s wish, the project was conceived to be ‘almost nothing’, with a basis for life to happen.

“We were sure about three things: The space must be understood as what it is – a square. That we had to use a kitchen that Clara had bought for sale. And that the downspouts were where they were, and were immovable,” explains Mendaro.

The key intervention in Topo’s Shed is the positioning of a light, semi-hanging platform as the artist’s sleeping place, designed in collaboration with architect Manuel Ocana. “We thought of making a wheeled bed, a cabin, a box with windows, until we decided to detach ourselves from the ground,” says Mendaro.

Thin steel rounds and corrugated rods beautifully tie the structure to the ceiling truss, making ample space for sleeping and lazing in the air.

The structure appears like the horizon of the warehouse as it is set close to the opening of the overhead gabled roof. A movable ladder leads up to the platform, which can accommodate five people at a time. Further, a flight of steps that also serve the purpose of seating, lead to the balcony and provides stunning views of the neighbourhood.

While the main door of the house opens directly into the living space, Mendaro opted to keep the bathroom door hidden from plain sight by using a wall.This covert wall separates the kitchen and the main living space from the bathroom and storage facility. Offsetting the larger cement flooring, wooden planks line the small floor space of the kitchen, keeping it free from dirt.

The rest of the house includes a lounge in one of the corners, a hammock tied to the underside of the bed, and a fairly large open space as the artist’s studio. Greys and whites of walls, floor and ceiling contrast powerfully with pastel and coral hues of the kitchen cabinet, furniture and the artworks.

In retrospect, is there something that the architect would have liked to do differently? “There is never direct sunlight getting in, since the windows are facing north, which is good, but I am guessing maybe curtains will be needed to sleep longer through the day,” smiles Mendaro.

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