Commissioned to renovate an apartment in a historic building in Bilbao, Spain, local architectural practice i-architecture approached the project primarily in terms of programmatic flexibility and soulful materiality. Located in La Vieja, a once working-class neighbourhood that is now considered the city’s hippest district, the two-bedroom property is characterised by a fluid, open-plan layout that blurs the lines between functional areas and an unpretentious palette of steel, wood and lime plaster that celebrates the beauty of imperfections and hand-craftsmanship. The raw textures of these materials imbue the apartment with an industrial aesthetic that pays homage to the area’s gritty industrial past when it once functioned as the centre of Bilbao’s iron mining industry.
The apartment has been completely gutted, its original compartmentalized layout giving way to an open-plan configuration. A large living, dining and kitchen area seamlessly flows into the two bedrooms, one of which can be completely opened up courtesy of a folding door. Wall-to-wall metal cabinets lining one side of the social area take in turn the role of console, kitchen cabinetry and wardrobe highlighting the multifunctional sensibility of the space. Featuring patina textures, the steel cabinets are harmoniously juxtaposed with the lime plastering on the walls and ceilings which add warmth and texture. Light toned wood flooring and built-in furnishings add to the overall minimalist sensibility, while weathered timber posts and beams, the only existing elements that have been preserved along with slivers of exposed brickwork, both enhance the sense of raw materiality and hint at the property’s architectural heritage. Complementing the material palette, a range of hand-crafted elements, from the organic-shaped dining table, to the wooden stools, to a variety of ceramic and glass vessels, further convey the project’s artisanal ethos.