News Home & Design Small Madrid Apartment's Renovation Enhances Ventilation During Sweltering Summers This apartment renovation for a young doctor and his dog takes into account the hot and changing climate of Madrid. By Kimberley Mok Writer McGill University Cornell University Kimberley Mok is a former architect who covered architecture and the arts for Treehugger starting in 2007. our editorial process Twitter Twitter Kimberley Mok Published April 20, 2021 04:30PM EDT José Hevia Share Twitter Pinterest Email News Environment Business & Policy Science Animals Home & Design Current Events Treehugger Voices As potentially irreversible changes to the global climate continue to unfold, it's becoming clear that architects, designers, urban planners, and other experts need to design with these far-reaching changes in mind. It may mean creating new kinds of disaster-resistant homes that can withstand severe weather events like flooding or high winds. Or perhaps even constructing entire "back-up cities" that can serve as self-sufficient, disaster-proofed settlements in the event of a major natural disaster. Existing housing stock needs to be updated to reflect these shifting climate realities as well. In Madrid, Spain, local firm Husos Architects (previously) implemented this renovation of a small 495-square-foot apartment in the city, which incorporates passive cooling strategies, a vertical garden, as well as some intriguing space-saving design ideas. José Hevia In accommodating the needs and variable schedule of a young emergency-room doctor and his bulldog companion, the new scheme involved demolishing the apartment's existing partitions, which blocked natural east-west cross-ventilation. To better cool the interior down during Madrid's sweltering summer months, the renovated apartment now has an airy main living space that serves as an open-plan combination of kitchen, living, and dining room. The walls are clad with high-quality and warmly textured plywood, and "breathable mortars" instead of plastering the walls. José Hevia The limited amount of space meant that instead of having a big couch or pull-out bed, the designers opted to create a cozy, pod-like "siesta capsule" that functions as a place for the doctor to lounge, read, or chat with friends, or as a place for guests to sleep when it's closed off with a sliding door. José Hevia Delightfully, that sliding element also functions as a projector screen on movie nights. The suction-cup-equipped cotton hemispheres on the floor serve as cooling spots for the bulldog to rest upon and can be moved around as needed. José Hevia Located within the same 5-foot-wide perimeter zone as the siesta capsule is a dedicated master bedroom, a dressing room, and a storeroom. José Hevia According to the architects, the apartment is located within a modernized, 1960s version of the traditional Spanish corrala, or a "corridor house" where blocks of apartments are connected by external corridors that overlook a communal interior courtyard. This courtyard is typically a place where neighbors gather to hang up laundry or have a chat. But in this case, unfortunately, the central courtyard is occupied by a small business. To make up for this, the new design includes a vertical garden on the west-facing balcony, which can not only provide food for the doctor but also vegetable gifts for neighbors, say the architects: "The tomatoes, herbs, and other species planted in the new domestic vegetable garden will provide an excess of produce that he will be unable to eat on his own, giving him the option of sharing it with others. In this way, the vegetable garden supplies not only food, but also the potential for extending the relational capacities of the dwelling, questioning the prevalent notion of the modern apartment as an isolated living hub." José Hevia In addition, the vertical garden acts as a "thermal cushion" that helps to naturally cool down the interior, without the need for air-conditioning. There's also a system to recycle greywater. The architects explain: "Madrid and its surrounding areas suffers from a serious lack of water, which is progressively worsening as temperatures rise, so with the help of agronomists and programmers, we designed a system to recycle greywater from the shower to irrigate tomatoes, herbs and other plants in the vegetable garden. It is worth bearing in mind that over the course of this century, 80 percent of Spain will be at risk of desertification, and large Spanish cities put enormous pressure on regional water sources." José Hevia In addressing not only the practicalities of passive cooling, food production, and spatial reconfiguration, the architects have also cast their view to addressing the social isolation that may come from living in a small urban space: "This home is the spatial translation of this pair of flatmates' different needs and specific wishes, but we believe that it also opens up the possibility of a new typological configuration and of the implementation of multiple strategies for many other, very different social micro-realities and forms of home in a small living space."