Other than, say, the typical Department of Motor Vehicles office in any American city, few other spaces elicit a greater architectural yawn than a laundromat. Full of droning machines, cinder block walls and dim, eternal fluorescent lighting, these drab lint factories are virtually identical in their banality.
In Barcelona, however, a former laundry business has been converted via adaptive reuse into one of the more inviting creative spaces in Spain’s Catalonia region. Created by the design collective MAIO, the narrow, high-ceilinged, studio space is available for a wide range of graphic artists who want to save on overheard and energy costs, collaborate on ideas, and maximize financing opportunities.
The original 130-foot-long structure was basically a continuous rectangular space with terrible lighting, broken up by a few partial walls and uneven flooring. The breakthrough — literally — for the rehabilitation was to tear open the roof section and turn the center of the space into an open-air courtyard. Topped with only a few structural beams, the small courtyard provides natural ventilation to the entire space, but still protects the studio from the elements via large glass panels on the side.
This central courtyard, plus a few skylights, allows sunlight to flood the entire space on either end of the studio. During daylight hours, hardly any artificial lighting is needed at all, since the brick walls are painted a reflective white. The courtyard, lined with soil and containing a few café chairs and potted plants, also acts as a small internal common area where artists can meet and relax under the open sky.