Guallart Architects


Valencia.Spain. 2002-2010


Valencia.Spain. 2002-2003

2nd Valencia Biennale

Researching in Order to Act

The Sociopolis project came into being to explore the possibility of creating a ‘shared habitat’ that would encourage a greater social interaction between its inhabitants, proposing new housing typologies in keeping with the new familial conditions of our time, in a setting of high environmental quality.

The question to be answered was simple: if we live in the age of knowledge, and if in order to act the world has to invest in research, should we not devote part of our production of public housing to researching and developing new kinds of buildings that respond to our present needs and prefigure future situations? This elementary question has been formulated dozens of times, but only very rarely has there been sufficient cultural and political support for the response to be affirmative. In Valencia it was decided to make the Biennial of the Arts an opportunity for generating a project that would provide a basis for this universal reflection.

The Social Aspect of Housing

The concept of social housing consists of two parts: Housing and Social.

Traditionally the responsibility for building such homes (ranging from housing for disadvantaged sectors of the population to the subsidized housing that is more common in our time) rests with the same department responsible for constructing roads and other infrastructures. There is thus a tendency to attach far more importance to problems of production or budget than to social problems. The departments responsible for ‘social action’ devote much of their efforts to meeting the demands of the European model of welfare society, but in most cases make no attempt to situate these policies in their spatial dimension.

Nevertheless, the present project had an eminently social impetus, impelled by bodies that work with groups at risk of social exclusion and are concerned with generating forms of housing that respond to the new social needs. There is at present a shortage of affordable housing for young people, for elderly people (many of them living alone) who require some degree of public support, for people who have arrived from other regions or countries, and for people involved in specific social programmes. Taken together, these constitute a sizable portion of our society.

Inhabiting the Huerta

The project, as a piece of generic research, was located on a site on the edge of the city of Valencia, in the huerta, in order to address a common situation in the process where urban growth comes face to face with the natural environment. The Valencian huerta has for centuries been an area of arable cultivation, with an important network of irrigation channels of Arab origin that takes water from the river Turia and effectively structures the territory.In the European urban tradition, whenever the city has grown, nature (and agriculture with it) has disappeared.

The urban and the rural have been two opposed concepts.

However, Valencia and many other Mediterranean territories have a different history. For the Arabs, the huerta was their garden, a productive fertile territory that they inhabited, in which they built their palaces and which always incorporated the surrounding landscape. The monasteries and the mediaeval city learnt from this culture, developing the concept of the hortulus.

The Rurban Project

One way of breaking out of the city-country dichotomy is to generate places of transition between the two, to create ‘rurban’ territories with a view to integrate the culture of the huerta into the city, guaranteeing that certain values of the same are assumed as own of our culture and our time.

In the Valencia of the 21st century, at a moment in time when cities and territories are seeking to assert their differential characteristics in the face of globalization, the fact of having a landscape and a culture of the huerta in the city can be a key differential factor in favour of urban and cultural progress.

In the post-industrial era a new techno-agricultural society is emerging, in which as citizens of the planet we participate in its culture and economy through the information technologies, we travel to distant places by high-speed transport systems, but at the same time we affirm the quality of the local, of the immediate habitable environment; of a new intelligent balance between what we generate and what we consume.

The New Housing Project

The first decades of the 20th century established many of the characteristic features of housing that are still with us today: new standards of hygiene, the incorporation of electricity (and the appliances associated with it), the standardization of furniture and regulations governing housing requirements have combined to provide more or less decent housing for most citizens of the western world.

This situation has tended to consolidate routine approaches to the construction process, and given little impetus to innovative discourse in relation to housing. The information society poses new challenges and generates new opportunities:

How do we avoid the total isolation of the individual in their environment, and achieve a greater social cohesion? How do we promote greater environmental quality, integrating nature into habitable environments? How do we use the new information technologies to build better and live better? How do we integrate new functions into the home? How do we foster a supportive habitat?

New family units

The traditional family of two parents and one or more children now accounts for less than 50% of households in many regions of Spain. Increasing international —and especially infra-European— mobility, the emancipation of young people and the delay in starting to have children, higher life expectancy and the improvement in the quality of life of senior citizens are factors that condition the way people group together to occupy a house. We are now seeing the emergence of the concept of the virtual family, in which people of various generations who are not blood relatives behave to some extent as a family, sharing resources or activities.

Sociopolis thus proposes an open-ended organization of residential units, facilitating multiple configurations within a single building and enabling each house to be as individual as the people who live in it.

Accessible neighbourhood

More than 8% of the population has some kind of disability. Also, as people leave longer they have a greater mobility problem merely because of physical reasons. The children borned in 2004 will live an average of 100 years. The matter of accesibily to everyplace in the city (houses, public spaces, working places, etc.), independently of their physical condition is a key issue to consider on the future neighbourhoods. Its not about disabled people having access to their own houses, but of being able to access and engage normally in any activity.


Valencia.Spain. 2005-2010

Sociópolis was presented at the Valencia Biennial in 2003, as a project in which 13 international architecture firms took part. The project put forward a model of new urban development in which housing and multifunctional amenities were integrated in an agricultural environment, a continuation and updating of the model constituted by the Mediterranean hortulus.

Following the presentation of the project it was decided to construct a first neighbourhood of 2,500 homes in the La Torre district to the south of the city of Valencia, on a 350,000 m2 site on the banks of the new course of the diverted River Turia; the same principles would be followed, but on a larger scale.

In this project the urban transformation is guided by a commitment to ensuring the maximum protection for the existing huerta (one of the traditional agricultural zones surrounding the city of Valencia) irrigated with waters from the River Turia by way of channels originally dug by the Arabs some 800 years ago. The new urban development reinforces the protection of the landscape and the environment while at the same time fulfilling a much-needed social function, making housing available at a controlled price to a great number of people.

Within the neighbourhood has four well-conserved historic farmhouses, and around these will be the focal points for ‘urban farm’ zones cared for by the local residents. Sociopolis is essentially based on two premises: the first is that the question of habitability cannot be resolved simply by building homes, but must be addressed simultaneously at various scales, from the residential cell to the city; the second is that urbanity is a phenomenon that can have multiple formalizations, and that there is a need today to reformulate its principles in response to the need for interaction between the urban and the rural in order to create new habitable landscapes.

The idea of ‘urbanity’ is sometimes confused with the urban form with which the European city has taken shape. However, globalization has brought us into contact with diverse formalizations of the urban phenomenon in different parts of the world in which we can recognize social interaction, functional hybridization, compactness and diversity, without these adopting the form of the compact city familiar in the West.

Urbanism is a discipline founded in the 19th century which studies how people occupy the territory. According to the discipline’s original principles, cities develop through the laying out of a rational system of roads and buildings, usually superimposed on agricultural territory, that allows human life to be organized around it. This kind of occupation of the territory, as it took place in the industrial era (subsequently reformulated on the basis of motorways and isolated construction) included the precise definition of the volumetries buildings were required to conform to.

In contrast to an urbanism of the peripheries we now propose an interactive, non-linear urbanism capable of interacting with its environment on an appropriate scale, in which the analysis of the functional and environmental conditions of the site serves to develop ad hoc responses. We need to start from global strategies of urban growth and development and formalize these in each case according to the specific conditions of the place. The basic structure of cities and territory is already made. The essential thing now is to define the places of encounter between the natural and the artificial. (It is probably also the time to establish new settlements in the territory that avoid expanding the periphery of an unstructured city.)

Sociopolis promotes urbanity without a traditional urban form. It foments social relations, hybridization, interaction, functional mixicity and the creation of green zones and amenities while proposing the construction of an open interface between the city and the huerta, the irrigated agricultural land outside Valencia. Part of the tension that supports the huerta is due to the ‘red line’ that delineates what is city and what is country. Sociopolis proposes to create an urban space that will act as a pre-park to an open metropolitan space which should include a considerable part of the huerta.

To this end it avoids proposing an abstract layout that would extend the poor adjacent urban structure, and instead bases its development on the conservation of most of the agricultural structure (and its associated historic irrigation channels) in the allocated sector through the implantation of circuits that are specialized according to their speed.

The neighbourhood will also promote social interaction and a sense of community by means of sports facilities such as a soccer pitch, an athletics circuit, games areas and a skating rink.

All of the proposed buildings are oriented toward the central landscaped zone, which has a surface area of 120,000 m2, with direct access from the peripheral traffic circuit running round the complex.

In addition to residential blocks and towers the neighbourhood will have amenity buildings accommodating a hybrid programme, around which the public life of the neighbourhood will be organized. The public buildings will have rental housing intended for young people under thirty and elderly people, and at the same time all of the buildings will fulfil their public vocation by means of programmes that encourage social relations, such as an arts centre, a kindergarten, a sports zone, a social centre, a youth centre and studios for artists.

The architects participating in the project include Vicente Guallart, Abalos & Herreros, Manuel Gausa, Eduardo Arroyo, José María Torres Nadal, Sogo Arquitectos, Willy Muller, Antonio Lleyda / Eduardo de la Peña, Toyo Ito, MVRDV, Greg Lynn FORM, Duncan Lewis, José Luis Mateo, Kim Young-Joon, JM Lin, Jose Maria Lozano and Maria Colomer.


Project date:2005
Beginning of construction: 2006
Client: Generalitat Valenciana, Instituto Valenciano de Vivienda S.L. (IVVSA)
Site: La Torre Sector, Valencia
Architecture: Guallart architects
Main architects: Vicente Guallart, Maria Diaz


Coordination: Gerardo Solera, José Olagüe Collaborators: Margarita Flores, Amaya Coello, Ignacio Toribio, Christine Bleicher, Melissa Magallanes, Francesco Moncada, Massimo Tepedino, Ana Inácio, Manuel Shvartzberg, Mirko Usai, Francis Holding


Collaborators: Christine Bleicher, Amaya Coello, Ignacio Toribio, Francesco Moncada, Massimo Tepedino, Rainer Goldstein, Gawel Tyrala, Wobciech Szubinski, Torsten Altmeyer, Francis Holding, Inti Velez, Mariano Arias , Katharina Schendl , Moritz Treese, Csíkva´ri Gergely, Javier Moreno, Rubén Beltrán, Xavier Salat, Mareike Richter, Alejandra de Diego


Coordination in Valencia: Alejandra de Diego
Collaborators: Fernando Meneses, Daniela Frogheri, Marian Albarrán, Ana Cabellos, Marta Vélez, Andrea Imaz, Rainer Goldstein, Ricardo Guerreiro

Images: Laura Cantarella
3D: Lucas Capelli, net architects: Lucas Jagodnik, Julieta Serena, Mariano Castro, Marín Eschoyez
Models: Fabián Asunción, Soledad Revuelto, Ángel Luis Gaspar, María José Bizama, Ruth Martín, Rafael DeMontard, Salvador Gil, Omar, Guillermo
Models: Christine Bleicher
Photography of the model: Adriá Goula


Sociologist: Jose Miguel Iribas
Landscape: Manuel Colominas, Agricultural Engineer
Study of environmental impact: Javier Obartí, EVREN
Urbanist lawyer: Maria Ángeles García Capdepón
Digital neighborhood: David Iribas
Re division project: Nebot Arquitectos


Technical direction: IVVSA _ Maria Jesús Rodriguez
Direction of technical engineering: IVVSA _ Fernando Esteve
Project coordination: IVVSA _ Carlos Llopis, Javier Soriano
Urbanization engineering: IDOM
Construction company: UTE Ortiz e Hijos & Franjuan