ERRENTERIA – Spanish architects VAUMM have found a niche in Errenteria, a town near San Sebastián where they have now completed three ascensores urbanos (‘urban elevators’). The region underwent rapid industrialisation in the 1960s that caused residential construction to climb steep hillsides. The resulting urban obstacle course continues to present problems of accessibility and connectivity for the aging population that the construction was originally designed to accommodate. VAUMM’s ascensores act as vertical cross-streets, creating navigable pathways between previously disconnected places.
Their most recent urban elevator – this time referred to more broadly as Urban Link – connects the highest and lowest points in a dense residential neighbourhood called Galtzaraborda, and it does so with an expanded program. Two parking structures make up the largest part of the project, together offering 111 spaces. ‘The buildings are half-buried volumes that absorb the slope of the site for minimum aesthetic and volumetric impact,’ say the architects. ‘Many of the parking spaces are also open, allowing the installation of a semi-transparent façade rather than a blind, inert one.’
Urban Link borrows aesthetically from VAUMM’s previous elevator projects; galvanised trusses and glass create a lightness that contrasts with Galtzaraborda’s bulky residential towers and retaining walls. The two parking structures, finished with frosted glass on the exterior and a colourful paint job on the interior, are both contemporary and playful.
The project’s most significant feature, though, is a terraced public space located atop the lower garage. It creates new pedestrian connections among the nearby apartment buildings and provides an ideal place for leisure and neighbourhood gatherings. VAUMM’s scheme for Galtzaraborda seems to suggest that urban revisions consider not only getting from point A to point B, but also establishing a point A’ somewhere in between.