The story about a highly successful change of direction
In Barcelona, La Casa Por El Tejado - which literally means “the roof before the foundations” - is enjoying huge success. This former architecture firm which was destabilised by the 2008 economic crisis developed an innovative concept in an area that has proved very promising: coordinating roof extension projects for city centre apartments, first in Barcelona, subsequently in Madrid and now also in several other large Spanish cities.
Let’s take a look to get a clearer picture of the whys and wherefores behind this surprising business transformation that could spread beyond the Spanish border, why not even to France!
In the middle of the noughties, architect Joan Artés set himself the objective of building a penthouse at the heart of Barcelona, just a few hundred metres from the famous Casa Mila, popularly known as La Pedrera, designed by Antonio Gaudí i Cornet. This unique experience generated perplexity and opposition in the city’s architecture and urban planning department. This healthy adversity was highly instructive for Artés’s future concept and thanks to it he learnt how to manage the complexity and specific features of roof extensions in protected urban sites.
At the end of 2008 the acute economic crisis that hit Spain and the rest of Europe reshuffled the cards for the entire building sector. Joan Artés’s architecture firm had to reinvent itself. But he did not just reinvent his firm, he invented a whole new business: La Casa Por El Tejado is neither a property development company nor a building contractor, it is a streamlined efficient project management and engineering structure capable of managing all the technical and constructive aspects of roof extensions.
The architects at La Casa Por El Tejado have become discoverers and negotiators of additional surfaces on existing rooftops!
They walk the streets of cities detecting infills, drawing up their own reports and auditing the condition of facades. The buildings targeted are those with a sole owner as they present less risk of conflict than co-ownerships (although in fact the first projects undertaken were mainly co-ownerships). The buildings are assessed on the quality of their structure.
The Barcelona Architecture and Urban Planning department were consulted and approved the approach taken by Joan Artés’s teams because they propose developing this concept for entire neighbourhoods, all in keeping with the requirements of sustainable building.
The result will be social diversity, creation of additional green spaces, improvement of thermal efficiency in existing buildings, enhancement of the skyline and renovation of buildings neglected by owners who are financially strained. Site disturbance is minimized using a highly sophisticated prefabrication system.
La Casa Por El Tejado does not take a property speculation approach, it is a multi-disciplinary structure that supervises and coordinates the design, production and installation of apartments.
The company works with top professionals in the related areas of production and logistics, in order to be able to focus internally on engineering.
This flexible structure is banking on almost complete prefabrication of structures with the twin aim of controlling the quality of constructions (dry installation in workshops) and hugely reducing installation time (installation of prefabricated modules using cranes)
La Casa Por El Tejado is also developing an effective compensation approach by negotiating the creation of apartments on the roofs of existing buildings in exchange for renovations, installation of a new lift for the entire building, repainting of the facade, replacement of windows or renovation of existing apartments.
All these arguments are likely to convince even the most reticent of property owners!
Since its first roof extensions in 2012, La Casa Por El Tejado has been accumulating projects. In 2015, over forty projects will be completed. The order books are filling up for the years ahead in Madrid and other large Spanish cities.
We met this firm through our Spanish communication agency Bosch y Serret in Barcelona when we were preparing our Archizinc Campus Architecture competition for students on the theme of roof extensions. Joan Artés and his associate Gerardo Wadel did us the honour of participating in the competition jury.
La Casa Por El Tejado’s business model is collaborative rather than intrusive and has all the ingredients necessary to rouse curiosity in other European capitals as it is an effective solution to urban planning and environmental requirements in European cities.
Watch this space!