Colombo and Serboli Architecture refurbished this apartment in Barcelona in 2018. Being their own clients allowed the architects to take bold decisions in the bathroom.
Finding a bathroom in this flat is a challenge. A row of full-height wardrobes lines the corridor, which separates the quiet living quarters from the busy family zone. The identical wardrobe doors are a deception. Push open the middle one, and instead of a hoover, you find a secret entrance to the bathroom.
The deep threshold adds to the drama. The pathway is narrow, the ceiling is low — as if you are squeezing into a cave. This compression accentuates the spaciousness of the room as you step into it.
The most distinctive feature of the room is the window between the shower and the kitchen. Its placement was not accidental. The shower controls and the kitchen base units directly below the portal guarantees eye-contact.
The exuberance of this design move comes from the clash of privacy zones. The bathroom is intimate—you are naked there, not to mention all the singing. A kitchen is an opposite. Connected with a living and dining zones, it is where everyone from your family to your friends gathers. Puncturing the boundary between these zones makes an impact.
However, some modesty is preserved. Contrary to the original design intent drawings, the window is fixed. The glass is textured, distorting the image in a linear pattern. Some blushes are also saved by concealing the toilet out of line of sight.
The architects commit the cardinal sin of lighting design but provide an interesting workaround. A single off-centre light source illuminates the vanity. This asymmetry does not work for task lighting. Harsh shadows and no uniform illumination on the face make popping a pimple an achievement.
However, the architects attempt to fix the situation with a second mirror. It is mounted on the side wall, 90 degrees to the primary mirror. The light reflecting from this side mirror illuminates the dark side of the face.
In theory, this should work. However, I am not sure this layout can achieve a uniform illumination on both sides of the face. The gap where the two mirrors meet also creates a weak spot for moisture to gather and damage the mirror’s edge.
The bathroom has a built-in shower receptor. The shower floor is recessed 200 mm with a 600 mm high upstand ledge separating it from the rest of the room.
The shower screen is located on the ledge. It sits on the same axis and has the same shape as the door to the bathroom on the other side of the room. As you enter the room, it is the centrepiece that your eyes are drawn to. This is helped by the patterned glass (same as the portal window) fitted in a sleek black frame.
There are no movable parts to the shower screen, which makes it long-lasting and easy to maintain. The shower is accessed through the gaps left on either side of the screen. The ambition to match the screen’s width to the doorway makes these gaps narrow and uncomfortable to use. This is not helped by the tall ledge that you have to step over and different finished floor levels on both sides of it. The two gaps with a screen in the middle also do not make spray control easy. Even with the tall ledge, I imagine the area around the shower is often wet. A more practical mind would have kept a single wide access instead of two narrow ones. However, this would have destroyed the symmetry. Also, closing the gap to the kitchen wall would hide the portal window from view.
Lack of storage
Deep storage in bathrooms is often overused. Using bathrooms as linen closets only lead to mouldy towels.
But this room takes the storage concept to another extreme. There is only a single drawer for all daily toiletries. Considering this is the sole bathroom in the house, this seems like an oversight. The unfortunate result is most likely additional cheap movable furniture introduced by the users after the nice publication photos are taken.
Practicality was not the top item on the agenda when designing this bathroom. But the daring design choices make it a unique space, raising wonder and excitement—something which more bathrooms should aspire to.
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