Three Urban Interventions Place Familiar Functions in Unorthodox Places

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Three urban interventions – in Spain, Denmark and Zurich – place conventional spaces in curious settings.

1 Secret Studio by Fernando Abellanas, Valencia, Spain
An underpass in a busy city might not be everyone’s first choice to set up a retreat, but designer Fernando Abellanas did just that with a suspended studio space tucked underneath a bridge in Valencia, Spain. Abellanas equates being in the secluded room to the childhood feeling of hiding under a table, when a tablecloth would create a visual barrier but the comforting sounds of family life going on outside could still be heard. Essentially a plywood and metal box, the sanctuary is accessed by a hand crank and metal rail system that rolls the structure horizontally along the underpass concrete framework. Shelving, a simple desk and artwork are affixed to the bridge’s vertical support; once the moveable floor-and-walls portion is in place, Abellanas is essentially cut off from all outside distraction – save the near-constant din of traffic.

2 The Krane by Arcgency, Copenhagen, Denmark
While cranes are a familiar site along any harbour, one in particular on the edge of Copenhagen’s Nordhavn district certainly stands out. Part of an overall rejuvenation of the historic harbourfront spearheaded by developer Klaus Kastbjerg (including Paper Island and the Silo hotel, among other projects), the industrial beast of burden has been reimagined as an unexpectedly luxurious destination that takes advantage of the panoramic views its soaring height affords. Working with Mads Møller of local architecture firm Arcgency, Kastbjerg has turned the machine’s skeleton into a multi-level structure that includes a ground level reception area, a first-floor 20-seat meeting room (dubbed the Glass Box due to its four walls of windows), a spa and terrace on the second floor and the Krane Room topping it all off. This uppermost portion is a private, two-person retreat kitted out with custom furnishings in uniform inky black leather and wood, creating an enveloping space that minimalizes visual distractions and emphasizes the views. Møller conceived of the all-black scheme in part to reference the coal shipments the circa-1944 crane hoisted in its former life. True to the nature of Danish design, clean lines predominate with nothing superfluous crowding up the space.

Balboa photos by Daniel Erne

3 Balboa im Viadukt by HelsinkiZurich, Zurich, Switzerland
For their second project with fitness start-up Balboa, Zurich studio Helsinkizurich has retrofitted a portion of a centuries-old railway bridge into a sleek space to pump iron. Continuing Balboa’s vision of changing the perception of what a gym is (its first Helsinkizurich-designed space, in the city’s banking district, includes a bar selling booze rather than the expected protein smoothies), Balboa im Viadukt is a space built on urbanity and function, offering a modern fitness facility defined by the massive stone walls that enclose it. The protected material that forms the bridge’s arch creates an intriguing backdrop to the more modern elements throughout. Divided into two levels, the workout zone encompasses the entire ground floor, with the waiting area, showers and change rooms located on a raised second-level platform that overlooks the activity below. Shiny galvanized steel forms the interior walls, shower stalls and bench seating, while a vibrant cobalt-washed ceiling is punctured with skylights and graphic lighting fixtures. The gym is one of a number of other shops, studios and markets that have been installed within the hefty stone arches of a still-functioning 1804 railway bridge that are collectively revitalizing the Zurich-West industrial neighbourhood.

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