In the heart of Palma, Mallorca, the Torrent de sa Riera canal is a verdant oasis within the city. And on the adjacent Paseo Mallorca, a tree-lined promenade facing the stream, a striking new multi-unit residential complex offers its own urban refuge. Located at Paseo Mallorca 15, the building, designed by local firm OHLAB embraces its Mediterranean context — and sets an example for sustainable construction.
Chamfered at the street corner, the building’s form fits in seamlessly with the scale of its neighbouring structures, yet the architects took a unique material approach. While they wanted the lightness and transparency of a glass façade, they knew they had to adapt it to better suit Mallorca’s Mediterranean climate. At the corner, where the views and solar orientation are optimal, OHLAB opted for a permeable second skin of movable wooden slats, developed using solar studies. This screen not only acts as an intermediary between the building and its context, but is constantly in flux as an external reflection of its interior life.
The dual façade also ensures efficient use of sunlight all year long, allowing residents to keep the interior cool in the summer and take advantage of passive heating in the winter. On the building’s perimeter, facing the quieter streets, striated solid concrete façades mimic the rhythm of the wooden screen while concealing more private areas, such as the bedrooms. With these measures, the building, which is designed to Passivhaus standards, reduces the need for air conditioning by nearly 90 per cent and is almost net zero in terms of energy usage — ensuring low costs for both the owner and the planet.
Recessed from the street, the entrance welcomes residents with a bamboo cane plant wall that echoes the Torrent de sa Riera canal just outside. The concrete-clad alcove leads into a courtyard tucked away from the bustle of the main street, which the architects describe as an “oasis of greenery, freshness and tranquility.”
Filled with vegetation and trees, the multi-level space connects upwards to garden terraces that allow for cross-ventilation in each unit. Meanwhile, a water feature on the ground level passively cools the courtyard in the summer, while also fostering a relaxing atmosphere.
In contrast to the cool concrete courtyard, the units themselves are imbued with a warm palette. Here, the architects opted for local materials that reference their Mediterranean context — and were selected for their quality, rich textures, and even their scents — such as solid French walnut doors, cedar cabinets, traditional lime plaster on the walls and ceilings, solid sinks made of local stones, and pieces of aged bronze.
No detail was spared: everything from the bathroom mirrors to the light fixtures were designed by the architects themselves. The building’s second skin filters sunlight into the open-concept living and dining spaces, creating a delicate interplay of light and shadow that changes constantly throughout the day.
While all 10 units have access to private outdoor space, the more luxurious penthouse suites boast sprawling terraces and swimming pools that offer panoramic city views. For the rest of the residents, a heated indoor pool is located in the basement, alongside a gym overlooking the landscaped courtyard, and a Zumthor-esque spa finished in natural stone. Understatedly elegant without sacrificing sustainability, Paseo Mallorca 15 truly embodies the best of island living.
Designed by OHLAB, the Passivhaus building is veiled in an adaptable second skin.