Its drawn façades recall early computer games in which a figure had to be manoeuvred around a number of traps along a path full of right angles. In reality, the three-dimensional geometry of the building turns out to be much more sophisticated than its Pac-Man or Tetris visuals would imply.

Project details

Project “Red Apple” in Sofia, Bulgaria
Client Softbuild
Architect aedes studio
Clay blocks used Porotherm 25 N+F, Porotherm 12 N+F

Building “Red Apple” behind a park in Sofia, Bulgaria

“Red Apple” in Sofia, Bulgaria © Nedyalko Nedyalkov

Façade of the building “Red Apple”

“Red Apple” in Sofia, Bulgaria © Nedyalko Nedyalkov

Façade of the building “Red Apple”

“Red Apple” in Sofia, Bulgaria © Nedyalko Nedyalkov

The history

The fictional feel, however, is well-founded. This is an area, after all, in which apartment blocks sprang up virtually overnight in the 1970s. Green areas abounded, but the charm of an organically built urban fabric was lacking. The neighbourhood offered infrastructure and quality of life – but there was no sense of history to ground the place.

Traces of the past

This was the situation the architects tried to remedy with a big gamble: the insertion of a memory implant in building form. In the midst of the 1970s structures, they placed a brand-new “old” building designed to bring traces of the past to the area and give passers-by something to think about. The architects imagined what they would have done if they had been commissioned to convert an old, disused factory – an opportunity that is found elsewhere in Sofia. But as there was no factory here, the architects invented one, incorporating a wealth of disparate ideas to do with the old and the new. The unifying feature of the concept was red brick – a material that links the images of the past and the present.

Bringing together harmonious order and planned chaos

Its contours follow the irregular shape of the site, resulting in acute angles that offer unique perspectives. The openings in the façade are all the same – a product of the pattern of bricks – but occasionally the order is broken by windows going over two levels. Over a large area, the traditional Flemish bond yields to one in which the headers jut out, giving a three-dimensional contrasting effect that continues in the cantilevered, cage-like balconies. In large gaps in the building, one finds trees growing. Trees surround the site and continue from the ground all the way to the roof. Every self-respecting factory has chimneystacks, so these are found here too; they serve as light wells and planters. The staircase is an over-the-top idea: a vast light shaft that connects the residential levels. Its brick surfaces take up the structure of the outside walls.

The experience "residential factory"

Inside the apartments, the lively façade can be experienced from within. The polygonal floor plans keep assembling themselves into right angles so as not to obstruct a conventional placement of furniture. Finally, the double-height living rooms recall New York loft spaces; by design, one feels one is inside a “residential factory”.

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