Vitápolis, the winning project at the APE Grupo Architecture Awards, is an architectural masterpiece that resonates with emotions and human relationships. In a society where a quarter of the population is already over 65 years old, it becomes imperative to create living spaces that address the new vital and functional needs of this sensitive and crucial group. This presented a significant challenge that the Romero & Vallejo studio chose to confront through their architecture -- drawing inspiration from a personal experience.

The creators, Sara Romero and Antonio Vallejo -- deeply attuned to the social and sustainable aspects of the spaces we inhabit and our cities -- exchanged ideas, gathered concerns and empathized with a large group of seniors, including the future owners and cooperative members of the apartments. 

“We aimed to respond to people in this new stage of life who spend a significant amount of time alone and require assistance,” said Vallejo. “The project was not merely about designing a space, but about channeling the aspirations, ideals, desires and way of life of senior individuals undergoing this transformative change. Through our family experiences and conversations, we recognized that the guiding thread of our new project was coexistence and human relationships. “This has been the fundamental and distinguishing element in shaping the program’s space and outlining the entire project,” Vallejo went on to explain. “Beyond designing a group of accessible homes, the architecture studio sought to build ‘an environment that captured the life aspirations of its owners: pleasant places for socializing, with spaces for learning, self-care, sharing and receiving attention, all while maintaining their privacy and independence.’”

These form the solid foundations of the innovative social project Vitápolis, a housing complex, or co-living space, in Toledo, Spain, for seniors with customizable socio-assistance services, comprising 35 independent and accessible apartments, with over 1,500 square meters dedicated to a gym, workshops, a cafeteria, living rooms, gardens, pools, sports areas and urban gardens. 

The building itself represents a clear example of contemporary architecture; however, its interiors are inviting and liveable. Natural light, crucial for health and emotions, is ensured in all spaces, enabling residents to enjoy its different tones throughout the day. “They needed us to create a home for them,” said Sara Romero, adding that they aimed to design “welcoming, warm and familiar spaces.” 

This led them to use various ceramic materials in different areas of the building in conjunction with other materials. Ceramics, apart from their high performance and beauty, “are woven into our memory and our DNA, enabling us to create architecture with a human touch,” said Romero. 

“From the perspective of emotions and memories, we have all grown up at some point in our lives in spaces with ceramics. Ceramics embody tradition and contemporaneity, much like this building.” 

The structure is a longitudinal piece with five stories. On the ground floor, communal areas such as the cafeteria, reception, gym and meeting rooms, among others, seamlessly integrate into the urban context, providing access to various surrounding spaces. 

On the upper floors, the access corridors to the residences transform into meeting spaces through the placement of benches, gardens and viewpoints that encircle the entire building. The roof itself forms a large terrace with a 360-degree panoramic view of the surroundings, featuring an exclusive infinity pool for residents, friends and family.

For the architects, reconciling the various disciplines involved in Vitápolis -- medical professionals, sociologists, specialists in assistance, legal experts and economists, among others -- through the architecture was a significant challenge and an enriching experience. 

The building has achieved the highest energy efficiency rating by incorporating both active and passive efficiency elements. However, the most crucial aspect is that Vitápolis is attuned to social and environmental challenges on a holistic level. “The project contributes to the city, maintains personal connections in the place of residence, creates job opportunities,” said Romero. “It’s a zero-kilometre initiative that fosters cohesion and is designed to build a community.”