13 February 2020

The “Girasol” homes by architect José Antonio Coderech, refurbished with the new Flexbrick® siding

  • The innovation of this new siding system lies in the fact that, as well as being adhered, it is mechanically secured to the base for greater safety.
  • Girasol is a set of homes built over 50 years ago and considered one of the ten most architecturally representative modern buildings in the city of Madrid.
  • Flexbrick® has developed a new siding system for their refurbishment that offers greater safety and durability and that solves the problems incurred by facades for some time.
  • The refurbishment project was managed by the architect from Madrid, Javier Galante, the founder partner of the Atelier Galante studio.

The emblematic facades of the Girasol homes by José Antonio Coderch (Madrid) and constructive details of the new FLEXBRICK® siding system – Photograph of Carlos de Miguel

Madrid, February 13, 2020. It has been fifty years since the construction of the Girasol building, a set of homes considered one of the ten most architecturally representative modern buildings in the city of Madrid. Designed by architect José Antonio Coderch and located right in the heart of the Salamanca district, Girasol primarily stands out because it is able to make the most of sunlight thanks to a turn in the axis of each home, which face south, which Coderch calculated according to the favorable and unfavorable positions of the sun during the day at any time of the year. Hence the name of the building (Girasol is Spanish for sunflower), which is considered one of the most innovative buildings of its time.

Under the management of the Atelier Galante, the facades have been respectfully and ambitiously refurbished, as their vertical tile panels had been falling off for some time now. This position encouraged the mortar grouting to erode due to rainwater, which even damaged the adhesive layer and led to a progressive loss in the capacity of the panels to remain adhered. This is why, after several attempts to repair them, the facade refurbishment system required redundant safety, in case the adherence of the mortar failed once again.

Javier Galante therefore chose to solve the problem using the Flexbrick® ceramic tile system, which hides a mesh that is mechanically attached to the base. This gave an added safeguard in light of any failure of the adhesive: the panels are confined by the mesh, which is bolted to the base.

Fitting the Flexbrick® tile siding of the refurbished facade – Photograph of Carlos de Miguel

New Flexbrick® vertical siding system

Since the Flexbrick® system was launched in the market in 2011, its design has generally involved a grid layout of horizontal ceramic pieces, but in this case the panels on the Girasol homes are laid out discontinuously and vertically. To do so, the Flexbrick® R&D team researched and tested a solution in which the attachment slots to the mesh were not around the perimeter of the panels, but on the rear, with dovetail-shaped notches one fourth in distance from the two horizontal edges. This modified the standard conditions of the warp and weft of the steel mesh to adapt to the vertical, discontinuous format of the 250 x 50-mm panels. Finally, the modulation size of the cloth was agreed to, so that it could be handled and installed by operators without the need for cranes.

Using this innovation, it was possible to cover a total surface area of 2,317 m2, of which 1,730 m2 correspond to blind panels and 590 m2 to floor slab edges, safeguarding the same finish that the building had in 1967, but with increased resistance, safety and durability. The group of Girasol homes is a building cataloged by Madrid City Council, and we were required not to change anything of the final appearance of the facades from the original.

Flexbrick® was able to successfully refurbish this emblematic building by Coderch to give a solution that could be applied to many other buildings facing similar difficulties with their adhered siding and that can now be used thanks to this system that guarantees greater safety from falling panels.

The new Flebrick® siding system can be used on new buildings and in refurbishments,  and the pieces used with this system can also be adapted to the needs of each project: choosing the design pattern and the position of the piece (either horizontal or vertical), the color of the panels and even the type of material, whether it be ceramic, wood, glass, etc. This new system is also very competitive in terms of costs in comparison with other solutions.

Flexbrick ceramic material

This material was created by the architect Vicente Sarrablo, director of the Technical Department and Head of the Ceramics Department at the International University of Catalonia’s School of Architecture. Developed by two companies in the ceramic sector in Spain –Piera Ecocerámica and Cerámica Malpesa– Flexbrick is an industrially produced system based on flexible sheets with ceramic, metallic, glass, wood and other elements to create pavement, cladding and lightweight lamellar structures. The ceramic textile speeds up construction and opens up a new range of possibilities for architectural dry cladding systems. This system allows you to “dress” façades, roofs, open areas, etc. Architects can customise their design according to the needs of each project. Numerous architectural firms have used Flexbrick for their projects, including: Archikubik, Blur Arquitectura, Michèle&Miquel, Pich Architects, PMMT, Juan Trias de Bes –TDB Arquitectura and LG Arquitectos, ArchiKubik, Atelier Galante, just to name a few.