Edificio Mirador de Sanchinarro

Sanchinarro, Spain Construction and Development
“When we started to build it, everything was an immense wasteland”


The Mirador Building is a postmodern architecture building located in the Sanchinarro neighborhood, in the north of the city of Madrid (Spain). Mirador is a collection of mini neighbourhoods stacked vertically around a semi-public sky-plaza. The building acts as a counterpoint against the massive uniformity of the surrounding housing blocks. It frames the distant landscape of the Guadarrama Mountains through a large ‘look out’ located 40 meters above the ground. This also provides outdoor space and  community garden for the occupants of building, monumentalising public life and space. It was developed by the Dutch architecture studio MVRDV in collaboration with the Madrid-based architect Blanca Lleó, and completed in 2005. Its construction was managed by the EMV (Madrid municipal housing company), and included 156 homes allocated based on the appraised value method.




Issues tackled

In contrast to the rationalist and serial repetition of the standard family unit in the area, the Mirador wants to break the excessive uniformity of the local planning, which in almost all the residential plots. The project proposes a set of solutions that are more in tune with the contemporary ways of life and that favors variation and mixed types.


Actors involved

  • Blanca LLeó
  • EMV (Empresa Municipal de la Vivienda de Madrid)
  • Dragados

Actions carried out

  • The block consists of nine ‘neighborhoods’ or housing units, all of them with a flexible layout to adapt to personal needs and aimed at integrating different social groups and lifestyles.
  • To further differentiate the various small “neighbourhoods” within the building, each block has a different façade using one of a variety of materials such as stone slabs, mosaic tiles, and cement in various shades of gray, black and white. This makes it easy to see the individual blocks from outside the building.
  • On the inside, the communication cores compose a sinuous itinerary that perforates the volume, which stands out for its bright red tone, which reappears on the facade creating setbacks that herald the experience of the huge lookout.
  • And like any good neighborhood, the building has its communal outdoor area. Like a small park in the heart of the building, the open-air “sky-plaza” provides a communal space as well as views of the city and the Guadarrama Mountains beyond


Why it works

While the success of the Mirador as a space for interaction could be argued, there are some learnings from the project. The Mirador could be understood as a criticism of the government’s housing allocation model, “which does not cover the real needs of the people and promotes uniformity instead of difference”, because “it reproduces the idea that we all respond to the same type of home” says the architect. But “the one-fits-all home no longer exists”, she says.

The wide variety of home types in el Mirador advocate for this idea. “It was what we wanted to offer to the real variety that exists in society. In this building there are older people who live on the 18th floor and young people who live on the second. They would surely want to exchange their homes,” she believes. “When you can choose your home, you identify with it. When it is allocated to you, you will always disagree.”

“The housing allocation system in Spain is based on a lottery, so that people are deprived from the opportunity to choose their homes. And since they cannot choose, this system does not work,” says Lleó. That is why the 35 types of housing that were designed for el Mirador did not fit the current model. “We also proposed it as a criticism to that system,” she says.



More information





Mirador Building