Cities contain miles and miles of elevated infrastructure: bridges, elevated train tracks, swooping highway ramps. They support thousands of commuters, tourists, and others traveling through the city. Beneath them stretch miles and miles of urban underpasses that are empty, dangerous, and virtually unusable.
The best ways to clean up and make use of these spaces is an issue urban planners and architects in cities worldwide have sought to address, with efforts that include making underpasses well-lit and building parks in the unused space. They might take note of the work of self-taught furniture designer Fernando Abellanas, who has transformed the underside of a bridge in Valencia, Spain, into an ingenious, pop-up workspace. Abellanas’s design is half floating studio, half horizontal elevator: One part is a metal and plywood box that moves across the underside of the bridge on wheels. When it gets to the far side, a shelf, chair, and desk bolted into the wall fit into the structure to complete the studio.
The result is a whimsical little alcove, nestled into a graffitied, abandoned piece of Valencia’s infrastructure–what most would consider urban blight. In Abellanas’s hands, the area is transformed into something surreal and delightful, the ultimate hiding spot.
In the video above, you can watch Abellanas as he climbs into the structure from the ramped side of the underpass, then uses the handcrank to propel it to the other side. Wheels that look like they were taken from a metal dolly roll the structure along the concrete of the bridge on either side. As it approaches the bolted furniture, the desk, and chair slip into the structure from its open side.
Abellanas, who makes furniture under the label Lebrel, clearly has a knack for the imaginative. His project is self-directed, and it’s not officially sanctioned by the city. But it does echo other cities’ efforts to transform similar unused spaces, such as the Under the Elevated project, an effort between Design Trust for Public Space and the N.Y.C. Department of Transportation that seeks ways to reclaim and transform the spaces under the city’s elevated transit infrastructure. Architects are also leading projects to redesign underpasses, such as this recent project in the Netherlands. Still others have created ad-hoc habitats in these unused areas, as captured by photographer Gisela Erlacher in her book Skies of Concrete. Urban planners and architects could learn from the creativity of individuals who don’t have to work with city budgets or building codes.
The Spaces reports that Abellanas will ultimately create a collection of studios like this one, scattered throughout the city in undisclosed locations. “The project is an ephemeral intervention, [it will remain] until someone finds it and decides to steal the materials, or the authorities remove it,” Abellanas tells The Spaces.
Only a lucky few will come across this hidden gem while it’s still up–for everyone else, feel free to marvel at the images in the slide show above.