On an urban context, in the center of a row-house type block, we were commissioned to build a single house. The plot is located in the southern area of Ciudad Real, in the last growth ring of the city that has not been developed due to the economic crisis of recent years. Our proposal is the first one to emerge in this area from an urban void without any context. There are not surrounding houses, typological references or architectural legacy that could serve at some point as an architectural tool in the design of the house.
Before doing any drawing for this project, developers began to build a social housing block in front of our plot that kept the stereotypical dimensions: heights (2.50 meters), materials (monolayer), structure (reinforced concrete supports, hidden in walls and partitions), holes (aligned at the same height) and windows (double sheet).
What about the size of elements in architecture? Is the window of a four feet wide the dimension that traditional architecture has left us as a legacy to be the one that works best? What about the height? Should have a house standardized measurements? And further, some standardized materials? Must a bathroom have a standard height, width and length depending on the standardized number of users?
Should a home look like a house?
What does having aspect of a house mean? The complex program demanded by the client in their daily activities, coupled with strict urban conditions and layout of the plot, proposes a house that offers new experiences to the scale of architectural elements to users. Rhythm, structure, materiality and functionality meet on this project to offer a proposal that reveals distinct spatial sensations far from the ones that traditional state agents have developed recently.
Due to the uncertainty of the formal volumetry of the adjoining plots, still unbuilt, and compulsory abutment on both ends for this row-house type, we decided to raise two volumes of 3.6 and 1.8 meters wide respectively at each end of the plot. These two volumes are presented as a result of applying the constraints of height, setbacks and roof to its maximum term.
The narrower volume locates the kitchen, a toilet and storage room in the basement while sauna is located on the upper level.
The wider volume continues with the same intention of placing secondary areas of the house: garage, office, laundry and bathroom facilities. The gable roof is used only in these sides and, together with its marked volumetric composition, freeing up the space between these two volumes that may become similar in adjacent plots.
The Avenida del Cantábrico is the main road connecting the new extension of the city from east to west by two-way street. Its dimensions -width, parking availability and woodland location- makes one think of it as an avenue rather than a street. This avenue is not only used by neighbors who own their residence in the nearest urban area, but also those who want the pass through the city without having to access the town center –with more density in terms of traffic-.
The central volume is solved from a more comprehensive understanding: from the urban scale. Any reference to the domestic dimension of the elements is hidden and makes the house belong to the urban scale. A series of compact volumes that take the full height of the building is hidden. The abstraction of the piece provides an unified and sequential compositional reading which provides the appearance of new volumes in the rest of the plots. Thus intends to initiate a more urban street reading for its size and type of traffic, far away from a more domestic solution in which each plot and housing could have been solve from a smaller set of volumes.
The project will acquire complete sense once the rest of the plots around the house will be built. Meanwhile, the first piece of the urban puzzle forms the first notes of the urban melody in Ciudad Real.
The orientation of the facades solves its materiality from a formal dialogue. The line corresponding to the Cantábrico Avenue is oriented northwest, while the back sight to the southeast. The central volumes in both cases are exempt but formally unified by both the podium and roof. It seems to be a Greek temple (such as the magnificent example of Segesta in Sicily). Bedrooms are arranged in the protected volumes of concrete, located in the back side and receiving natural light tangentially.
While the main glazed elevation provides volumes in the shadow from each other during the sunset. The quality of light in the latter enclosure makes the light hit against the glass monolith while graduating and regulating the amount of light inside. The housing offers a palette of colors and intensities that varies along the day and the volumes themselves screened and regulate the entry of light.
The ocher broken concrete has a magnificent contrast with lights and shadows. The light vibrations on the walls show the illusion to users of waking them up, like a sunlight early in the morning. By late afternoon, the green hue floods light in the interior space from the opposite facade.
The central space is freed from any partition not only in the vertical plane, but also in height. A unique double height floor creates a void in which to live. Users develop most of their activities here. It responds to the living room, treated as core household. From here you can access to any area of the house. Its form is organized around two side volumes. These are the ends we have initially targeted.
A hanging corridor crosses the living room and connects the two ends of the house. The circulation engages the user’s main activity while providing access to the bedrooms. The master bedroom is located on one side, above the kitchen. This position allows a reading corner, watching other activities that occur in the house. The other two bedrooms are wrapped in the concrete skin and protected by a second coating of wood that offers a certain warmth.
Each unit of these rooms has two independent volumes that allow light to enter the room. Its walls bear the house and are only twelve centimeters wide to support structure. The rotation of the single door proposes the use of space and the entry of light in different ways. The sleep-volume, double height, reduces its dimensions on floor plan to achieve a monastic dimension in order to emphasize the verticality of the space. While the volume of private activities (toilet and study) is split into two levels that are connected by a metallic handles that allow up or down to the bedroom without using the gateway. The glass boxes in the main, narrow façade (only 0.80 meters wide), also acquired the total height of the house. Since the condition of double skin serves as temperature gradation inside the house. A toilet, bar and the staircase that connects the master bedroom to the rest of the applications are located.
If natural light is conducted to the interior of the house in order to highlight the materiality of each element, artificial lighting has the same role. It highlights a series of cracks in the concrete, as seamless, continuous strips where low-consumption lighting LED are located. While natural light penetrates the house horizontally, the vertical artificial light highlights the vibration of the walls from the opposite condition. The lamps also hang in the house like water drops.
Finally, the hanging corridor lights at its base provide a soft light that emerges from the perforated steel plate and the encounter between the wooden planks upstairs. The kitchen, however, presents another kind of light on the ceiling as voids in the concrete. Its spherical shells were arranged during concreting the slab and light bathes the space patting the concrete. All these relationships are always guided by a constructive rigor.