The OE House is a montage. The clients wanted a double house, so they could move from one half to the other, according to their state of mind. They did not like to spend their holidays traveling; they preferred to move downstairs, and do it for real, closing the quarters above. We provided them with two well-known domestic environments—the open frame of the case study houses for hedonistic pleasure, topped with the interiorized existentialism of Le Corbusier’s Maison Jaoul. We did it literally. The resulting exquisite corpse—wrapped by the most Spanish architectural prop of all: the persiana—ensures the schizophrenic differentiation of modes of habitation as much as it negotiates the impossible encounter of both types.
The OE family needs a ‘mas’, the southern Catalonia traditional country home, with two houses in one: a summer house on the ground floor and a winter house on the first floor, on a hazel tree field at the limits of Alforja, a rural town with a more extreme, cold and windy climate than the rest of the el Camp territory. The house is placed on a flat spot, and it is planted with hazel trees. It is at the foot of la Mussara range, where strong north-west winds blow.
We research the typologies of the local rural constructions and a seasonal membrane that responds to daily weather changes. Learning from ancient neighbouring case studies but also from far away examples such as maison Jaoul or the first Case Study Houses, we reach a crossroad between a ‘mas’ and a peasant’s storehouse. As a humble contribution to stop climate change, we design an inhabitable physiology of trimestral and daily cycle, easy to use and that allows the regulation of energy interchange. Its compact volume reduces its footprint on the land, while helping to reclaim the agricultural and hedonist life of the plot.
We introduce uncertainty as a positive design factor, developing open source systems and interchangeable ingredients, exploring two tangent extremes between archeology and innovation: we reclaim the almost forgotten volta catalana local technique, and adapt industrialised components that came from afar, so that the house can be built in twelve months. The construction system adapts to the two differenciated programs: the ground floor can open totally in summer, so it becomes a big porch -selective strategy; the first floor is highly insulated and the floors, walls and roof are thought to give warmth -conservative strategy.
The Spanish Bank System Crisis (or Fraud) has slowed this process down to four and a half years. Together with the OEs, we have explored a radically optimistic management of adversity and uncertainty, where each setback has been an opportunity to improve and build a cheaper and better made habitat, with a breath of collage and bricolage air.
The OEs lived right in front. Each summer, in the construction site, they played and bathed among the hazel trees, camped on the roof, while their new home slowly grew. This long shared resilience test has given us a close engagement with their family, the builders and local craftsmen. To celebrate it, we invited everyone to a calçotada, where we cooked and had fun together.
Preliminary project: A roomful, archetypical mas.
A cluster of rooms. Each with their own volume, plan and section. They coexist in a rectangular perimeter. The empty spaces between them become storage. This is an exploration on the limits of the profusion of rooms in the archetypical mas.
The summer house and winter house have two independent, differentiated structures: steel frames and a CLT floor for summer, clay walls and tiles for winter.