Territory / Ecosystem
A 1000 m2 plot at a five minute walk from the town center. In the middle of the site, there is a self-built country house. It was originally in the rural outskirts of town, and it has been surrounded by all kind of urban constructions throughout the years.
It still keeps its quiet, rural atmosphere.
The existing house is a mas that the late grandfather bought many years ago. He spent his life taking care of it, slowly building additions, welding and growing all kinds of rooms, plants and shades. An outdoors abode, a second house around the former one-floor self-built construction.
The house has been in a perpetual state of construction, of becoming, ever since the late parents got it more than forty years ago:
The JEC family's only initial demand was that they wanted to live on a ground floor. The plot is big enough for a single-storey house, so they don't have to go up and down the stairs when they get old. The old house has two floors and a flat roof -a terrat.
The JEC's first question was whether it was better to keep the existing mas or to demolish it and build a new structure instead?
This mas was slowly transformed by a mason and the late grandfather. Through the years, on the weekends and holidays, he invented a magic, humble atmosphere. Starting from a 45 m2 basic house on two floors, he used his skills as a watchmaker to assemble several light, improvised porches where the family used to cook, eat and spend most of their time. A second outdoor house.
Architecture: David Tapias, project director; Ricard Pau, project collaborator.
Building engineer: Pep Borràs.
M/E: Josep M. Delmuns
Contractors: Aurea (builders), Fustes Borniquel (carpenters).
2. BUILDING MATERIALS.
As usual, the main building materials are for free -but not endless. Air, sunlight, breeze, weathers, neighbors, the garden planted by the late parents. The place is so full of objects, that we will end up taking more weight than adding.
Since last year, CLT panels are fabricated in the Pyrenees region. They are the closest big-size, carbon neutral components available. A good choice in case we need to build an extension.
A bricoleur quality.
The quality of this space is not the existing main house. Although its structure is in good shape, what really gives it a magic atmosphere are its self-built garden structures. These outdoor shelters are the real value of this place, not the main house. They are impossible to design. Probably they are impossible to reproduce. They are extremely fragile, to the point that it seems impossible to repair them.
So what we need to find is a way to repair and upcycle these structures, and add some more inhabitable air among them. Our strategy is not to touch what we want to keep -we will just paint it.
Plan / Search
This indoors air will be placed in the worst area of the plot, which is often shaded by the main house.
The extension is family to the existing porches.
By respecting the existing constructions, we give three autonomous habitats, that the family will use according to their changing needs through the year and decades.
What is foreseen as a buffer space might become the daughter's house. What is thought as a guest apartment might become the writing room...
Geological neighbours: The presence of quite tall apartment blocks on the northern and north-western side protects the site from the strong Mestral winds, and shading it during the hot summer afternoons, strongly modifying its microclimate.
We take advantage of our neighbour's accidental gift by using some lighter construction techniques and opening up towards the western light.